Indo-US Knowledge Initiative: A Bush Jnr con to assist corporate giants Monsanto, Wal-Mart and Tesco Print E-mail

Wednesday March 22, 2006

 

Indo-US Knowledge Initiative -- The end of farmers

By Devinder Sharma

The second Green Revolution will serve the interests of the American agribusiness corporations
   
Forty years after the first Green Revolution was launched, Indian agriculture is faced with an unprecedented crisis. Unmindful of the destructive prowess of alien technology, the impact of which is being felt all over the country ­ farm incomes plummeting, soil gasping for breath, natural base destroyed, and farmers being pushed out of agriculture ­ India is now preparaing to usher in the second Green Revolution.

The Rs 1000-crore Indo-US Knowledge Initiative in Agricultural Research and Education, formally launched by the American President George Bush at Hyderabad on March 3, will bring Indian agriculture under the direct control of US corporate houses. If the first Green Revolution was facilitated by the introduction of the land grant system of agriculture research and education into India, the second Green Revolution is being tailored to the needs of the American agri-business interests.

The year 2005 witnessed a farm technology agreement signed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the United States president, George Bush. Addressing a joint session of the US Congress during his visit, the Prime Minister said: “The Green Revolution lifted countless millions above poverty....I am very happy to say that US President George Bush and I have decided to launch the second generation of the India-US collaboration in agriculture.”

Following the agreement, a team of Indian agricultural scientists visited US in December 2005 to work out the modalities of the programme.

It was followed by a return visit by US agricultural scientists, and the entire exercise has been kept confidential and prepared in a hush-hush manner.

The dominance of the American agri-business becomes clear when one finds the US supermarket giant Wal-Mart and the seed multinational Monsanto on the board of the Initiative.

Tailored on the objective of transferring the unwanted and risky technology of genetic engineering on plants and animals, which incidentally is not finding many takers worldwide, the US finds India an easy dumping ground.

For the cash-starved Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), the umbrella organisation of agricultural research and education in the country, the Knowledge Initiative comes as a shot in the arm. It will provide an opportunity to plant scientists to justify the huge public sector investment on a monolithic and dying research body.

The research proposal includes Rs 190 crore to be incurred on crop biotechnology research and another Rs 200 crore for the application of transgenic technology in livestock and poultry. Interestingly, all this will be under the guidance of the American scientists who will receive a fee of Rs 400 crore.

By setting aside Rs 200 crore for value-addition, quality improvement and food safety, the Knowledge Initiative has paved the way for the entry of the food retail giants like Wal-Mart and Tesco.

The UPA government's flagship programme Bharat Nirman has actually been laying out necessary infrastructure in the rural areas so as to facilitate the entry of the food retails chains.

The Indo-US agriculture technology cooperation is being put in place without first ascertaining the reasons behind the terrible agrarian crisis, much of it the result of imposing environmentally-unfriendly alien technology, now the government embarks on the faulty promise of a 'second' green revolution.

Even before the ink dried on the technical cooperation agreement, news reports pointed out that two of the American multinationals, Monsanto and Wal-Mart, have already said they are not interested in research and development but on the increased trading opportunities that India offers.

The lure and glamour of industry-driven agriculture in turn is sure to acerbate the existing crisis. The new technology that the multinationals (as well as the ICAR) are planning to provide is so sophisticated that a majority of the farmers will remain outside the ambit.

Precision farming is one such misplaced technology that has received budgetary support from the government.

Removing the bottlenecks in the commodity supply chain management by amending the APMC Act and also by enlarging the scope of future trading are aimed at helping the new range of middlemen and business.

Even in America, the entry of retail chains in the agriculture sector have only shifted the profits to a horde of middlemen ­ retailers, processors, certification agencies, quality controller and so on.

Farmers earn only 4 per cent from whatever they sell. In 1990, farmers would earn 70 per cent of what they would sell. The rest of the profits are shared by the chain of middlemen.

In Canada, the National Farmers Union has in a study shown how the combined profits of 70 retailer and agribusiness firms have multiplied whereas the farmers have mounting losses. The same model is now being shifted to India.

No wonder, the Economic Survey 2005-06 categorically talks of dismantling the minimum support price (MSP) and procurement-based food subsidy system.

The two planks of the ‘famine-avoidance’ strategy that our planners had put in place, and which were instrumental in making the country food self-sufficient, are now on the hit list. This will enable the food retailers to directly purchase from farmers. In other words, Indian farmers will in future be faced with not only the vagaries of the monsoon but also the market.