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p v satheesh
director


March 1, 2006


To
Sri Y S Rajasekhara Reddy,
Honourable Chief Minister,
Government of Andhra Pradesh
Hyderabad


Dear Mr Chief Minister


We read in the newspapers that you were Keen to discuss farm issues with Bush [The Hindu: February 24, 2006]

Mr Chief Minister, believe us, nothing could have shocked us more. For us, you were shaping into an icon: a person who promised and delivered free power to farmers; bravely weathered the farmer-suicide storm; undid many cruel anti farmer neo con measures of your previous government.

You are an icon because you spoke boldly about introducing dryland crops, particularly sorghum, pearl millet and other millets into the public distribution system.

You are an icon because you had the courage to kick Monsanto out of Andhra Pradesh when it refused to be accountable and pay compensation to farmers who were devastated by its failed Bt cotton technology.

You were shaping into an extremely radical politician who kept the farmers dignity and good in your heart and did not care for the middle class and corporate snides. This was as it should be. In a state like Andhra Pradesh where farmers populate nearly 80% of the geographical area and account for 70% of the population, you appeared as a person who will boldly speak for them, without having to worry about the elite media and powerful business houses and their lobbyists.

It is therefore even more shocking for us to hear that you are keen to discuss farming issues with Bush. In general all of us are shocked that this country is becoming a party to the duplicity that Mr Bush personifies in signing a host of "conservation" related agreements with our government. When his own country has not signed significant international conventions such as biosafety protocol under CBD and climate change protocol.

What do you want to discuss with him Mr Chief Minister? Do you want to teach or learn?

  • Would you, for example, like to tell him, the President of a country that has increased its pesticide use nearly forty times in the last 50 years that you have started a path breaking Non pesticidal management of pests in your state?
  • Would you like to tell him, the President of a country that pays nearly $250,000 farm subsidy per year per person, and spends nearly 72% of this subsidy on 10% of very big farmers each of who receive nearly $350,000 per year as subsidy, that his subsidy leads farmers in AP to suicides?
  • Would you like to tell him, Mr Chief Minister, that while his country reserves nearly 80 million acres of farm land only for EXPORT grain production, in AP we don't have a quarter of that land for all our crop production and therefore we cannot appreciate his ruthless arm twisting through WTO for opening up our markets?
  • Would you as the Chief Minister of a state that has nearly 70 million people from farming families, ask Mr Bush how were they able to decimate a once proud farming population of that country to less than 4% of its size in fifty years? To the extent that in their last census farming as an occupation had been completely excluded. Because they had no farmers anymore but only Hispanic workers who constituted the most destitute sections of its population?
  • Would you Mr Chief Minister, as the head of the most water starved state in India, ask him why does he spends 85% of all freshwater resources in his country for agriculture? Can we follow that model Mr Chief Minister? If we do, how many million deaths will we have in this state from drinking water famine?
  • Did you know Mr Chief Minister that U.S. agriculture actually uses ten fossil fuel calories for each food calorie produced? Can we emulate this model Mr Chief Minister? Wouldn't you be frightened of it when we have such petroleum shortages? Even if we did not have it, wouldn't such an energy use, converted into nitrogen fertilizers and pesticides turn the farmlands in this state into a desert?
  • Did you know the consequences of this reckless use of fossil fuel based nutrients on the soils of US? Soil erosion removes about $20 billion worth of plant nutrients from U.S. agricultural soils each year. At present these nutrients are being replaced by heavy applications of expensive, fossil energy-based fertilizers. Other fossil-based inputs, like pesticides and fossil-powered irrigation systems also are being used to offset soil degradation. This is leading to serious soil degraded and unproductivity and farmers are forced to abandon it and look elsewhere for more land to cultivate. However, this option will not be possible in the future, because there will be no more land to move into agriculture. Can we contemplate on this kind of future, Mr Chief Minister?

Can we move into the arena of Genetically Engineered agriculture, Mr CM?

We know you and admire you as the vampire-slayer for your daring act of kicking out Monsanto from the Telugu Land.

But when you get into discussion with Bush on farming issues, his major prescription for you will be genetically engineer your agriculture and get US engagement in it.

This is their global strategy and you surely know it, Mr Chief Minister. Genetic Engineering of crops and its export is the future of US economy. With the death of its manufacturing sector, outsourcing of its IT industry, the huge scarcity of manpower to maintain its knowledge economy the USA is desperately dependent on it.

Were you told how has the genetic engineering worked for US?

One of the major claims made by the biotech industry was that GE will reduce pesticide use. Do you know Mr Chief Minister, that in the last ten years, USA is the only country where the pesticide use has not reduced even by one gram? This is according to the US Department of Agriculture [USDA] statistics.

The USA accounts for 65% of all GM crops in the world. Nearly 70% of all its farms use Genetically engineered crops. But it has not been able to use a single gram of pesticide. At the same time, the rest of the world has reduced its pesticide use between 20 and 30 per cent!

How does this count for the effectiveness of GE?

The other belief about GE is that it increases yield. No farmer who uses genetically engineered crops on his fields in the USA has reported an increase in the yields. As a matter of fact, Round Up Ready Soya [genetically engineered] showed 5% less yields than conventional soya in the US according the US Department of Agriculture [USDA] statistics.

As a result of this, to make farming of maize and cotton viable [both of which are almost totally genetically engineered] the US government pays nearly 50% of the production costs as subsidy.

All these indicators viz., no reduction in pesticide use, reduced yield and the huge subsidy, indicate that Genetic engineering has failed in USA. To add injury to this insult, most of the world refuses to buy genetically engineered crops from the USA.

Aggressive biotech politics

This is the reason why USA is so aggressive about exporting GE to the rest of the world. What are the results?

  • Against Europe, US had to force GE through WTO through a prolonged legal battle. Still most European governments have renewed their ban or moratorium on genetically engineered crops
  • It had a protracted struggle with the Zambian government when it refused to accept GE Maize as food aid. It tried to twist the Zambian arm as much as possible but failed
  • However when the Sri Lankan government banned all GE imports, both US and Australia were successful in bullying that small island country into withdrawing the ban

There are dozens of such examples of US arm twisting and bullying.

This is the reason for the US' aggressive global incursions into the agricultural research and development. What it wants to do is to completely subvert all non GE research by luring, tempting and bribing major research institutions. If it fails, it will bully them to accept biotech as the sole area of research.

That is the reason why Mr Chief Minister, Bush's visit to the ANGRAU sends shivers down several spines. How would he like to occupy and hijack ANGRAU's research agenda, we don't know. US and its aid front USAID, have done the same with the University of Agricultural Sciences, Bangalore. Cleverly they are not claiming that genetic engineering will bring more yields and less pesticide consumption. They are taking another unabashed route: Biotechnology is good for human health and nutrition. A claim which is as false as the other claims on behalf of GE.

Mr Chief Minister, let me quote for you, what the now infamous Mr Mulford, US ambassador said last year in Chandigarh.

"As our strategic partnership matures into a comprehensive alliance, we will be open to significant new business opportunities for both India and the United States - and food and agriculture will be a critical part of expanding trade and investment between our countries".

The word "opportunities for India" is a misnomer here, Mr Chief Minister. We don't have the power and pelf that USA uses to further its opportunities. Take for eg. World Bank and IMF which always use GE as a tool in their aid packages.

You surely know Mr Chief Minister that US holds 16.45% of the voting power in the Bank. What you perhaps do not know is that the U.S. Executive Director to the World Bank, Carole Brookins, is Chairwoman and CEO of World Perspectives, an international consulting and marketing firm serving major grain, processing and food companies, and sits on the Board of Terra Industries, of a Fortune 500 agrochemical company. Therefore it is but natural that they would like to be loyal to their parent companies and advance their interests through the Bank. This serves US interests very well.

We obviously do not have the same power, would you agree Mr Chief Minister.

Let me present another statistics for you Mr Chief Minister:

Since Mexico's import barriers started tumbling under the North American Free Trade Agreement, U.S. maize imports have tripled. Mexican smallholders have been forced out of local markets, undermining rural economies and fuelling migration. The U.S. department of agriculture is now targeting countries such as Brazil and the Philippines.

When the IMF bulldozed Haiti into liberalizing its rice markets in the mid-1990s, the country was flooded with cheap U.S. imports. Local production collapsed, along with tens of thousands of rural livelihoods. Self-sufficient a decade ago, Haiti today spends half of its export earnings importing U.S. rice.

Therefore Mr Rajasekharareddygaru, what I would like to urge you, is please go ahead and meet the President of USA and offer him Hyderabad Biryani, Rayalaseema delicacies and some Chapa Pulusu. If his taste buds have not been totally destroyed by McBurgers, KFC chicken and coca cola, he will surely appreciate the wonderful food that this state can produce which is beyond the capacity of his country.

But for Gods sake, please don't discuss farming issues with him. It will only lead us down the path of destruction and despair. Except for its brute power, the USA has nothing to offer to a civilized state like AP. More so in the area of agriculture.

This is our earnest request to you, Mr Chief Minister.


(p v satheesh)