Indian Food, Farming and Economics

Few days back I had the privilege to hear .. well acclaimed..Dr. Vandana Shiva!! I was awestruck! Till date had only seen her in documentaries and news.

When I decided to go for it, I didn't understand the title much! Seeing her name in the panel was enough for me to make up my mind. Agriculture and economics. It was wonderfully conducted by the Environment Support Group, Bangalore on a weekday, with just a day’s notice. Taking leave from work to attend this was totally worth it!

Dr. Shiva was her usual self.. so strong and fierce!

This article is a my personal account of takeaways from the session.

The panel had 5 people including Dr Shiva, Leo F. Saldanha(Founder, ESG), Aruna (lead petitioner for inhibiting GMOs entering India), Vishalakshi Padmanabhan (Founder, Buffalo Back organic store) and two more folks practicing permaculture — one in Andhra, other in Tumkur (Karnataka).

For the first time ever, I witnessed a panel where everyone was carrying their own steel bottles. If you see the picture, they had steel glass covered water placed in front of them. Yes, you see it right! No PET, no Bisleri! Infact Dr. Vandana evidently poured all the leftover water from the glass into her bottle before leaving the event. This was so thoughtful of her to save water!

Green Revolution in 1960s

  • The agricultural scientists then were applauded and received highest civilian awards to “save Indians from starvation post-Independence”. We have been reading it in our school science textbooks for quite some time now. Well, time to burst the bubble!
The pesticides that were introduced to Indian soil during Green Revolution, were actually the left over gunpowder from The World War II. They didn't know what to do with it so they sold it to us! Shocking but true.
  • With Green Revolution a.k.a propaganda to sell us chemicals, the government forced/imposed farmers to use Hybrid seeds, pesticides, insecticides, weedicides etc. giving subsidies. They were introduced to increase our “yield”, however with time, even the pests grew resistance (Charles Darwin’s Survival of the Fittest theory) so with time farmers add more pesticides to their fields, making the crops, soil more toxin. Water needs for the crop also increased with time.
  • Five decades of Green revolution.. our soil continues becoming toxic/contaminated and pose a threat to local/indigenous farming practices. Our indigenous seeds of native varieties are not easy to find. Our seeds repository is contaminated forever.
  • DDT pesticide was introduced to us back then, which was actually banned usage globally. Then why were Indian farmers expected to use them profusely? The recent rise of cases in Cancer in Indian is mostly a result of eating pesticide rich food/contact with pesticides. We might have shifted to organic produce by now (if we have), but if our forefathers have eaten it, we still bear the risk as there is a chance of cancer gene expressing in our following generations.

Why does a toxic depleted soil bother us?

It's simple. We as humans, derive our nutrition from the food we eat. The crops that we eat are grown on these soils. Crop derives its nutrition from the soil itself. If the soil is toxic so will the crop be. So, Dr. Shiva kept emphasising “we need to strengthen the soil” for our own good. If the soil is healthy, so we will be.

Genetically Modified Food (GMO)

Invented in United States of America, as result of discovery of a new discipline of science — Biotechnology in 1990s. From what I understand, GMOs have been the worst inventions we have made out of advancements with science. Rich countries loot the poor countries and scavenge on them to make them poorer and themselves richer! Sad part is that this country’s governing bodies also look for short term gains encashing on the depleting health of their own people.

The only GMO available in India is Bt. Cotton. As per our existing food policies, GMOs are banned in India except Bt. Cotton. Yes, there has been a constant pressure to introduce GMO for crops too — by GMO seed companies, lobbyists, not sure the government also. However, there is no policy to check that the imported food (eg: packaged ones) we get in India is GMO or not! GMO in imported food should be banned too, right!

Bt Cotton

It is not a coincidence that the land growing Bt Cotton also has highest rate of farmer suicides in our country.

When does a farmer fall into debt? What are a farmer’s expenses? After Green revolution, they have new additional expenses — one, buying hybrid seeds for each harvest and two, pesticides. They fall into debt if don't make enough from produce and the vicious cycle continues.

Hybrid seeds

How are hybrid seeds different? Unlike our indigenous seeds, farmers don't save these hybrid seeds. Because, they give only one time harvest. For the next harvest cycle , they need to buy new seeds from the market every time. Don't believe me?

Tomato/chili /any other veggie that you are eating, save those seeds, plant them to see if they give fruit. If they don't, you know that it is a hybrid seed.

Zero Budget Farming

This recent proposal by our Finance Minister, Nirmala Sitharaman, is said to help double the farmers income in days to come. However, our esteemed panel during the session had ripped it apart claiming that it will worsen the farmer’s conditions. I did not understand much about it though. Introducing GMOs will definitely contaminate our seeds for sure. I am sharing a link here for those interested to learn more about it.

https://youtu.be/1Kn7D965dDM

Conclusion

Time to draw a line. I can carry on lamenting about what I have learnt as it was long session.

It is saddening to admit that our country’s economy/GDP prospers by making our own people deplete of health — toxic food leading to ill health, making corporates, medical and insurance industry thrive.

References:

Budget push for zero budget farming but contradictions mar Andhra's natural agri foray

P.S. This is my first ever article online. I will really appreciate feedback. Please share your views/concerns.

All the views expressed here are completely personal to the author.