Oct 30, 2009
This media statement, pasted below, is dated Oct 14, the day the environment clearance for India's first poisonous GM food crop came. Interestingly, Raju Barwale, in the press release says that "Mahyco is awaiting the decision of the GEAC for environment-release of the insect resistant Bt cotton." Well, Mr Barwale, you didn't have to wait for long. The GEAC had the same day rubber stamped the report that many believe was written by one of your consultants in Hyderabad. You certainly couldn't have expected anything better from a committee which is known to be notoriously anti-environment and anti-people.
The report of the EC-II is a sham. It is a scientific scandal.
You say that 25 biosafety tests were rigorously conducted. If that is true, I don't know why Dr Pushpa Bhargava, the Supreme Court's nominee, is still not convinced about the biosafety testing. Do you think that he does not know his science? And what about the scandalous manner in which the EC-II had simply brushed aside the objections raised by independent scientists, NGOs and others?
I am not drawing any indirect inference, but I hope you have read the news report that says Monsanto, your partner, had lied about the safety of its weed killing herbicide Roundup Ready in France. Reports say that the decision came just days ago and confirms an earlier court judgment in France finding that Monsanto had falsely advertised Roundup as being "biodegradable" and that it "left the soil clean." The company has been fined 15,000 Euros. If you missed reading this, click on the the link to this BBC report: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8...
Anyway, coming back, do you think we in India don't know our science? Do you think the nation does not have the capability to question the veracity of the so called scientific claims that your company has made? If GEAC is comprising vested interest and is stuffed with scientists who are known in scientific circles as " son-in-law " of the Department of Biotechnology (since most of them receive funding from the DBT/ICAR/ICMR for their research projects), it does not mean that we have to accept their flawed analysis.
I am throwing a challenge to you, Mr Raju Barwale. Come, let us have a public debate on the veracity of your scientific claims. You and me, anywhere you desire. Let us openly debate, and let the nation then decide.
Meanwhile, pasted below is the press release (from Mahyco's website) for those who missed seeing it:
Bt Brinjal - Media Statement
Mahyco is awaiting the decision of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) for environmental release of insect-resistant Bt brinjal. We look forward to a positive decision because it will help millions of our brinjal farmers who have been suffering from the havoc caused by the Brinjal Fruit and Shoot Borer (BFSB). Bt brinjal will help them tackle this pest in an environment-friendly manner and increase yields and farm income.
Insect-resistant Bt brinjal has been in development for nine years. It has been tested in full compliance with the guidelines and directives of the regulatory authorities to ensure its safety. It is the most rigorously tested vegetable with 25 environmental biosafety studies supervised by independent and government agencies. It has the same nutritional value and is compositionally identical to non Bt brinjal, except for the additional Bt protein which is specific in its action against the BFSB.
We believe in the soundness of the scientific basis of the regulatory system and the various studies and field trials carried out by various national research institutions, agricultural universities, etc., and in the future of this technology. Mahyco respects the decision of the GEAC and will provide any clarifications asked for. We are confident that we will be able to satisfy the GEAC about the safety of this technology for the environment and consumers, its usefulness to increase yields and farm income for brinjal farmers, and its beneficial impact on the environment and farm labour.
14th October, 2009
Oct 26, 2009
I thought telling a lying was a prerogative of the agricultural scientists alone. But over the past few years I am noticing that molecular geneticists, whether they work for the Royal Society in London or Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi or even the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, have picked up the art (or should I say science) of lying, and that too right through their nose.
Genetic Engineering has surely come of age. It has become synomenous with lying.
It didn't shock me when I was told last week that the Royal Society in London had come out with a report, which warns that if Britain does not adopt GM crops, it should be ready to face hunger and starvation. Feeding another 2.3 billion people by the year 2050 and at the same time limit the environmental impact of farming would require GM crop research to be taken up vigorously, the study says.
Both the points stressed in the report -- producing more food to feed an additional 2.3 billion people, and the use of GM crops to offset any environmental damage accruing from intensive farming systems -- are simple lies. Neither do GM crops produce higher yields (in fact, the GM crops in market by and large produce less than the normal varieties), nor are they environmentally safe. World over the debate is about its biosafety and environmental impacts, and look at these scientists associated with the Royal Society, they don't even bat an eyelid before speaking lies.
Oh dear ! Where is science headed to? If this is the level to which the scientists can stoop down to, you should be ready for the worst.
What a climbdown? What a disgrace for modern science? I am so glad my children did not pick up science in their graduation.
The other day I was in a TV discussion on Bt brinjal. There were two scientists on the panel -- one from the Indian Agricultural Research Institute and the other from Jawaharlal Nehru University. If you had watched that programme, I am sure you would have been appalled at the number of times they lied. I was particularly very disturbed when I found one of them having the courage to tell a blatant lie, and that too starkly. There is no difference in the development of high-yielding crop varieties and the transgenics like Bt brinjal, the scientist said.
I realise that the GM scientists have a tremendous task at hand to justify what they are doing in their labs (and also outside labs, when they hobnob with biotech company officials). The mere fact that they have to resort to all kinds of lies to justify the tinkering of plant genome, and the mindless insertion of Bt genes in every crop they can lay their hands upon, speaks volumes about what is happening behind the closed doors of the GM laboratories.
I can cite numerous other instances when GM scientists have lied. But I think I would rather have you tell me if you were also faced with a pack of lies. GM scientists are liers, and let us make that public. We would be doing a great service to the society, to humanity, and to mankind.
Oct 24, 2009
The civil society, dominated by a handful of international NGOs, have managed to very deftly shift the entire development discourse to climate change. The United Nations (not only UNEP, but all its other arms), the bilateral donor agencies like USAID/DFID, and the global think-tanks like the International Food Policy Research Institute (which are no better than the corporate rating agencies) have for quite sometime been active in putting climate change on the top of the global development agenda. And they have surely succeeded.
In the process, the real issues confronting the world have been very conveniently swept under the carpet. So much so that if you don't talk about climate change you appear to be out of fashion, feel outdated.
I am therefore not amused to see Indian NGOs, who otherwise swear in the name of poverty, hunger and food insecurity, suddenly riding the climate change bandwagon. Even dalit and adivasi issues are being linked to climate change. I wouldn't be surprised if someone tries to find a correlation between climate change and the gender dimension. This is not only true of India but almost all the civil society organisations in the developing world. In reality, they are looking forward to an opportunity to be there where the action is. I mean travelling to Copenhagen, so that they can tell their colleagues: "yes, I was there."
This reminds me of the euphoria that the world had witnessed before the Earth Summit held at Rio in Brazil in 1992. The Indian media I remember had gone into an overspin before the Rio Summit. Almost all who wrote front page stories on the threats facing the Earth, landed at Rio. Once the Summit was over, the Earth was forgotten. Environment became a downmarket subject for the media. Copenhangen is not going to be any different.
Nevetheless, the Copenhagen Summit is expected to be somehow different. It is not only about emission standards but if you have been following it carefully, it is all about marketing green technologies and investments. I am not therefore surprised when Heads of State talk about Green Technology Revolution on the lines of Green Revolution, not realising that Green Revolution is in a way responsible for acerbating the climate crisis. In other words, the entire debate has been hijacked by the corporates to suit their business interests. The UN says the world needs an investment of US $ 200 billion to fight climate change, which is an euphemism for corporate investment, and like proverbial cats you will see the Heads of State fighting to get hold of a sizeable pie.
So much so that think-tanks like IFPRI have also come out with startling reports/studies which warns us that the number of malnourished and hungry children will multiply by the year 2050 if the world does not make adequate investment in second Green Revolution technologies. In essence, like the rating agencies, IFPRI is only trying to draw our attention to investments needed for corporate agriculture. I will discuss this in detail sometimes later, but let us first look at what the brilliant minds are simply not willing to see in the entire debate on global warming.
Just a few days prior to the Copenhagen conference, the 7th Ministerial conference of WTO is being held at Geneva, from Nov 30 to Dec 2. The general theme of the WTO Ministerial will be The WTO, the Multilateral Trading System, and the Current Global Economic Environment. Surprisingly, the WTO Ministerial is talking in terms of the global economic environment and not climate change. You will ask me so what? Well, that is where I want to draw your attention to.
The two international treaties that have hogged the limelight for quite some time are the WTO and the Kyoto Protocol. While one relates to global trade, the other is about climate change. I thought global trade is not only about economic growth but also seriously impacts climate change. After all, trade is not going to be conducted on bullock carts. It will mean more transportation, which means more burning of fossil fuels, and therefore more global warming.
In other words, both the ongoing international negotiations work at a cross-purpose. And yet, no one is talking about the role trade will play in bringing the world to a tripping point. The reason (why it is not being done) is simple. Any effort to bring in trade in the climate change negotiations will hurt corporate interests. And since it hurts corporate/business interests, the media, the think-tanks, the international donors and of course the politicians must behave like the proverbial three monkeys that Mahatma Gandhi used to talk about. The message being: Hear no evil, see no evil, and talk no evil.
The World Bank has, through its Global Economic Prospects report, already said that a successful Doha Round completion could generate US $ 291 billion in global economic gains. It of course did not tell us how much the world would have to suffer by way of rise in the average global temperature. So, in other words, the Doha Development Round of WTO paves a way for US $ 291 billion gain, essentially for business and trade, whereas a successful completion of the CoP-13 would mean an additional business opportunity of U $ 200 billion for the manufacturers of green technologies.
Either way, the business sector gains.
In the mid-1980s the OECD had published a study, which had estimated that by the end of 2004, when the WTO Uruguay Round was expected to complete, there would have been an increase of 70 per cent in internationally traded goods as compared to 1992. This ofcourse would mean that more fossil fuels would be burnt to transport these goods across the continents. Already OECD estimates shows that 60 per cent of the world's use of oil goes for transportation, which are more than 95 per cent dependent on fossil fuels.
OECD estimates had also shown that 25 per cent of carbon emissions, with some 66 per cent of this coming from rich countries, is from the global transport sector. When the Doha round comes to a close, I am sure you will agree that the greenhouse gas emissions from transportation would only skyrocket. But we will never be told how much would that be, and what should the world do to usher in green trade.
Remember what Mander and Retallack had said: Each tonne of fright moved by plane uses 49 times as much energy as a ship..... and a 2-minute take-off by a 747 Jumbo is equal to 2.4 million lawn movers running for 20 minutes."
Oct 22, 2009
At last, a political big wig has given a call for direct income support for farmers. Mr S Ramdoss, who heads the PMK party in Tamil Nadu, on Tuesday said that he would meet the Chief Minister M Karunanidhi within the next week to bring to his notice the livelihood issues affecting farmers, and also to impress upon him the need to set up a Farmers Income Commission on line with the 6th Pay Commission.
I think this is a historic initiative. A small step for Mr Ramdoss as far as his political career is concerned, but a giant leap for the farming community. For decades now, Indian farmers have been systematically looted, not only by the middlemen and money-lenders but also by the agricultural scientists, input suppliers like seed, fertiliser and seed companies, and of course by the government through the unjust procurement prices. It is time that the farmers throw away the yoke of economic slavery and emerge out into a new age of economic freedom.
For me personally, it too was in many ways a historic event. For some years now, I have been asking for direct income support for farmers. I am happy that Mr Ramdoss has realised the political importance of what I have been calling for. I srongly feel that it is the only way to bail out the beleaguered farming community. It is also the correct pathway to pull farmers out of the cycle of indebtedness that he is reeling under, and to show him the bright future ahead. You will agree, farmers of India deserve to be at least equated with a chaprasi in the government. This is the least we can do for the country's annadata.
Why chaprasi, you will say? Well, because an ungrateful nation is not even willing to pay him one quarter of what it pays to a chaprasi. To ask the policy makers to provide an average farmer a monthly income equivalent to that of a clerk in the government would be asking for too much. I am therefore keen that at least a beginning be made, even if that means bringing the farmer at par with a government chaprasi.
A government chaprasi (peon) will receive a monthly income of Rs 15,000 under the 6th pay Commission. The average monthly income of the Indian farmer was worked out at Rs 2,115 in 2003-04 by the National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO). That was the last time the NSSO computed the farm income. It (compilation of farm income) was stopped thereafter probably because the government felt too embarrassed by the existing ground realities.
I have often said that Rs 2000 is what I pay to my maid servant who comes to clean my house and wash the utensils twice a day. She works one hour and walks away with Rs 2000 a month. The poor farmer works 24x7 with his family of five members and yet is unable to earn more than what a maid servant makes in one hour of daily work. This is how we treat our farmers, our annadata.
I feel like hanging my head in shame.
Anyway, here is the news report:
Ramadoss to lead delegation of farmers to meet Karunanidhi
To raise their livelihood issues and press for a solution
CHENNAI: Agreeing to the majority view expressed at a conference on agrarian issues here, Pattali Makkal Katchi leader S. Ramadoss said that he would seek an appointment with Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi for “next week” to bring to his notice the livelihood issues of farmers.
Responding to suggestions from various farmers’ associations, he agreed the suggestion that the government be made aware of the concerns of the farmers should be taken up first.
Representatives of farmer’s bodies said rising input costs, monopoly of seed companies, environmental degradation, lop-sided government priorities and vagaries of monsoon had made agriculture unattractive.
Dr. Ramadoss said all associations of agriculturists should come together and talk to the Chief Minister on the issues they faced. “Let us talk to him in a manner that he will understand. If any organisation does not come forward to join us, then it will mean that they are staying away for political reasons. But, it has to be remembered that even the politician is fed by the farmer.”
Dr. Ramadoss said non-governmental organisations such as the Pasumai Thayagam, in association with others and the PMK, were studying farmers’ issues for long. The draft Manifesto for Farmers in Tamil Nadu was a product of the study. Suggestions made at the conference on Farmers’ Income Commission would be incorporated and circulated before a final draft was prepared. This would be presented to the government.
Dr. Ramadoss said the PMK would not rest with merely approaching the Chief Minister. It would review the situation and push for a solution to issues that were raised in the manifesto.
Agricultural scientist Devinder Sharma said producing more was not the solution to the crisis. A new phenomenon in India was that some farmers, who ended up producing more, saw prices drop drastically and were either stuck with the stock or sold it at rock-bottom prices. Some farmer suicides had resulted from this.
Oct 21, 2009
I do appreciate your feelings and your sentiments. But don't forget, the spate of editorials in the English language dailies, all in gratitude of the biotech companies like Monsanto/Mahyco, Syngenta and Du Pont, is simply their way of saying thank you. After all, these companies have sustained the livelihood security of print journalists all these years through their massive support in the form of advertisements, and the newspapers have to express its thanks and what better occasion than this.
[Of course, money plays the role in what appears in the print media these days. Just wait and watch for a cover story on GM crops/foods that is expected to appear in a prominent fortnightly in the days to come. Your anger will simply boil over.]
Coming back, please don't be angry at the English press. Try to be sympathetic and considerate towards them. After all, it is a question of dal-roti of these journalists. Don't forget, what the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) does for the poor landless labourers, corporate advertisements do it for the media houses.
These advertisements guarantee the livelihood security of the print journalists. The only difference being that while the NREGS is funded entirely by the Ministry for Rural Development, the advertisements or what I call as the National Media Employment Guarantee Scheme (NMEGS) is operated by the corporate and business houses.
Like most of you, I too am shocked at what is appearing in these editorials. It only shows how illiterate and ill-informed our editorial writers are. It is amusing to see that most editorials have ad nauseam repeated the same line: GM foods are absolutely essential to increase food production. What they do not even care to know is that this statement is factually incorrect. There is no GM crop in the world that increases productivity. I challenge anyone of them (and they can seek the help of the 11 PR agencies that have been reportedly put on the job to launch a media blitzk in support of Bt brinjal) to name even one GM crop that actually increases productivity?
Why doesn't the English media hold public debates on this contentious subject? If they have the resources to organise annual jamboori in the form of leadership summit, and host bollywood awards, why can't they spend on something more meaningful? After all, GM crops adversely affects the environment, and the human health. Knowingly or unknowingly, every person on the planet will have to pay a price for turning a blind eye to the routine approvals being granted to GM crops/foods.
In the light of the widespread ignorance that prevails about the potential of GM crops, I wonder whether it would be appropriate to extend the Sarav Shiksha Abhiyan (universionalistion of education) to the print journalists? They urgently need to be educated, and the media houses should hold frequent oritentation courses/workshops for these journalists. The Coalition for GM Free India would be too delighted to host such workshops, and we would of course be more than happy if this could be supported under the Sarav Shiksha Abhiyan.
Oct 19, 2009
India's Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh therefore has a monumental task on his hands. He has to appreciate the role of the GEAC (which falls under his ministry) even knowing they have done a shoddy job, and at the same time seek the help of the public at large before taking the final decision pertaining to the commercial release of India's first poisonous food crop. Not a simple task, and I know the tight-rope walking Jairam Ramesh will have to do in the days to come.
His task becomes more difficult when one learns that within days of the GEAC giving its nod, the seed company seeking the approval -- Mahyco -- had already made a presentation to the Prime Minister Office. And let us not forget, Jairam Ramesh's senior colleague and the sugar baron, the Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar is already known to have thrown his weight (and we all know how heavy he is ) behind GM crops.
In fact, I sympathise with the chairman of the Expert Committee-II (called EC-II), Dr Arjula R Reddy, who is also the vice-chancellor of the Yogi Yemana University in Hyderabad, to have worked under such difficult conditions. If I were in his place I would have tendered my resignation rather than stamp a report which is clearly the handiwork of USAID and Mahyco. Knowing the incompetence of the members of the EC-II (and I tried to talk to several of their colleagues before saying this) I doubt if they could ever write such a clean copy. Ask them to write two pages, and you will get to known what I mean.
About USAID, the little said the better. I have always referred to it as: US Artificial Insemination Department. And if you have ever been to Bangkok or Ho Chi Minh city, you will understand what I mean.
Nevertheless, coming back to the report of the EC-II, it is a complete sham. There is no other word to describe it. I wonder how could the so-called scientists on the panel be so stupid. I can understand the vested interest of the Cornell University scientists, but how come our own breed of scientists be so idiotic? Isn't it a reflection on the kind of people who dominate the corridors of scientific research in the country? This of course holds true for the advisors in the Department of Biotechnology, but I always thought that at least some scientists working in the ICAR and ICMR system would still be engaged in good science. Perhaps that category of scientists has already been marginalised.
This itself is a dangerous trend, too threatening for the future generations. It wouldn't therefore be unfair to say that Indian science is literally in a pit. Only Bindeshwar Pathak of Sulabh Sauchalaya can pull it out.
Now let us look at some of the conclusions arrived at by the EC-II. On page 2 of the report entitled: Report of the Expert Committee (EC-II) on Bt brinjal EE-1 developed by: M/S Maharashtra Hybrid Seed Company Ltd. (Mahyco), Mumbai; University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS), Dharwad; and Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU), Coimbatore (this report is available on the website of the Ministry of Environment and Forests), it states the following:
"Based on the recommendations of the EC-1, the GEAC in its 79th meeting held on Aug 8, 2007, permitted the conduct of large scale trials (LST) of By brinjal for two season under the direct supervision of Director, Indian Institute of Vegetable Research (IIVR), Varanasi to conduct some additional biosafety related studies by M/S Mahyco. the field trials were subjected to compliance of the following conditions:
1. Maintaining an isolation distance of 300 metres.
2. Submission of validated event specific test protocol at limit of detection (LOD) of at least 0.01 per cent to detect and confirm there has been no contamination.
3. Designated a lead scientist who would be responsible for all aspects of the trials including regulatory requirements."
This is what is called as clear manipulation of the scientific norms. You first lay out conditions that are suitable for you to arrive at the conclusion you are aiming at, and then you make the recommendation based on the flawed parameters laid out. In the research trials at IIVR, the isolation distance between crop fields is kept at 300 metres (because you don't want the contamination to exceed the LOD of 0.01 per cent). Mahyco therefore got the result it was looking for.
But please tell me where in the country can you conform that Bt brinjal is grown with an isolation distance of 300 metres? Shouldn't the IIVR have known this? If not (and we all know that maintaining an isolation distance of 300 metres at the farm level is practically impossible) than the entire scientific experiment began on a faulty premise. The correct experiment should have been to measure the gene flow on adjoining crop fields of brinjal. That would have given us the correct picture. The experiment therefore was designed wrongly to yield the right results.
This is not the only flaw. I can point a number of glaring flaws in the way the experiments were conducted. Only stupid scientists could have endorsed these results.
Now move to the annextures. From page 66 onwards, the EC-II has responded to the issues raised by NGOs, National and International Groups on Bt brinjal biosafety studies. This is a very interesting section, and all you can say is how ashamed you are if this is the scholarship of so called distinguished scientists/officials on the panel. Take the response to the studies conducted by Prof G Seralini, University of Cannes, France. The response of the EC-II generally is: The EC-II is of the view that no additional information regarding toxicity and allergenicity needs to be generated.
Again it uses the same stupid arguement: Cry1AC protein has a history of safe use for human and animal consumption as GM crops such as Bt maize and Bt potato containing Cry proteins including Cry1AC protein have been consumed by millions of people without any adverse effects. [Each of the responses is simply a cover up. I will take that up subsequently]
I thought the EC-II was a research panel. Instead it has produced the relevant literature to justify its position while ignoring a plethora of scientific research that questions the claims. In any case, the EC-II should have conducted more research to address the issues and concerns raised rather than simply brushing them aside. Let us not forget, history is replete with examples where what was approved as safe by scientists had eventually turned out to be killer. The Orange Gas used by Monsanto in the Vietnam war is a class example. Even now, thousands of people are dying from the residual impact of the gas, which was once considered to be safe. DDT is another example.
Coming to food, we have numerous such examples. Trans fatty acids were once considered to be safe and of course essential for the processing industry. Today, several US States have banned the use of transfats. In fact, food has now become the biggest killer in the United States. More than 400,000 people die from food related ailments, including obesity, every year in the US alone.
Further, I want to ask the chairman of the EC-II a simple question. If I eat Bt brinjal, which you consider as absolutely safe, and I fall ill, is there any way I (or my doctor) can find out whether it was from the alien gene in the brinjal I ate? Do you have any medical assay anywhere in the world which can even pinpoint an ailment or a disease to an alien gene in the GM foods? What will happen Dr Reddy if your wife or children get seriously ill from eating Bt brinjal and your hospital treatment is unable to detect the real cause?
The answer is simple. It is because you allowed premature approvals for poisonous GM crops and foods, without asking the companies to first hold human clinical trials. My sympathy for you surely disappears. Scientists like you should be held responsible, and I think the time has come to make provisions for stringent possible punishment for the approval committees (inlcuding GEAC) if anything goes wrong. Scientists cannot be allowed to play with human lives, animals and the environment.
Oct 17, 2009
ANJALI KAMAT: We turn now to what the United Nations World Food Program has called a “silent tsunami of hunger.” It’s been described as the worst food crisis since the 1970s. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization, more than a billion people, or one-sixth of the world’s population, go hungry every day. Last year alone, thirty-seven countries experienced riots over skyrocketing food prices.
But the world’s richest nations have slashed their funding for food aid to their lowest levels in two decades. The World Food Program warned this week that more than 40 million people will have their food rations reduced or eliminated because of the drastic aid cuts. According to Josette Sheeran, the head of the World Food Program, wealthy nations, quote, “think the world food crisis is over, but in 80 percent of countries food prices are actually higher than one year ago.”
AMY GOODMAN: For more on the food crisis and the related crisis in agriculture, we’re joined now by an award-winning Indian journalist, writer, activist, Devinder Sharma. He closely monitors how international agriculture, biotechnology, trade policies negatively impact food security and farming communities in the Global South, in general, and in India, in particular. Trained as an agricultural scientist, he is the author of GATT and India: The Politics of Agriculture, GATT to WTO: Seeds of Despair and In the Famine Trap.
We welcome you to Democracy Now! “In the Famine Trap,” that’s what we’re talking about all over the world. Explain what the problem is, the scope of it.
DEVINDER SHARMA: Well, let’s be, first, very clear. You know, there is no shortage of food in the world. You know, we have about 6.7 billion people on the earth, and we produce food for 11.5 billion people. There’s no shortage. It’s only that one part of the world is eating more, and one part of the world is starving. And I think that’s a distribution problem, the critical problem that we need to address.
But then, in the process of all this, comes the issue of corporate control over food, the speculation that we see through future trading, which drives the prices high. The corporations make money; the poor people are deprived of food. So we see a kind of a nexus operating here. And as the World Food Program mentioned, you know, that there is a kind of a crisis that we see, number of hungry is multiplying. But I think what they refrain from saying is that it is because of the kind of agriculture that has been pushed into the world, especially now the developing world, that we are faced with the crisis. In fact, the crisis is going to exacerbate in the days to come. And that is my worry, and I think we are not drawing any lesson from where we have gone wrong.
AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean, corporate control of food?
DEVINDER SHARMA: Well, if you look at the way the global agriculture is determined now, the emphasis is like—look at America, the model of American agriculture. There are less than one percent of your population now is involved with agriculture. But America is a big player in international agricultural trade. So when America talks about agriculture, it talks about corporations, big machines and sophisticated technology and so on, which is producing food. And essentially that model is being pushed onto our countries. And the World Trade Organization, the IFIs and the kind of—the business—or the hedge funds and so on are actually pushing that model into the developing world, which means farmers have to be pushed out of agriculture. That is the new mantra, I would say, globally.
ANJALI KAMAT: Devinder, can you talk about this new phenomenon that’s expanded over the past year, has come to light in the past year? And you call that outsourcing food production.
DEVINDER SHARMA: Yeah.
ANJALI KAMAT: It’s been called the global land grab, food pirates. Explain what this is.
DEVINDER SHARMA: Well, I call it as food—I call them as food pirates for a simple reason. You know, it is shocking, and I think we are going back to the days of neocolonialism, because what is happening today is that companies, after the 2008 food crisis, realize even if they have money, they will not have food supplies, especially the Middle East countries. They realize that, you know, they had the petrol—money from petrol, but no food available off the shelf. So they have now decided to invest, so that, you know, they can produce food for domestic markets. So there is a scramble all over the world to go to Latin America, to Africa, to Asia, companies and the countries. And also, you know, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, they’re all investing the bailout funds to actually get into land grab now. And so, I see all over the world, roughly an area equivalent to Germany has already been leased out or purchased outrightly by these companies and these countries.
ANJALI KAMAT: And they’re using this to produce agriculture for whose benefit?
DEVINDER SHARMA: For domestic market. You know, let me give you an example. Ethiopia is one country that we always know has issues with starvation and hunger. There are five million people who live in hunger in Ethiopia. And you’ll be surprised. Eight thousand companies are vying for buying land in Ethiopia, including eighty from India. And the government of Ethiopia has already agreed that of the 2.7 million hectares that it wants to make available to these companies, this year they will make available roughly about 1.4 million. Now, that means the governments are in hand in glove.
In fact, there is—some weeks back, I was invited to a meeting, which, of course, has got postponed now. The African leaders are collaborating with the Middle East leaders, and they’re holding a kind of a conference to see how Africa and the Middle East can come together. From Middle East money, you can buy land and cultivate crops in Africa. For? Not for Africa, but for, you know, domestic consumptions back home.
AMY GOODMAN: Devinder, looking at the United Nations’ warning of millions of people now facing starvation because the world’s wealthiest nations have drastically reduced aid to the UN World Food Program, how does it work? Is it an effective tool? Why has the—how—why have these wealthy countries—
DEVINDER SHARMA: Well, there are two opinions about it. First of all, I would say it is good that, you know, aid is getting reduced, because aid actually distorts the practices in the developing countries. Look at India, for instance. If we had gone on with the aid programs, I don’t think India would have been self-sufficient in food production. We would have been completely dependent, and that’s what the world wants us to be now. I think that the opportunity now is to see that Africa, mostly in military countries in Africa, are faced with the food crisis. I suppose the emphasis has to be on building up their capacity to produce food, and that can only happen if the aid from this part of the world is reduced effectively. And I personally feel that aid has—aid is politically derived. You know, let’s not be forgetting that. Aid distorts the global prices. Aid also distorts the ability of a country to produce food.
So I think we have now—we should draw a lesson from the food crisis and try to evolve policies which can provide the kind of environment to the farmers within a country, also given the kind of a policy it makes, so countries can produce food within the country. And there, I think, we have to draw a lesson from India and China. We were once written off, if you remember. You know, both India and China, we thought one—at least half of India would be led to a slaughterhouse in the end of ’70s. But because of the domestic policies, when we, you know, closed our borders and we didn’t allow food imports to come in, then we gave a kind of a right incentive to farmers to produce more. And the rest is history. I think that is what Africa needs to do now, rather than go on depending upon aid, which will of course be of interest to these countries, the rich countries.
ANJALI KAMAT: Devinder, can you describe for our audience the situation for an average Indian farmer? We hear about farmer suicides. As many as nearly 200,000 farmers—
DEVINDER SHARMA: That’s right.
ANJALI KAMAT: —have committed suicide in the past decade.
DEVINDER SHARMA: Yeah.
ANJALI KAMAT: Can you explain this and the impact of American farming subsidies on Indian agriculture?
DEVINDER SHARMA: Well, India is a very sad case now, as far as agriculture is concerned. After being a seat of green revolution, we are faced with what I would call as a terrible agrarian crisis, the worst that at least we have seen in the living memory. What has happened now is the natural resource base, on which the technology was based, has been destroyed. And that has created all kinds of problems for the farmers, the entire equation going wrong.
In the last fifteen years, we have had about 200,000 farmers committing suicide. In fact, it’s very tragic that every hour, you know, two farmers commit suicide somewhere in India. Very pathetic scenario. And the government is not at all worried. We have had a number of commissions, and so on and so forth, but nobody wants to address the real issues, why the farmers are committing suicide.
Now, on the other hand, 40 percent of our farmers want to quit agriculture, given a choice, which means the entire focus, our entire effort of the governments all these years have been to really push farmers or to marginalize agriculture, and that is what is now quite visible. And, in fact, the government of India, on top of it, has also announced that we would like to transfer population from the rural to the urban areas in India. And let’s not forget, India has 600 million farmers. Every fourth farmer in the world is an Indian, twice the population of America. Now, what do you do with the 600 million farmers? I think that the challenge should be how to make agriculture more productive and sustainable and economically viable. But unfortunately, the mainline economic theory is, we don’t need farmers. You know, the corporations will produce food for us. And that is where, you know, as you asked me earlier, the role of corporations is coming in.
AMY GOODMAN: We just have thirty seconds, but the message you want to leave our audience with?
DEVINDER SHARMA: Well, two things. First of all, the kind of agriculture that we have here, the subsidy especially, you know, if the American farmers want subsidies, please have it. But if you want to trade simultaneously, please don’t do it, because your subsidies kill our farmers. And I think the message is: please leave us alone. If you want to trade, you can’t have the cake and eat it, too. So, please keep your subsidies, but don’t flood us with cheaper imports. This is what is happening all over the world. You know, the two parts of the world, America and the European Union, are becoming the biggest exporters, and developing countries are becoming food importers. And importing food, for us, is importing unemployment.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Devinder Sharma, we want to thank you very much for being with us, award-winning researcher, journalist, activist.
Source: Democracy Now, Oct 14 2009
Oct 13, 2009
In Africa, drought affected the Sahel region, a belt of fertile grasslands south of the Sahara desert. Among the affected countries is Kenya, resulting in a state of emergency, needing food supplies for over 10 million people, a third of its population. East Africa in general was faced with a severe drought. In Southern America, Argentina, Uruguay and southern Brazil received scanty rainfalls, with Argentina being worst affected.
The US National Drought Mitigation Centre estimates that drought afflicts a loss of US $ 6-8 billion every year. 2009 being no exception. Already large parts of California, Wisconsin and Texas States are reeling under a severe drought. In Texas, the Wall Street Journal estimates that the prevailing drought had caused a loss of US $ 3.8 billion in crop and livestock by July 2009. Many cities in Texas -- Dallas, Austin, and Houston imposed water usage restrictions. It also resulted in a surge in wildfires across southern America, By February alone, the National Interagency Fire Centre in Boise reported 11, 814 wildfires. Even in October, its wasn't unusual to come across wildfires while driving in California.
In a scene similar to the drought affected regions of India, a USA Today report had quoted a a cattle rancher Jim Selman of Gonzales who had sold 30 of his 300 to 400 breeding cows because of the non-availability of fodder. "It might take me 10 years or more to get back to where I was." Two of California's biggest reservoirs -- Shasta and Oroville -- were reported to be less than half full at the beginning of the year. California is believed to be facing its worst drought in memory. In neighbouring Nevada, the newspaper reported that the USDA had declared almost the entire state as a natural disaster area.
Anyway, this brings me to a related question. Normally I find that most people believe that climate change, which of course is responsible for much of the drought conditions that we witness all over, is only going to affect the developing countries. In fact, this impression comes from the repeated statements of climate experts and politicians who always give an impression as if the developing countries are destined to be doomed if they don't make a sacrifice to protect the Earth. Even in India, I find that activists and civil society leaders only talk of the crisis in agriculture and environment resulting from climate change in the developing world.
It isn't true. What I mean is that it is not only the developing countries that are going to suffer. The developed countries too (although they refrain to say so openly and loudly) will also come under the hammer. I draw your attention to a news report appearing sometime back in The Guardian (Feb 26, 2009) under the title: Droughts 'may lay waste' to parts of US. The report said: The world's pre-eminent climate scientists produced a blunt assessment of the impact of global warming on the US yesterday, warning of droughts that could reduce the American south-west to a wasteland and heatwaves that could make life impossible even in northern cities.
In an update on the latest science on climate change, the US Congress was told that melting snow pack could lead to severe drought from California to Oklahoma. In the midwest, diminishing rains and shrinking rivers were lowering water levels in the Great Lakes, even to the extent where it could affect shipping.
"With severe drought from California to Oklahoma, a broad swath of the south-west is basically robbed of having a sustainable lifestyle," said Christopher Field, of the Carnegie Institution for Science. He went on to warn of scorching temperatures in an array of cities. Sacramento in California, for example, could face heatwaves for up to 100 days a year.
"We are close to a threshold in a very large number of American cities where uncomfortable heatwaves make cities uninhabitable," Field told the Senate's environment and public works committee. US is not the only rich and industrialised country to be adversely affected. All developed countries will get the kick. No wonder, the world is demonstrating an urgency to combat climate change. Let me make it very clear. The developed countries are more worried about what will happen to their landscape. They are very cleverly using developing countries to fight their battle.
You can read the full report at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2009/feb/26/drought-us-climate-change Also read this report on how China intends to fight it out: http://www.reuters.com/article/environmentNews/idUSTRE51E0BB20090215
Oct 10, 2009
The decision, which contains the compromise formula, which accommodates the interest of both the developed and developing countries provides a mandate to IGC to under take text based negotiation for an international legal text to ensure effective protection of genetic resources (GR), Traditional Knowledge (TK) and Traditional Cultural Expressions (TCE) with clear time frame spreading two years 2010 and 2011. This renewed mandate has strengthened the developing states' demand for a legally binding instrument for the protection of GRs, TK and TCEs.
Details of the decision are as follows:
“The committee will during the next budgetary biennium (2010/2011) and without prejudice to the work pursued in other fora, continue its work and undertake text-based negotiations with the objective of reaching agreement on a text of an international legal instrument (or instruments) which will ensure the effective protection of GRs, TK and TCEs”
“The Committee will follow, as set out in the Annex, a clearly defined work program for the 2010/2011 biennium. This work program will make provision for, in addition to the 15th session of the Committee schedule for December 2009, four sessions of the IGC and three inter-sessional working groups in the 2010-2011 biennium”
“The focus of the committee’s work in the 2010/2011 biennium will build on the existing work carried out by the committee and use all WIPO working documents, including WIPO/GRTKF/IC/9/4, WIPO/GRTKF/1C/9/5 and WIPO/GRTKF/IC/11/8A (Traditional Cultural Expressions, Traditional Knowledge and Genetic Resources), which are to constitute the basis of the Committee’s work on text-based negotiations”
“The Committee is requested to submit to the 2011 General Assembly the text (or texts) of an international legal instrument (or instruments) which will ensure the effective protection of GRs, TK and TCEs. The General Assembly in 2011 will decide on convening a Diplomatic Conference.”
“The General Assembly requests the International Bureau to continue to assist the Committee by providing Member states with necessary expertise and funding of the participation of experts from developing countries and LDCs according to the usual formula”.
“The General Assembly adopts the draft report of the 14th session of the Committee as reflected in document WIPO/GRTKF/IC/14/12 Prov.2 as the report of that session”.
Key highlights of the renewed a mandate are :
First: As per the renewed mandate IGC while continue the present work will undertake text based negotiations for an international legal instrument, which will ensure effective legal protection to GRs, TK and TCEs. However, there is still doubt about the meaning of the term international legal instrument. According to some experts the term does not necessarily mean international treaty or agreement. However, paragraph d clearly states that submit to the 2011 General Assembly the text (or texts) of an international legal instrument (or instruments) which will ensure the effective protection of GRs, TK and TCEs. The General Assembly in 2011 will decide on convening a Diplomatic Conference.” In the normal course, Diplomatic Conference is normally convened to take decision regarding the adoption of treaty or agreement. Further the words to “ensure effective protection” in the last part of Paragraph (a) also point out clearly that the mandate is not for a declaration but for a legal instrument.
Second: The mandate clearly provides a timeframe for the conclusion of the IGC process spearing over two years from the 2009 General Assembly to 2011 General Assembly. The Annex to the decision contains the list of meetings that will be held between this GA and the 2011 GA as follows: First Inter-sessional Working Group-February/March 2010; IGC 16-May/June 2010; WIPO General Assembly-September 2010; Second International Working Group-October 2010; IGC 17-December 2010; Third Inter-sessional Working Group-February/March 2011; IGC 18-May/June 2011; IGC 19-Early September 2011; WIPO General Assembly-September 2011
Third: All WIPO working documents especially three documents mentioned in paragraph (C) of the decision as a basis for the text based negotiation. These three documents are viz. Revised Objectives and Principles on the Protection of Traditional Knowledge (WIPO/GRTKF/1C/9/5), Revised Objectives and Principles on the protection of Traditional Cultural Expressions (WIPO/GRTKF/IC/9/4) and List of Options for Genetic Resources (WIPO/GRTKF/IC/11/8A).
Oct 9, 2009
These seven weeds are in addition to the five weed species that were earlier identified in the crop fields. These alien weed species were not known to have existed in India, and have come along with the imported wheat grain.
I remember at the time of the import, I had warned: The American wheat comes with 21 alien weeds which are not known to exist in India. As per the weed risk analysis done by the Ministry of Agriculture, all these weeds are of quarantine importance and carry high risk. More worrying is the presence of two weeds Bromus rigidus and Bromus scealinus -- better known as foxtail wheat, which is similar in appearance to wheat and therefore difficult to identify. The Ministry of Food and Agriculture had then denied that there was any threat of weeds from imported wheat.
In fact, the then Agriculture Secretary Radha Singh had actually stymied all such objections, and had approved the imports. It is therefore high time to hold Radha Singh accountable for the mishap, even though she has since retired. We cannot allow people in decision making positions to get away for such callous decisions that not only have terrible socio-economic implications but also pose a threat to country's food security.
Parliamentarians should demand an investigations into the entire wheat import imbroglio and hold those bureaucrats and scientists responsible who were party to the deal. These people should receive strict punishment that should become a lesson for others in future.
I feel sad that the two species that I had listed time and again that would pose a serious threat to country's food security -- Bromus secalinus and Bromus rigidus -- have actually entered India, and established in the crop fields. Better known as foxtail wheat, these species are similar in appearance to wheat and therefore difficult to identify. Already farmers have been struggling for decades to control weeds that have entered India along with imported wheat assignments from the US and Australia in the past.
Here is my article on the wheat import scandal. I suggest you take a look at this analysis before you go through the news report from Jabalpur about the alien weed species that have sneaked into India. This will enable you to put the entire issue in right perspective. The article Weeding out Wheat (June 19, 2007) is available at: http://www.indiatogether.org/2007/jun/dsh-wheatrow.htm
And here is the news report from the pages of Hindustan Times:
Alien weeds in imported wheat
Jabalpur: The Directorate of Weed Science Research, Jabalpur has detected seven more alien weeds species in Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharshtra where wheat grains imported in 2006-07 was distributed under PDS.
The directorate has launched a surveillance program to identify areas and study impact of alien weeds were identified in imported grains.
Over 62 lakh metric tonnes of imported wheat grains was supplied under PDS in Madhya Pradesh, Chhatisgarh, Tamilnadu, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Orrisa.
Seven news alien weeds detected from imported wheat grains are echnochloa cruspavonis. heliabthus californicus, bromus secalinus, bromus rigidus, cenchurea solsitialis, cenchurea maculosa and chicorium pumilum in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka.
Earlier identified five alien weeds are Ambrosia trifida, Cenchrus tribuloides, Cynoglossum officinale, solanum carolinense and Viola arvensis are mainly found in imported wheat grains during this period.
The quarantine norms fixed by the union government for import of wheat is 100 seeds of weeds per 200 kilogram is permissible for import. Directorate of weed science Research consultant for weed surveillance programmes Dr JP Tiwari told HT that various centers are functioning across the states where imported wheat grains was supplied.
He said the centers in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka has reported of seven new alien weed species detected in imported wheat grains. He said the directorate has requested the center to give global positioning systems hand sets to surveillance inspectors deputed in centers to speed up identification work.
He said the alien seeds spread when the people remove unwanted particles from imported wheat grains and throw waste in garbage, compost pit or any other place from where it reaches to fields, forest and fallow lands.
Oct 6, 2009
I am sure you can find many such examples. I sometimes wonder why isn't the political leadership and the intellingentsia in both the countries wise enough to look inwards and make genuine efforts to fight poverty and hunger. The elite in both the countries looks towards the west for solutions (often these are idiotic) for the problems they continue to face. If they had had the courage and wisdom to search within their borders for solutions to sustainable development, probably hunger and poverty in India and Pakistan would have been history by now.
It therefore didn't come as shock to me when I read the news report saying that India and Pakistan had decided to trade in Bt cotton seeds. What else could you have expected from a sterile leadership that exists in science and agriculture. The terrible agrarian crisis that India is faced with (and which continue to prevail in Pakistan for several decades now) emanates from the faulty paradigm of agriculture that has been thrust upon.
Bt cotton is one such example of a regressive and destructive technology. A few weeks back, I had mentioned in this blog how Pakistan was encouraging illicit trade in Bt cotton seeds between the two countries. They had simply turned a blind eye to the smuggling of Bt cotton seed from across the border. Knowing from the past experience, it was quite obvious that the underhand trade in Bt cotton seeds was being allowed simply to build up a market so that the trade could be legalised in the days to come.
Remember the story of illegal cultivation of Bt cotton in Gujarat (before it was officially approved for cultivation)? Not only in Gujarat, the same modus operandi was also adopted in Argentina to eventually push for the official approval for GM seeds. I am therefore not amazed at the opening up of trade in Bt cotton seeds between India and Pakistan.
Thanks to Bt cotton, more and more Indian cotton farmers have been sent to the gallows. All I can therefore say is that God now save the Pakistani cotton farmers !
Anyway, here is the news report from the pages of The Hindustan Times:
India, Pakistan sow seeds of cooperation
By Chetan Chauhan
Genetically modified (GM) cotton may achieve what months of diplomacy between India and Pakistan could not: cooperation between the two countries.India’s Bt Cotton seeds that helped the country double its cotton production in seven years will soon be available to farmers in Pakistan. Bt or Bacillus Thuringiensis is a bacterium that produces crystals proteins that are toxic to many species of insects and pests.
India’s regulatory body for GM crops, Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), under the environment and forest ministry, gave permission to top GM seed companies like Monsanto, Hyderabad-based Bayer Hybrid Seeds and Aurangabad-based Nath Biogene in September to export GM hybrid seeds to Pakistan for trials.
“It provides us a good opportunity to test highly successful GM cotton seeds in a similar geographical terrain in Pakistan,” said Jagresh Rana, director, Mahyco-Monsanto Biotech. “Bt Cotton is grown on the Indian side of border in Abhor in Punjab and normal cotton is grown on a similar soil in Pakistan. One can see the difference. We have no reason to believe that India’s cotton success story cannot be replicated in Pakistan.”
With the approval, the Indian government has put to rest claims in the Pakistan media that India was unwilling to share its cotton success story with Pakistan. “Our bonhomie with our neighbours (Pakistan) on environment issues from climate change to GM is good,” said Indian environment minister Jairam Ramesh.
To improve Pakistan’s standing in the international cotton market, where it is the fourth largest producer after China, India and the United States, Indian companies were the first to get an import permit for testing of Bt Cotton hybrid seeds from the Pakistan government earlier this year.
In Pakistan’s Punjab and Sindh provinces, some untested varieties of Bt Cotton from China are reportedly being grown since 2005 without permission of the federal government. But, its results have not done farmers any good.
“It is a beginning of a new agriculture era in Pakistan,” said Rana Shafiq, general secretary of Past Indian Farmers Forum, a body of farmers from the Punjabs on both sides of the border, welcoming India-Pakistan cooperation on agriculture issues. He, however, added that like in India many civil right groups opposed introduction of GM crops in Pakistan.
Oct 2, 2009
While the debate continues, I just want to bring to your notice of an effort made in India by the civil society groups to frame a legal mechanism to protect, conserve and ensure a legally binding beneficiary mechanism by way of which the traditional communities, which have acted as a saviour of traditional knowledge, receive not only a signicant proportion of the benefits flowing from its commercialisation but also receive adequate support to protect and conserve that knowledge. I will share with you the details in the days to come.
Meanwhile, here is the report from K M Gopakumar. He brings us the latest from the WIPO Assembly that concluded in Geneva yesterday.
Geneva : Impasse on the future mandate of Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources , Traditional Knowledge and Folklore (IGC) continues even on the last day of WIPO General Assembly.
The reason for the impasse is the unwillingness of the developed countries to agree to negotiate a legally binding international instrument to protect the Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Traditional Cultural Expression and Expressions of Folklore.(GRTKF). The WIPO general assembly established the IGC with the following mandate. “The Intergovernmental Committee would constitute a forum in which discussions could proceed among Member States on the three primary themes which they identified during the consultations: intellectual property issues that arise in the context of (i) access to genetic resources and benefit sharing; (ii) protection of traditional knowledge, whether or not associated with those resources; and (iii) the protection of expressions of folklore. However, the discussion in IGC did not result in substantial progress other than developing a set of principles on the protection of traditional knowledge (TK) and traditional cultural expressions (TCE). 2 years ago the General Assembly the document renewed the mandate of IGC stating that the IGC will “continue its work for the next budgetary biennium on questions included in its previous mandate” and states that its “new work will focus, in particular, on a consideration of the international dimension of those questions, without prejudice to the work pursued in other fora; and no outcome of its work is excluded, including the possible development of an international instrument or instruments. However, the discussion reached nowhere near to the development of international instrument. In fact the 14th Session of the IGC failed to reach consensus on its future work or mandate.
The General Assembly is suppose to find a solution and renew the IGC mandate with clear work program in order to elevate its status from being a mere talk shop. On Monday night at 8pm when the IGC mandate was taken up for discussion there were four proposals on the table from two countries and two regional groups viz. Australia, USA, European Commission (EC) and African Group. The divergences are clearly on the nature of mandate to be given to be given to the IGC rather than on the renewal of mandate per se.
The African Group’s proposal that was originally tabled on the occasion of the 14th session of IGC clearly proposes that IGC should undertake text-based negotiations on GRTKF. Further it proposes that IGC should submit the text, that emerges from the negotiations i.e. an internationally biding instrument/instruments on GRTKF for the consideration of the General Assembly in 2011 to recommend a date for a diplomatic conference.
The EU proposes the renewal of the mandate to continue the work and also undertake outcome-oriented deliberations. According to the EU proposal the outcome oriented deliberation is mainly “to prepare a declaration on the value of traditional knowledge, traditional cultural expressions and genetic resources and their protection against misappropriation to be adopted by the General Assembly”. Thus it clearly rejects the African proposal for a legally binding international instrument. The US proposal even rejects the idea of a Declaration and wants the committee to continue uncompleted work of under its previous mandate. However, both the US and EC proposals reproduce the 2008 General Assembly mandate i.e. without prejudice to the work pursued in other fora; and no outcome of its work is excluded, including the possible development of an international instrument or instruments”. The Australian proposal follows the middle path and does not reject the idea of legally binding instrument. However it makes a qualification by stating that IGC will undertake a “text based negotiations, without prejudice to the outcome , including a possible legally binding instrument”.
During the formal discussions in the form of General statements on Monday and Tuesday the polarization on the nature of mandate became clear. All developing countries rallied behind the African proposal for a mandate to negotiate a legally binding international instrument within clear timeframes. Developed countries and former socialist countries support the EC proposal. Recognizing the deep divisions on the issue Chairperson initiated informal consultations and encouraged group meetings to find out a solution. In the last two days including this morning, the Chairperson has produced two draft text based on his consultations with various member sates and group leaders. According to the latest text “"The Committee will, during the next budgetary biennium(2010/2011) and without prejudice to the work pursued in other fora, continue its work and undertake text based negotiations with the objective of reaching agreement on a text of an international instrument(or instruments) (which would ensure the effective protection of ) GRs, TK and TCEs). The part in bold is still in brackets.
It is clear that the Chair’s text is not proposing a text based negotiation for legally binding instrument but the proposal is limited to an international instrument which would ensure effective protection on GR, TK, TCE. According to one developing country delegate there is no clarity on the word international instrument .The word international instrument also includes declarations, guidelines etc and therefore it does not substitute legally binding international instrument. Another Developing country delegate pointed out that the word effective protection does not necessarily means the enforcement of the protection.
Developing countries want further strengthening of the language, which clearly spell out the mandate to launch a negotiation for a legally binding international instrument for the protection of GR, TK and TCE (GRTKF). Efforts are still on to find a solution, which ensures justice to developing countries.