Along with safeguarding farmers’ rights Gene Campaign is also committed to safeguard Indian bio-resources and indigenous knowledge from bio-piracy.
A European patent was granted to an American company on a fungicide developed from natural extracts of the Neem seed. A legal challenge on this patent was filed in June 1995 on basis of not fulfilling two criteria of patentability: novelty and inventiveness. The European Patent Office upheld the objection on the basis that the technique was well-known to local farmers in India, there was no inventive step involved and thus such indigenous knowledge could not be patented.
The long grained, aromatic Basmati rice is the result of the careful breeding and selection work undertaken by generations of farmers in India and Pakistan.
However, in September 1997, the American company RiceTec took out a patent on Basmati in the US. This was an act of biopiracy: a theft of the resources and ‘intellectual property’ belonging to the farmers of South Asia. Implementing this patent could mean the loss of roughly 400 million $ worth of exports for India, leading to significant income loss for Basmati rice producers.
(A) Gene Campaign was actively involved in the fight against the Basmati patent granted to RiceTec: It launched an international campaign along with organisations such as Berne Declaration, Rural Advancement Foundation International, (RAFI) and others against the illegitimacy of the patent granted to RiceTec. The campaign members met the Prince of Liechtenstein (owner of major shares in RiceTec) to present to him that Rice Tec’s actions amounted to bio-piracy because Basmati rice is an internationally recognised variety grown only in India and Pakistan. And a trade protocol with Basmati importing companies ensures this distinction is maintained. When RiceTec did not withdraw its claim Gene Campaign then focussed on national efforts and worked with APEDA (Agriculture Products Export Development Agency) and the ministries of Commerce and Agriculture to get the patent revoked.
Finally, the Basmati exporters of India and Pakistan jointly took action against the US in the WTO for violating the TRIPs clause of Geographical Indication and a settlement was reached. This was followed by a re-examination request for the patent on Basmati rice lines and grains (US Patent No. 5,663,484) granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO ) was made by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) whereupon Rice Tec chose to withdraw 15 out of its 20 patent claims.
(B) Exposure of the Turmeric patent: Gene Campaign also exposed that the US had granted a patent (No. 5,401,5041) to the University of Mississippi Medical Centre for the wound healing properties of turmeric (Curcuma) for healing.
Amidst much furor over this illegitimate usurpation of a knowledge that India has been using since ancient times, Gene Campaign along with other IPR activists began campaigning to get the patent revoked. In 1996 CSIR asked for a re-examination of the US patent. The USPTO revoked the patent after ascertaining there was no novelty in the wound healing properties as India had been using this for centuries.
(C) The Geographical Indications of Goods ( Registration & Protection) Act, 1999: A geographical indication may be defined as an indication that is used to identify agricultural, natural or manufactured goods originating from a definite geographical territory having a special quality or reputation or other characteristics. The primary function of a GI is to inform the consumer of a product about the place of its production or manufacture and thus assure him about its specific quality, reputation or other characteristics, which are essentially due to its geographical origin.
Indian biological resources and products are under attack from patents because these materials and products enjoy international markets. Underlining this has been the patents on Turmeric, Basmati Rice and later a Wheat variety called Galahad 7, which was developed using an Indian wheat variety, which were issued patents in the US. There is the growing consensus that bio-piracy needs not only to be challenged but deterred as well.
In 1999, the Government of India acceded to the demand led by civil society organisations including Gene Campaign and created Geographical Indications Act in 1999 to legally recognize and protect special Indian products such as Basmati rice, Darjeeling tea, Shahi litchis, Alphonso mangoes and so on from illegitimate international patent claims.
Geographical Indication is recognised as a form of Intellectual Property Right and is included along with other IPR forms such as patents and copyrights in the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) chapter of GATT/ WTO. This clause found in Articles 22, 23, 24 of Section 3 deals with the protection of goods that are geographically indicated. The Geographical Indicated protection has been specially conceived for well-known speciality and high premium products which are associated with a particular region. For example scotch whiskey, champagne, etc.
This law is a way of rewarding a community in a specific location for the exclusive characters of the good produced in their area. Thus, if a community develops a product that possesses special characteristics, they can claim protection over it.
(D) The Biological Diversity Policy – the Act of 2002:
Around 1996 while lobbying to create a sui generis legislation to protect plant varieties of breeders and farmers was underway, Gene Campaign along with its core group members were equally active in demanding that unless India formulated a sui generis system that stated India’s genetic resources to be national property and protected it, there would be no basis for it to enact legislation to protect and regulate the use of its bio-resources, especially plant varieties.
Unless India enacted legislation declaring its genetic resources to be national property, there was very real danger that an older convention—ratified by India and many other countries in 1983, which acknowledged genetic resources to be Common Heritage of Mankind and not the sole property of a country or a people—would be applied, and anyone could take plants and other genetic resources from India without permission or payment and then go ahead and patent it.
Also, despite being a signatory to the Convention on Biological Diversity, India was taking no steps to act on its pro-community provisions, to protect biodiversity and the rights of adivasi and rural communities.
To mobilise public opinion Gene Campain together with its core group members launched a successful postcard and a signature campaign in various states to demand for a Biodiversity Ownership law. But in the face of no action being taken by the government towards formulating one, Gene Campaign took the onus to create a Draft Biological Diversity Policy. It was intended to generate awareness about the urgent need for a law to affirm Indian ownership over the biodiversity in its territories, and to force the government’s hand into taking a more proactive stand.
After consultations with its core group of NGOs collaborators across the country and advice from legal experts the first draft of what would be India’s Biological Diversity Bill was made in 1997.
The draft legislation was sent to the then President of India and to a number of Parliamentarians. Political support was mobilized to pressurize the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) to start the process to finalize a Biodiversity Law for India. The MoEF constituted an expert committee to prepare a draft law on biodiversity and Gene Campaign was invited to be a member on it. In accordance with the CBD, this draft Bill established sovereignty and recognised the rights of communities. It provided for a National Biodiversity Authority (NBA), as also State and Panchayat level Biodiversity Authorities in which the creators and holders of knowledge are members, so that they are fully involved in policy formulation, This meant representation of rural and adivasi communities, specially women in decision making. It sought to regulate the use of biological resources specifically making the distinction between traditional healers and companies. It stipulated that Information and data from research cannot be transferred without the approval of the NBA. The NBA would screen any applications for intellectual property rights claims and monitor conservation. The draft was released for public discussion and comments and was in circulation for several years, which diluted its focus in many issues.
In its final form, however, the Biodiversity Bill, passed by the Rajya Sabha in December 2002 , despite all its good intentions, did not emerge as an Act with robust safeguards. Its failure was seen in the incomplete way it dealt with IPR management. All that the bill stipulated was that IPR applications will have to go through the National Biodiversity Authority. It made no mention of what kind of IPR will be permissible and what not. The bill took no position against patents, leaving questions as to whether the Authority will give permission for a patent on a medicinal plant or a rare species of turtle or bee?
The bill could also come into conflict with other Indian legislation (The Plant Variety Protection and Farmers Rights Act, 2001, do not allow patents, only a Breeders Right. The Patent Amendment Acts I and II specify that no patents will be allowed on plants and animals but will be allowed on micro organisms) dealing with bio-resources since they all had taken clear positions on what IPR will be permissible.
Creation of NBDB: The creation of the National Biodiversity Development Board (NBDB) was a result of the sustained lobbying by Gene Campaign and other groups, following the finalisation of the draft Biodiversity Act. As a member of the NBDB, in recognition of its long association with biodiversity conservation, Gene Campaign is directly involved in formulating policies on the conservation and use of biodiversity for India.
Gene Campaign is also a member of the Madhya Pradesh Biodiversity Board (MPBB). The creation of state level boards is a result of raised awareness among the political leadership and bureaucracy about the ecological and environmental importance of biodiversity. The MPBB is attempting to formulate a comprehensive biodiversity for the state.
As a member of the multi-agency Biodiversity Conservation Prioritisation Program (BCPP), Gene Campaign has been involved in developing conservation strategies and prioritising conservation areas in the various habitats like forest, wetlands, coasts etc. As chair of the IPR committee of BCPP, Gene Campaign has helped to frame guidelines for the storage of field data, the nature of such data banks, confidentiality of data and access to it.
International trade policy: As a member of the high-powered National Commission on International Trade, Gene Campaign plays an important role in giving direction to the government’s negotiating strategies and positions for the WTO, specially in the agreements relating to Agriculture, Biotechnology, TRIPS and Trade & Environment.
As Chairperson of the TRIPS Working Group of the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), Dr. Sahai/ Gene Campaign helps to formulate industry’s position and guide the input of the industry into government policy.
(E) Patent First and Second Amendment Acts: After the Uruguay GATT round, India accepted certain conditions in the field of IPR. These included a changed IPR system for drugs and agrochemicals, a sui generis form of protection for breeders of new varieties of seeds, and patents on microorganisms.
The TRIPS agreement required all developing countries including India to put in place TRIPS compliant systems by January 1, 2005. Ever since, much debate internationally and nationally has ensued with Gene Campaign leading several discussions contending the impact of TRIPS compliant Patent Laws on domestic industry.
There was a formal world-wide acceptance that domestic laws, while being TRIPS compliant, need to make full use of flexibilities available in the TRIPS agreement. This was reiterated by the WTO Doha Declaration on TRIPS Agreement and Public Health (2001), which held that countries have the sovereign right to enact laws that safeguard domestic interests. It recognised the severity of public health concerns in developing countries and provided that the member countries had the right to protect public health and to promote access to medicines for all.
In spite of these progressive developments, The Indian Government amended its Patent Act of 1970. The Patent Act of 1970 had helped to develop Indian industry to a point where the Indian pharmaceutical industry became the leader in the developing world. This Act was amended through two legislations, the Patents First (Amendment) Act of 1999, and the Patent Second (Amendment) Act of 2002.
On the positive side, Gene Campaign’s advocacy efforts to protect indigenous knowledge and the healing properties of medicinal plants was successful because the Patents First (Amendment) Act of 1999 took its first step towards protecting them by exempting Indian Systems of Medicine from the patent system. According This protection for the knowledge of communities was a positive step and is similar to protection offered by legislation in other Asian nations such as Thailand and the Philippines.
Opposing negative provisions in The Patent First (Amendment) Act of 1999: In the drugs and agrochemical sector, India granted Exclusive Marketing Rights (EMR) to drugs that had received a patent in any WTO member country. This was fiercely contested by Gene Campaign. And a letter was sent to the President of India for his office to intervene.
Excerpts from GC’s letter to the President of India
Gene Campaign, urged the President of India to withhold his consent to the amendment—it was being introduced not through the parliament but a Presidential Ordinance—to the Indian Patent Act and the introduction of Exclusive Marketing Rights saying that the bill did not contain safeguards to protect the Indian consumer and the industry.
“The Patent Amendment Act is not in India’s interest. Even the proponents of the bill concede that
prices will go up. Pakistan which has introduced EMRs has been unable to control the rise of drug prices after the change. Their prices are five to 20 times higher than India’s for the same drugs.” The letter said Pakistan’s example should serve as a warning to India. “The worst casualty of higher drug prices would be our ability to provide health and veterninary care, causing still greater social and economic distress in rural areas. Apart from the blow to the Indian poor, unthinking changes in our intellectual property rights regimes would also severely erode the competitiveness of our drug industry. The recent legal attack by Glaxo on Ranbaxy’s efforts to enter the US market for an ulcer drug called Ranitidine had shown how multinationals could manipulate patent conditions to stop competitors from entering the market. A blanket EMR would make the situation much worse in Indian markets”. Gene Campaign pleaded that if the EMR bill had to be implemented, it should “be debated on the floor of the Lok Sabha and certain minimal safeguards should be incorporated.” It argued that herbal drugs and products that are based on the indigenous knowledge of communities should be kept outside the purview of this bill. “The knowledge developed and held by communities should remain theirs and not become the property of private companies. If we do not have this exclusion , patented products like the turmeric-based wound healing medicine that we had challenged in the US, could in fact be sold in India under an exclusive right.”
India, which so far afforded process patents only, committed itself to introducing product patents in the drug and agro-chemical sector. This was applicable after 2005 to give India 10 years within which to modify its systems to be patent compliant.
While the Patent (Second) Amendment Act took made positive strides by clearly stating that inventions not discoveries can be patentable under the Indian law. In the past, the blurring of the distinction between discoveries and inventions in many legal systems, most notably that of the United States, had led to patents being granted on products of nature rather than inventions of the human mind. The Act kept plants and animals and species of plants and animals out of the purview of patents. It also kept new varieties of crops and their seeds outside the patent system. Although the Indian law permits process patents, this would not apply to the crucial sector of food. Methods and processes of agriculture and horticulture could not be patented, nor could any other biological processes. Significantly, the Bill disallowed patenting of cells, cell-lines and cell organelles such as mitochondria and genes. This is a very important and positive step and has to be seen in the context of the demand of the biotechnology industry to allow the patenting of cells and genes. The corporate sector has been putting pressure on countries to introduce cell and gene patents in their national legislation. to prevent bio-piracy, the second amendment, in the domestic context, states specifically that any invention which constitutes traditional knowledge or derives from traditional knowledge, or duplicates such knowledge, or joins up pieces of such knowledge, cannot be patented. The Indian systems use medicines and treatments developed over generations by local communities are therefore protected under this act. This provision would, henceforth, prevent patents of the kind taken by Bloomberg in the US on Phyllanthus Amara, commonly called bhoomi amla. According to indigenous knowledge, bhoomi amla cures liver disorders, and it is used to treat everything from jaundice to sluggish livers. Bloomberg’s US patent is for a product based on Phyllanthus amara that cures hepatitis B and C.
This kind of derivation from and duplication of traditional knowledge presented as an invention was not going to be acceptable under the new Indian Patent law.
On the negative side the Second Amendment made distinct concessions to the biotechnology sector. It allowed micro-organisms such as bacteria, virus and fungus to be patented. This broke down moral barriers that has so far existed against the patenting of life forms. It allowed process patents on microbiological, biochemical and biotechnological processes. In this way, methods of genetic engineering, processes in the pharmaceutical industry using micro-organisms and related processes would become patentable.
Gene Campaign’s opposition to this section of the law has been that there are vital economic sectors such as industrial biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and agriculture that are linked to micro-organisms. In agriculture, because the current level of agrochemical use is not ecologically sustainable, great effort is on to seek benign substitutes. These substitutes (bio-fertilisers and bio-pesticides) are biological in nature and are based to a large extent on micro-organisms. India’s growth in these areas will be severely hit if the key patents to these sectors are held by foreign companies, whose R&D stages are much ahead of India’s biotechnology.
According to estimates, India could, with an investment of more than 50 crore rupees in bio-pesticides, replace at least 200 crore rupees worth of imported plant protection chemicals. Although India has the indigenous know-how to do this, efforts to translate the knowledge into market value products needs a gestation period. But by accepting patents on micro-organisms other foreign companies who are much ahead in their production lifecycle will flood the markets with their goods and effectively prevent India’s R&D on bio-based products.
To mitigate the disadvantages of accepting patenting on micro-organisms, Gene Campaign after discussions with its technological advisors and collaborators, submitted to the government a list of definitions to be used for the purpose of the Act of what can be called a micro-organism and what cannot, as also what can and what cannot constitute an invention.
It also sought to exempt sensitive sectors such as the environment, defence and food from this patent. It recommended including these exemptions at the rule-making stage so that negative impact of micro-organism patents is restricted to the maximum extent.
(F) Negotiations to protect agriculture and genetic diversity: The WTO/ TRIPS and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) are the two most important treaties dealing with use of bio-resources. Yet, they are opposed to each other. Gene Campaign’s advocacy position at national and international discussions has been to demand a linkage between the two treaties, and for the CBD to be given primacy over TRIPS. Because the CBD is a developing-country friendly treaty while the WTO/ TRIPS is not.
(G) Amendments in the Seeds Bill of 2004: Submission to Parliamentary Committee: The Seed Bill 2004 replaced the old Seed Act of 1966, which was meant to govern trading in seed. A law regulating seed trade was necessary to ensure farmers are protected against spurious seeds and that seed producers are obliged to put into the market only seeds of reliable quality. That it discourages monopolies by encouraging competitiveness to ensure good quality and low prices. That seeds produced by farming communities (farmer varieties) are treated on par with breeders varieties, if not preferentially. That is brought in a transparent system of seed testing and evaluation of seed performance so farmers get good inputs and the nation’s goals of agricultural and food production are met in an effective manner.
But the Draft Seed Bill that was facing Parliament ratification failed on almost all these counts and its provisions appeared to clearly favour the seed industry. It was considered an anti–farmer Bill and to make the Seeds Bills truly protective of farmers and supportive of community and national food security, Gene Campaign along with the National Commission on Farmers, called for a stakeholder consultation on the draft Seeds Bill on 15 March, 2004. The discussions concluded with a set of recommendations for substantially overhauling the draft Bill.
There was a unanimous view that any legislation related to agriculture in this country must first and foremost ensure an enabling environment for farmers and their access to seeds at reasonable cost. Their rights must be ensured over their own varieties and they must be compensated every time their varieties are used by the seed industry. Above all, the rights of farmers cannot be made subservient to the rights of breeders and the industry. Instead of taking a balanced approach, the Bill deprives the traditional rights holders and transfers these rights to the seed industry. At this rate it was felt, it is likely that in 10 years, the seed trade will be in the hands of the MNCs, with grave implications for the nation’s political sovereignty.
Recommendations for change in the Seed Draft Bill : The Seed Bill needed to be consistent and harmonized with the Protection of Plant Variety and Farmers Rights Act (PPVFR), 2001 and The Biodiversity Act, 2002. Nothing in the Seed Bill should dilute the rights and protection granted to farmers under the PPVFR Act 2001 or the National Seed Policy 2002. Registration of breeder varieties under the Seed Bill to require a sworn declaration of the parentage of the variety and make provisions for benefit sharing in harmony with the PPVFR and the Biodiversity Act, whenever farmer varieties and public sector varieties are used. Registration for sale to be required only for new varieties as mentioned in the Seed Act 1966, which limits the requirement to notified varieties. No registration should be required for extant varieties and landraces. Wherever registration provides for marketing rights, there should be explicit provisions for ensuring adequate seed supply at a reasonable price.
The compensation for non-performance of seed supplied by agencies must be regulated through the National Plant Variety Authority, not the District Consumer Courts as provided in the draft Bill. The duration of protection granted to registered varieties in the Seed Bill should be commensurate with what is granted under the PPVFR. An extension of five years may be considered for those varieties that are very popular with farmers, provided the decision is taken transparently. The provisional permission granted to transgenic varieties was deemed dangerous and that it violated principles of bio-safety. It had to be rescinded. Multi location testing of varieties bred by the private sector must be done by the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). It is proposed that industry contributes to a fund to pay for multi location testing but the testing itself should be done by the ICAR.
An autonomous institution should be established to do seed testing by DNA finger printing. A consultative process of governance should be established where the communities that will be affected are part of the decision making process. Instead of the token penalties for violating the Seed Bill, it was recommended that when the declared source of registered material is found to be false, registration would be cancelled and criminal and civil liability would be determined. To ensure transparency, a process for pre-grant opposition to registration of a seed variety must be included in the Seed Bill, like it is in the PPVFR.
(H) Advocacy against Biofuels: The National Policy on Biofuels, which was cleared by the Indian Cabinet in 2008 December set an indicative target of a minimum 20 per cent ethanol-blended petrol and diesel across the country by 2017. The government had already initiated a bio-fuel strategy, under which 5 per cent ethanol blending in petrol had become mandatory across the country and this was to go up to 10 per cent from October in 2009.
Having studied the actual efficacy of biofuels from the experiences of countries that were already years into its production, along with an analysis of what ad-hoc promotion of bio-fuel cultivation could do Gene Campaign took the position that an unregulated and un-reviewed biofuel policy could become detrimental to Indian food security
Biofuels vs Food Security: Gene Campaign’s advocacy position on Biofuel policy
The money & energy cost factor
The Jatropha species being used in India, Jatropha curcas, is low yielding, giving one ton of seeds per hectare under optimal conditions. With a seed price of Rs 5 per kg, the farmer would make only Rs 5,000 per hectare per year. This made it a loss making venture. Research shows that the energy needed to manufacture bio-fuels is far greater than the energy they give out when burnt 6,597 kilocalories of non-renewable energy is required to produce a litre of ethanol from corn, which contains only 5,130 kilocalories of energy. This is a 22 percent deficit. Studies (OECD) suggest that even if high yield bio-energy crops were grown on all the arable land on earth, the bio-fuel produced would cater to only 20 per cent of our current demand. On top of this, bio-fuels are more expensive that petrol. At present, this difference is covered by subsidies.
Biofuel cannot be grown on wastelands
Though the biofuel lobby argues that bio-energy crops to produce agro fuels would only be grown on degraded or wasteland, biologists argue that to produce a healthy plant yielding useful products, that too high value products like oil, the plant needs to be fed and watered carefully. This means putting in optimal fertilizer doses and adequate irrigation. Without this, Jatropha will not and does not produce enough oil to make it viable. If the ‘wasteland’ is capable of supporting Jatropha cultivation, should it not be used for the cultivation of food crops like cereal, legumes and oilseeds, or if not that, then fodder grasses? India and all of South Asia have large livestock populations, which serve as additional support for local food security. If a region is deficient in fodder then all kinds of non-arable land should be diverted to fodder grasses, not crops to produce agro fuels.
Ethics and equity in biofuels
On the one hand are the poor whose right it is to be fed and the nation is bound to do its utmost to produce the maximum amount of food it can, to end endemic hunger and poverty. Yet, the government is diverting land that can produce food for the poor. The biofuel strategy essentially means taking land away from food needed by the poor to produce fuels that will be used by those who own and drive cars. An FAO- OECD report predicts that the fad of biofuels will take land out of food production and increase the price of agriculture commodities The report anticipates that this will lead to a rise in food prices over the next ten years. While higher food prices will be profitable for food exporting countries and large farmers they will threaten the economies of food importing countries, the livelihoods of their farmers as well as the food available to the urban poor in these countries.
The US-led biofuel program is a red herring drawn by a country that refuses to comply with the Kyoto Protocol, to cut emissions, to bring in energy efficient cars to replace its gas guzzling sedans and SUVs and to cut back petroleum consumption by expanding public transport. It has put up the red herring of biofuels to distract from its terrible track record on global warming, to pretend that it is concerned about the environment.
India and other countries need to see through this deceit and suspend their biofuel programs in favor of alternative energy sources like hydrogen based fuels, solar, wind and geothermal energy. Countries must also work towards reducing their consumption of petroleum-based fuels too.
(I) Advocacy to ensure Food Security in changing climate: Based on its experience of working with some of the most food insecure people in the country – farmers and adivasis in Jharkhand Gene Campaign has been advocating several steps that can be taken by the central and state governments to ensure India is food secure in the face of global warming and climate change.
Gene Campaign’s position
Overhaul of Institutions and Systems that govern food production and distribution: At a time food crisis, the country is saddled with a system of agriculture research and implementation that is unable to rise to the challenge posed by the food crisis. The first step to tackle the food crisis will be to radically overhaul institutions such as the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) , Agriculture Universities and the food distribution systems. Fresh blood needs to be inducted to make agriculture bountiful in today’s challenging situation. A radical new approach and fresh plans are needed, which include the perspectives and experience of a range of stakeholders who are seldom consulted in agriculture planning. These should include experts in diverse fields like water conservation, ecology, pest control, genetics and plant breeding working in formal institutions and Civil Society Organizations (CSOs).
Adapting Agriculture to Climate Change: Climate change could cause irreversible damage to land and water ecosystems and lead to loss of production potential. Heavy and variable precipitation, heat waves, cyclones, droughts, and floods are likely to be more frequent and intense, resulting in greater economic shocks.
Remedial and adaptive steps need to be put in place immediately to enable Indian agriculture to cope with anticipated changes. Policymakers must cope with an increased risk of frequent shocks to their economies, which will affect the most vulnerable populations.
In India and other developing countries the predicted losses could be as high as 23% of current crop production because the loss of potential cultivatable areas will take place in double-and triple-cropping areas which are in danger of become single crop zones.
1) The National Conference on Ensuring Food Security in a Changing Climate: A two-day National Conference on “Ensuring Food Security in a Changing Climate” was organized by Gene Campaign and Action Aid at New Delhi In April, 2010. Attended by participants from 22 states including Uttaranchal, Bihar, UP, Jharkhand, Orissa, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Haryana, Punjab, MP, Gujarat, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Assam the conference has representatives from the scientific community, the government, academics, international organizations and civil society groups working on agriculture and environment spoke about the various issues involved in ensuring food security in a changing climate.
A set of action points emerged from the Conference with special recommendations to the Local, State and the Central Government.
Compile meteorological data for last 100 years to detect trends in temperature variation and rainfall amount and pattern and combine local and global assessment to make projections for one crop, two crop, two-three crop zones. Assist farmers in coping with current climatic risks by providing value-added weather services to farmers and community banks for seed and fodder. Provide greater coverage of weather linked agriculture-insurance. Provide incentives to farmers for resource conservation and use efficiency by providing credit to the farmers for transition to adaptation technologies. Provide technical, institutional and financial support for establishment of community banks of food, forage and seed. Adopt resource conservation technologies such as no-tillage, laser land levelling, direct seeding of rice and crop diversification which will help in reducing in the global warming potential. Develop a long-term land use plan for ensuring food security and climatic resilience
Breed improvement programme for the indigenous livestock breed and the pedigree selection programme need to be initiated. Need to implement the ration balancing programme through which it is possible to increase milk productivity and reduce the cost of milk programme. Propogate those fodder varieties which are able to withstand high ambient temperatures. Realize the full potential of technologies (developed by the CSSRI for the sodic soils of the Indo-gangetic plains and for the deep black soils with subsoil sodicity by ICRISAT, Patancheru) and to adapt them on a large scale.
Scout for wheat replacement: It is clear that India will suffer a major setback in wheat production as global warming increases. Wheat productivity, which is critically dependent on cold night temperatures, will suffer as temperatures rise. Therefore there is need to develop strategies for crop substitution where needed with cerals such as millets.
Initiate seed multiplication and other planting material right away so that there is enough planting material for the new crops when the season begins.
Diversify the food basket: bring forgotten and neglected foods: such as millets, yams, leafy green vegetables and other underutilized crops into cultivation and onto the market. Most of these were developed as “famine foods’ by rural and tribal communities to tide them over bad weather conditions when other crops fail. These crops are hence adapted to do well in sub optimal climate conditions. They could be valuable crops today. At the household level promote homestead nutrition gardens.
Reverse the subsidy policy followed by the government and provide subsidies to the farmers who rely on indigenous source of farming rather than chemical fertilizers. Provide a market for the local produce (such through the mid-day meals) and it will help in reducing the pressure on the food producing regions.
Affirm and protect the role and contribution of traditional communities. Empower them by allowing them to make decisions on agriculture, water resources and biodiversity. Recognize and strengthen the role of women in agriculture. Recognise the rights of the pastoral people who play an important role in maintain the ecological balance and provide them with specific infrastructural support.
Identify economically important insect pests and pathogens at the national level that are most sensitive to temperature, moisture and Carbon dioxide regimes and focus research on integrated pest management. Generate data on epidemiology for predicting pest development in the context of climate change and also to conduct a regular survey to map the distribution of pests and to identify new pests
Strictly regulate ground water extraction and get a rational water use policy giving preference to farming. Watersheds are important to recharge groundwater but to increase agriculture production in the shorter term, farmers need to access the water for the winter crop. This means there is need to conserve every drop of water where it falls; develop local water bodies like low cost ponds and wells at household & village level.
Only 30- 35 percent of India’s agriculture land is irrigated. Every drop of rainwater should be conserved in farm ponds and wells at household and village level to make water available for a second winter crop. If this done effectively, using schemes like NREGA, food production can be at least doubled.
Develop a ‘micro scale’ understanding of the problem of groundwater management and to also develop local databases rather than regional databases. There is need for a Demand Resource Management with respect to the ground water to ensure there is a balance between the demand and supply of green water. Re-strategise and re-think the recharge policy of groundwater keeping in mind the variability of ground water supply across the country. Promote the development of wasteland and water resource management.
Conserve agro-biodiversity. As we face global warming of a kind that cannot be withstood with the varieties of crops that the commonly being grown the way forward is to breed new crop varieties for the changed situation. And for this it is necessary to access India’s diverse crop varieties and look for genes suited to the new situation. Genes for drought tolerance in cold temperatures or drought tolerance in hot areas, those that can resist salinity and insect attacks, etc. India is rich in crop genetic diversity because our farmers maintain several hundred species of the same crop. This must be conserved. Other than the National Gene Bank, not much is being done by the government, where together with civil society it should create a huge pool of genetic wealth through local seed/ gene banks where plant varieties can be conserved and tapped to breed new varieties.
Engaging with Stakeholders
Gene Campaign has been engaging with stakeholders as diverse as the media, the government, bureaucrats, the President of India and the farmers in tribal heartlands.
It interacts with government departments, Parliamentary Standing Committees, Group of Ministers, and other expert committees, to help formulate and influence policy. It publishes and circulates briefing and analysis papers and articles based on legal and technical research to civil society, bureaucrats, and politicians.
It works with small farmers and discusses national and international developments in agriculture and trade with communities and their likely social, economic and political impact on their food security. It uses simple campaign literature developed in-house in regional languages to inform people about developments in agriculture, bioresource use and Intellectual Property Rights (IPR). This information helps empower people to take decisions in their interest.
Its website www.genecampaign.org, and its bi-monthly newsletter “Gene News” which is circulated to media, civil society, bureaucrats and ministers presents the organisations work on food security and collects news from across the world pertaining to agriculture, technology, food security, farmers’rights and agrobiotechnology to update readers on new developments and positions.
By preparing reference papers and parliament questions for members it assists political leaders, members of Parliament, and members of State Legislatures to create awareness and pressure for policy change.
It works with members of the Forest Department to generate awareness about current national and international issues relating to biological resources and the rights of tribal communities. It is networked with scientists involved in agriculture and plant breeding as also in collection and conservation of genetic resources.
Gene Campaign is networked with 350 NGOs that forms its core support gropp. These core group NGOs are further networked with similar community based organisations in their regions making it possible for Gene Campaign generate nationwide support for its campaigns as proved by the campaign for Farmers’ Rights.
It provides collaboration and interface opportunities between different stakeholders through conferences, seminars and by circulating documents for debate and discussion.
Membership on National Policy Making Bodies, and International Institutions
Led by Dr Suman Sahai, Gene Campaign is a member of several policy discussion and development forums in the country and abroad.
(THIS NEEDS TO BE RECHECKED)
Public discussions organized by Gene Campaign
National Conference on Climate Change and Food Security: In collaboration with Action Aid, 23-24 April 2010.
Jan Sunwai on The Agrarian Crisis in India (2007) Gene Campaign , Madhya Pradesh Kisan Sangharsh Samiti (MKSS) and INSAF, March 30, 2007, New Delhi.
Public Discussion on the Legal Protection of Indigenous Knowledge of Bioresources (2006) Gene Campaign, New Delhi., December 20, 2006 New Delhi.
International conference on “Impact of TRIPS: Indo-US Exchange” (2006) NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad., December 16, 2006 Hyderabad.
Analysing and Developing National Legislation for the Protection of Indigenous Knowledge in IPR Era (2006) Gene Campaign & National Law Institute University, September 11, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh.
Interventions for Food, Nutrition and Livelihood Security for the Rural Poor (2006) Pairvi & Gene Campaign, August 23, New Delhi.
Meeting on Indo-US Knowledge Initiative in Agriculture (2006) Gene Campaign, May 17, New Delhi.
Training programme on Agricultural Bio-diversity, Farmer’s Rights and Genetically Modified Organisms. (2005) Indian Institute of Public Administration, December 12-13, New Delhi.
Gene Campaign together with Consumers International – Regional Office for Asia and Pacific (CIROAP) and Action Aid conducted a two-day Asian consultation on Farmers’ Rights in Bangkok 24, 25 January 2002.
Dec 1997 GC organized a National Sensitization Workshop on Conservation, Management and Agro-biodiversity: Attended by farmer groups, scientists and the seed industry.
Gene Campaign’s Participation in Policy Discussions
National conference on participatory Guarantee System for Organic Agriculture, Institute for Integrated Rural Development (IIRD) Aurangabad & National Coordination Committee of the Organic Bazaar Movement, New Delhi, 3-4 October, 2007, New Delhi.
Discussion on Legal and regulatory Provision, CMS-Vatavarn, Environment and Wildlife Film Festival, 14-17 September, 2007, New Delhi.
National Conference of High Court Justices on IPR and Cyber Law (2007) National Judicial Academy, Bhopal, August – 24-26, 2007, Bhopal.
Symposium on Rice and Food Security: Public-Private interaction (2007) University of Delhi, July 16-17, 2007, New Delhi.
Food Security & Water Consultation (2007) ICCO, Netherlands, April, 18-20, 2007, Kathmandu, Nepal.
Developing Volunteer Management Systems (2007) I Volunteer, New Delhi, March 21-22, 2007, New Delhi.
Workshop on Research and Extension Services in Agriculture (2007) National Knowledge Commission, New Delhi , 15 January, 2007