Influential natural farming advocate Subhash Palekar recently approved the use of Genetically Modified crops in his well-known “Zero Budget Natural Farming-ZBNF” method. In an equally startling interview, he described organic farming as “worse than the atom bomb.” Here, two veteran practitioners respond to Palekar, while reviewing the history of the Organic/Natural Farming movement in India.
From The Guardian: Cancer rates are the highest in the country, drug addiction is rife, and 900 farmers have killed themselves in two years. How did Punjab turn toxic? A new film explores the roots of its problems; ‘Toxification’ tells the moving stories of farmers at the sharp end of the chemical epidemic engulfing Punjab.
David R. Montgomery writes: Conventional wisdom says that fertile soil is not renewable. That’s not really true. Fertility can be improved quickly through cover cropping and returning organic matter to the land. Soil-building is about getting the biology, mineral availability, and organic-matter balance right, rolling with the wheel of life instead of pushing against it.
From IndiaSpend.com: Fifteen of the top 20 most polluted cities in the world are located in India, according to an analysis of air quality in several cities around the world by IQAir Group. Gurugram, in Haryana, topped the list with an average annual particulate matter (PM 2.5) quality of 135 g/m3 (micrograms/cubic metre), in 2018.
Devinder Sharma writes: If raising productivity is the major factor I see no reason why Punjab farmers should be committing suicide. But the fact that economists don’t want to acknowledge is that it is actually the low price that farmers being deliberately paid that is the primary reason for the terrible agrarian crisis that prevails.
It’s been five years since the passing of G. Nammalvar, the icon of sustainable farming who died on December 30, 2013, while leading a campaign against the plan to extract methane gas in Cauvery delta. An agriculture scientist, he left his job and travelled across Tamil Nadu spreading the message of organic farming using story-telling.
From The Business Standard: “Selected companies like Reliance, Essar have been given the task of providing crop insurance. In just one Maharashtra district, where the soya crop failed, Reliance earned a net profit of Rs 143 crore without investing a single rupee. Now, multiply this amount to each of the districts it has been entrusted.”
From The Sunday Guardian: The Delhi metropolitan area has one of the world’s highest concentrations of population, and suffocating people here on an annual basis should be treated as a crime against humanity, especially when it can be controlled. Arvind Kumar writes on the connection between USAID, Monsanto and Delhi’s nightmarish annual air pollution spike.
From Mongabay: It was the worst flooding in Kerala in nearly a century, with all 14 districts on red alert. With over 445 dead, a million still in relief camps, its impact will last for years. But the future can be more climate-resilient if grassroots communities realise start working for the conservation of fragile ecologies
August 16th marks ten years since the passing of the legendary Japanese farmer and author Masanobu Fukuoka, who initiated the natural farming movement. Here’s a documentary on his life and work, along with notes by Larry Korn, Fukuoka’s American student and the translator of his book, ‘One Straw Revolution,’ considered the ‘bible’ of natural farming.
Grown over a million acres of farmland, the HMT rice variety – developed by Dadaji Ramaji Khobragade, a small cultivator and self-trained plant breeder – brought a measure of prosperity to several hundred thousand farmers in Maharashtra and neighbouring states. Bharat Mansata pays tribute to the legendary farmer and seed saver who died on Sunday
The pro-and anti-GMO positions will remain irreconcilably polarized as long as larger questions remain unexamined. What’s at stake here is much more than a choice about GMOs. It is a choice between two very different systems of food production, two visions of society, and two fundamentally different ways to relate to plants, animals, and soil.
The fracas over water sharing has obscured the fact that the Cauvery itself is facing a major threat: two railway lines to be constructed through Kodagu, the forested hill district where the river originates. A river’s fate – and those of the millions that depend on it – now hangs in balance, writes Chirag Chinnappa.
From McSweeney’s: Nikolay Ivanovich Vavilov collected more seeds from around the world than any other person in history. Yet the plant explorer, who endeavoured to end famine, starved to death in one of Stalin’s gulags. A tribute to a scientific pioneer who foresaw the need for preserving the world’s seed heritage almost a century ago.
Recently, a powerful feature by The Guardian reported on the US’ accelerating farmer suicide crisis, part of a global farmer suicide crisis, which most acutely manifests in India. Layton Ehmke, farmer-turned-journalist, writes on how there’s no way to make a living growing food in America, and how poverty and shame are driving some to suicide.
Alberto Villarreal writes: Trade deals affect people’s everyday lives from the food we eat to the energy we use, and should not be discussed behind closed doors. And yet, this is exactly what is happening at this year’s upcoming World Trade Organization meeting in Buenos Aires from 10-13 December. Also, Noam Chomsky on the WTO.
Colin Todhunter writes: Despite four high level government reports that have advised against adopting Genetically Modified crops in India, there are alarming reports of GM okra, soyabean & brinjal being cultivated illegally in thousands of acres. The industry’s strategy is to flood the country with illegal GMOs so that there’s nothing you can do about it.
Narsanna Koppula, a pioneer of permaculture in India, founded Aranya Agricultural Alternatives, with an aim to provide alternate solutions to the present chemical agricultural practices. Later this month, Aranya, which has impacted thousands of farmers in Telangana and Andhra, is playing host to the International Permaculture Convergence, the biggest event on the permaculture calendar globally.
Moin Qazi writes: The Indian film celebrity Aamir Khan is shepherding a very revolutionary campaign–making Maharashtra drought-free in five years. Khan’s Paani Foundation is galvanising the rural population to go back to fundamental lessons of water management taught by their ancestors. Many Maharashtra villages are seeing water in their parched lands after consecutive dry years.
From The Citizen: “Hitler used organophosphate gases to execute thousands in his gas chambers, we are now using the same to kill our farmers in the open fields,” said Kishor Tiwari on the recent deaths of more than 40 farmers from pesticide poisoning in Maharashtra’s Yavatmal. Tiwari heads a government task force for farmers’ welfare.