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The organic foods divide in India

By Rahul Goswami

The divide between farmers growing and selling organic produce in India and the major organic foods and beverages retailers is widening, to the detriment of organic farmers. This was evident at Biofach India 2013 held in Bengaluru

Organic farming

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Relevance of the public distribution system

By Rahul Goswami

A new report from the NSSO reveals a sharp increase in reliance on the public distribution system for purchase of foodgrain in rural and urban India. This is significant at a time when the country is debating universalisation of PDS, the Food Security Bill, and Direct Cash Transfers

consumption of foodgrain

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'Depriving the poor in the name of corruption is not a solution': Aruna Roy

By Diva Arora

Giving all households -- priority and general -- a common entitlement of not less than 25 kg at Rs 3/2/1 for rice/wheat/millets will solve the problem of identifying the poor who deserve to be subsidised under the Food Security Act, says RTI and right to food campaigner Aruna Roy, dismissing various criticisms of the Bill

Food Security Bill Aruna Roy

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Food Security Bill: Making sense of the numbers

We are already spending Rs 67,310 crore on food subsidies. The National Food Security Bill will increase this by only Rs 30,000 crore, just 4% of the corporate taxes that are being booked as revenues foregone, says Sachin Kumar Jain. The added expenditure will still mean a subsidy of only Rs 3.25 per person per day

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Kerala, West Bengal record significant declines in farm suicides

While the Big 5 states have shown sharp spikes in farmer suicides during 2003-10, P Sainath points out why other states have recorded a decline in farm suicides

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In 16 years, farm suicides cross a quarter-million

In 2010, 15,964 farm suicides have been reported by the National Crime Records Bureau, writes P Sainath, and close to two-thirds of them have occurred in the five states of Maharashtra, Karnataka, AP, MP and Chhattisgarh

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The case against cash transfers

If the system doesn’t work, don’t fix it, just dismantle it, the government appears to be saying in the matter of cash transfers in lieu of subsidies, writes Sachin Kumar Jain

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The middle path on the food security bill?

How much can you load onto a single law without having it collapse under its own weight, asks Harsh Mander in this article that answers questions raised on the NAC’s draft Food Security Bill

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Millet deception?

The Uttarakhand government’s promotion of the cultivation and consumption of millets is welcome, says Biju Negi. What is not welcome is the simultaneous pushing of chemical fertilisers and micronutrients in this officially organic state

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Why India's 'growth' focus is ignoring the food access question

Celebrating the fact that per capita agricultural income is increasing faster than overall per capita income, the government is targeting 4% growth in agriculture in the Twelfth Plan period. But this is a rosy view that does not stand up to scrutiny, says Rahul Goswami

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The cost of the urban land grab

Should our focus be on earning enough or providing enough, asks Rahul Goswami. The Yamuna Expressway and development project will occupy 43,000 hectares of land currently being cultivated by 1,191 villages, removing the potential to harvest about 100,000 tonnes of foodgrain annually

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A bid to control food flows from field to thali?

Is the CGIAR, an international research consortium backed by a powerful agri-biotech coalition, exploiting India’s rampant malnutrition and healthcare deficits to roll out a dangerous new programme to promote ‘biofortification’ and ‘micronutrients’, asks Rahul Goswami

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National Food Security Act: Universalisation vs targeted approach

With the government at loggerheads with the National Advisory Council and civil society groups on the question of a universal vs targeted approach to the proposed food security Act, Sachin Kumar Jain presents the case against the targeted approach in a country that provides subsidies and exemptions of Rs 418,000 crore to industry while constantly reducing the entitlements of the poor

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Food inflation and agricultural swaraj

By Rahul Goswami

This article illustrates just how crippling the price of staple foods has become. The government trots out its usual response of greater retail investment and more technology inputs, failing to realise that decisions about the production and distribution of food must lie with the producer and consumer, not with the state and corporations

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Seed Bill II: Big business zindabad!

By Shalini Bhutani

A slightly altered version of the Seed Bill 2004, likely to be introduced in the ongoing winter session of Parliament, is ostensibly about keeping a check on seed quality. In fact, it will protect the interests of big business, keeping farmers’ seeds out of the market and discouraging small seed dealers and producers

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Hot potatoes from Farmer Obama

US President Barack Obama’s farm mission has been a very important part of his India visit. But does the new India-US Agriculture Dialogue seek to provide food security and fair trade or to push USA's National Export Initiative, asks Rahul Goswami

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Food security: Getting it right

By R V Bhavani

All three pillars of food security -- food availability, food access, and food absorption -- have to be addressed to make the country food secure. Unfortunately, India’s draft food security bill is a package of piecemeal measures that fails to address all of them, says RV Bhavani

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Lessons from the Bt brinjal consultations

By Samir Nazareth

The consultations on Bt brinjal held across seven cities in India were important not only for the moratorium on the production of India’s first genetically modified food crop that resulted. The process also established that if development is for all, and technology is being touted as its vehicle, then people (be it farmer or consumer) should be included in its design

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The road from drought

By Rahul Goswami

By the time the rabi sowing season for 2009 is over, farming households in the 252 districts declared affected by drought will be further encircled by systems and frameworks over which they have little or no control. This will happen because administrative India is wedded to "area increase and productivity enhancement in targeted districts" as a primary aim. Rural livelihoods are a by-product

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Food insecurity in Incredible India

By Kathyayini Chamaraj

A concept note on the proposed National Food Security Act circulated to all states continues to push for a targeted public distribution system instead of a universal one, and proposes to reduce the issue of foodgrains to 25 kg per BPL household, completely ignoring the contentious issue of who is poor and what an adequate and nutritious diet consists of

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Between seed and straw: When will we get agriculture right?

The figures for crop production, yield and acreage are looking healthy in this quarter. But behind the triumph a crisis gathers strength, says Rahul Goswami

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The hunger index

By Rahul Goswami

In every one of India’s major states, less food is available for growing populations. The first India States Hunger Index shows alarming falls in per capita availability of cereals. Industrialised Gujarat ranks lower than Haiti on the Global Hunger Index, and Madhya Pradesh beats Ethiopia by only 0.07 points

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How climate change will impact agriculture

Coping with climate change and its impact on agriculture and rural livelihoods is going to be a long haul, says Suman Sahai. It's an irony that those who have caused global warming -- the high-emission polluters in developed countries -- are going to be the beneficiaries of climate change and not its victims, as far as food production is concerned

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No let-up for Kerala's farmers

By N P Chekkutty

According to the Economic Review 2007, the rate of farmer suicides in Kerala has fallen dramatically, largely on account of the debt relief commission set up by the government. But the story is different on the ground, where price fluctuations, pest attacks and unsustainable agricultural practices continue to push farmers over the edge

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Market access and the food crisis

By Devinder Sharma

While the World Bank and WTO say that more market access in developing countries is the only answer to the global food crisis, the UN’s ‘Economic and Social Survey 2008’ claims market liberalisation has actually contributed to the food crisis

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India silent on biosafety negotiations

India has lost out on the opportunity to build a strong liability regime for developing countries which would enable them to protect their farmers and consumers from any damage caused by genetically engineered crops and products, reports Suman Sahai after the recent international convention in Bonn

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'The days of cheap food are over': M S Swaminathan

By Rashme Sehgal

M S Swaminathan analyses the global food crisis

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Warning: Food crisis ahead

By Devinder Sharma

International wheat prices have risen 300% in the last five years, and foodstocks are plummeting. With small farms being gobbled up by big agribusiness, farmland increasingly diverted for industrial purposes, and the international focus shifting from staple foods to cash crops, the world now faces an impending food crisis

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Short-term remedy, but no long-term vision

By Devinder Sharma

The Rs 60,000 crore farm loan waiver is a positive step towards addressing agrarian distress. But the 25,000 crore booster for new farm initiatives, which focuses entirely on agribusiness, corporate agriculture and food retail, is likely to lead to further despair. The focus should be on sustainable agriculture

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Food on the table: What it costs in urban India

By Rahul Goswami

Hard data now shows the size of the food price burden on urban households. From Cuttack to Panaji, Jammu to Chennai, families have paid more every year for the last three years for staple foods

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The truth about subsidies

By Darryl D'Monte

A Swiss cow gets a subsidy that will allow her to fly first-class around the world! And Queen Elizabeth gets farm subsidies of over $ I million annually. Subsidies don't always work as they are meant to in India either

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GM or organic: Where does India's future lie?

By Suman Sahai

Does it make sense for India to forego its special status as a producer of GM-free agricultural foods, lose a secure market for its produce and incomes for its farmers, and start cultivating GM crops that no one will buy? Is the future not with organic farming?

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Green, Gene and Evergreen Revolutions: Interesting wordplay

By Suman Sahai

By successfully morphing the popular Green Revolution with the Gene Revolution, proponents of agricultural biotechnology appear to indicate that the latter will bring in all the benefits of the former, and in perpetuity. But there are glaring differences between the two so-called 'revolutions'

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Herbicide-tolerant plants: Not in India, please!

By Suman Sahai

Herbicide-tolerant crops contain a gene that makes them resistant to the herbicide that is sprayed to kill herbs and weeds. The herbicide-tolerance trait is essentially labour-saving and will have economic implications were it to be introduced in labour-surplus developing countries like India

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Bt cotton: What's the fuss about?

By Suman Sahai

Bt cotton is unlikely to work for more than a few years in India because it is fundamentally at odds with the agricultural and climatic conditions here

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How a genetically-engineered plant is made

By Suman Sahai

In the first of a fortnightly series that demystifies genetic engineering and its impact on the environment and health, Suman Sahai explains the cut-and-paste processes that go into making a transgenic plant

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Are supply-side solutions to water access sufficient?

By Darryl D'Monte

While overall access to water supply infrastructure in cities is increasing, coverage remains uneven. But are dams and so-called "flexible water allocations", as advocated by the World Bank, the answer?

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Are GMOs spiralling out of control?

By Darryl D'Monte

To argue that genetically-modified crops will solve the problem of hunger thanks to their higher productivity, is like saying that Bill Gates developed Microsoft software to solve the world's illiteracy problem. And what if the technology runs amuck?

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A bargain-basement knowledge 'mandi'

By Rahul Goswami

The new US-India Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture will re-examine and overhaul existing curricula in agricultural education institutions in India. It will also leave Indian agriculture open to the interests of the world's largest food and agri-business corporations, says Rahul Goswami

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Breathing life into farming

By Darryl D'Monte

The guarantee of 100 days of work in a year cannot by itself provide food security. The trick, says alternative technologist K R Datye, lies in using the NREGA not to build roads but to regenerate the land and create permanent rural assets which will facilitate sustainable livelihoods

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Public sector research and agricultural biotechnology

By Lianchawii

Over 20 research studies related to GM crops are ongoing in the public sector in India. It is important that public sector research be supported in order to facilitate a level playing field with resource-rich private sector companies

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New farm subsidy proposals: All sound and fury, signifying nothing

By Devinder Sharma

The 'new' proposals from the US and European Union that promise to cut farm subsidies drastically, appear to be a giant step forward in agricultural trade talks. In reality, the US proposal will only bring down the level of support from $ 74.7 billion to $ 73.1 billion. For the EU it would mean no reduction at all in existing support to farmers

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Bt cotton cultivation: Fact and fiction

By Kasturi Das

Bt cotton has not delivered what it had promised to India. During the last three years of its commercial cultivation, thousands of farmers have experienced this firsthand. Several empirical studies, the most recent by CICR, Nagpur, have exposed the inappropriateness of Bt cotton technology in India. Why aren't the powers-that-be listening?

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The pitfalls of technology

Studies show that there is little difference in the quality and productivity of processed 'certified' seed and normal seed. But Indian farmers are being pressurised to grow registered seed, regardless of the fact that much of the current agrarian crisis is a result of cost-intensive technologies being forced onto farmers

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Dr M S Swaminathan: 'Job-led growth can only come from agriculture'

By Rashme Sehgal

Dr M S Swaminathan, the father of the Green Revolution, is determined to put agriculture centre stage in India's economy. With 600 million people employed in agriculture, he sees it as being the single largest private enterprise in the country

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Jai Kisan-I: Chronicle of cruel neglect

By Aseem Shrivastava

The average rural Indian family eats 100 kg less food every year than it did in 1991. The average Indian farmer is lucky to get institutional credit at 17% interest, whereas an urban consumer gets a house or car loan at 9% with ease. That is what 12 years of economic reforms have meant for Indians living in the countryside

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Jai Kisan-II: Does India have to bow before neo-liberal bosses?

By Aseem Shrivastava

Indian farmers were left to the vagaries of international markets and the monsoons by the BJP government. The UPA government must reverse the trend, induced by the IMF and World Bank, of deflationary fiscal policies and resume active state support for agriculture

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