NewZNew (Chandigarh) : Central and state-level ministers of Punjab and Haryana spoke in one voice at the fifth National Organic Farming Convention: conventional methods of agriculture, they said, had wrought havoc on human health and the environment and the shift to organic farming was both necessary and desirable.
The convention also saw strong opinions aginst pesticides and Genetically Modified crops from the Union Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi. Addressing a packed audience she lashed out at biotechnology corporations. “The owners of Bt cotton (the only genetically modified crop grown commercially in India) lied to us.
They told us that this doesn’t require pesticides…but now, we find that Bt cotton cannot grow without the most dangerous pesticide in use in the world,” she said.
Gandhi was referring to neonicotinoid pesticides, which are which are used for seed treatment in maize and cotton including Bt cotton, among other crops. They have been mired in controversy globally given their deleterious impact on the population of pollinators like bees. Many countries, including the European Union, have banned neonicotinoids or placed restrictions on its use.
“Unfortunately in India,” says Dr G V Ramanjaneyulu, an agriculture scientist attending the convention, “the government is not accepting readily available field data and experience on this dangerous pesticide. They did the same with endosulfan earlier, till the courts intervened to bring about a ban.”
Praising the ‘wonderful work’ of organic farmers and saying it was ‘a service to the nation’ Gandhi also urged the farmers gathered at the convention to stand up and fight the negative developments like synthetic agrochemicals and GM crops that are becoming a great threat to our health, environment and farming.
In the Union Budget unveiled yesterday, Gandhi’s government allocated Rs 300 crore for organic farming. Participants at the convention said the amount was too less, though it did signal a start. “Organic farming is need of the hour and the government needs to put the money where the mouth is. Public statements of ministers are not being matched by budgetary allocations or well-laid down programmes,” said Rajesh Krishnan from ASHA, one of the organisers of the Convention.
At the convention, ministers seemed to have no doubt about what was needed to make agriculture sustainable. Addressing the session on organic farming policies and implementation, Tota Singh, Punjab’s Agriculture Minister, declared that organic farming is the only way forward. He declared that his conviction comes from the fact that he
himself is an organic farmer.
At another session on environmental health, Punjab’s Health Minister Surjit Jyani talked about the link of increasing incidence of various diseases and farming practices. “Farmers became dependent on chemicals due to government subsidy. Use of chemicals has led to a decline in the population of natural pest controllers like sparrows, which led to
further promotion of chemical-intensive methods,” he said.
The morning session during the second day of the convention had panel discussions on young and women organic farmers respectively, apart from sessions on soil, water and crop planning; organic certification and marketing; seed; livestock and experience sharing among organic farming practitioners.