Monday, March 11, 2013

Tilling the soil with pesticides | The Asian Age

Tilling the soil with pesticides | The Asian Age

The ministry of agriculture had organised a conference on Doubling Food Production from February 1-3. The “eminent speakers” invited were not members of International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) or top Indian scientists. Rather they were spin masters of biotechnology industry who claimed to have founded the anti-GMO movement and openly promoted it.

The old paradigm of food and agriculture is clearly broken. On April 15, 2008, the IAASTD report findings, carried out by 400 scientists over six years, were released. The report has noted that business as usual is no longer an option. Neither the Green Revolution nor the genetically modified organisms (GMOs) can guarantee food security. We need a new paradigm of working with the laws of nature and ecological sustainability.

Why is our agriculture minister Sharad Pawar defending a dead paradigm and promoting PR men of biotech giants? When the fact is that the emerging scientific paradigm of ecological agriculture has shown that we can double food production while protecting the planet, human health and farmers’ livelihoods.

The old paradigm of agriculture has its roots in war. An industry that had grown by making explosives and chemicals for the war remodelled itself as the agro-chemical industry when these wars ended. Factories that manufactured explosives started making synthetic fertilisers and gradually the use of war chemicals as pesticides and herbicides began. The 1984 Bhopal gas tragedy is a stark reminder that pesticides kill.

 Pesticides in agriculture continue to kill farmers. One of Navdanya’s reports, “Poisons in our Food” released in 2012, shows that a link between epidemics like cancer and the use of pesticides in agriculture exist. A daily “cancer train” leaves Punjab, the land of the Green Revolution in India, with cancer victims. In the last five years, 33,000 people have died of cancer in Punjab.

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