BIODYNE
 
A Quarterly Newsletter of the Biodynamic Association of India
 
Vol: 3 No. 2. April – June 2003
 
 
 
COFFEE, CAPITALISM AND COSMOS
 
“Man – despite his artistic pretensions, his sophistication, and his many accomplishments – owes his existence to a six inch layer of topsoil and the fact that it rains.” - Anonymous
                                    
 
In 1999 after residing in India for 25 years continuously I returned to my “native place”, New Zealand, for a visit.The most discernable change I noticed was in the urban environment;it had become livable. Inner cities had been converted to pleasant shopping malls and the  supermarket was there to stay.   Capitalism and the market economy had triumphed in the so-called free world in those intervening 25 years and the consumer society trumpeted that triumph in the huge, organised, alluring supermarket.It was my first day out experiencing the massiveness of the western supermarket.  I ambled along the aisles of this consumer cathedral admiring the sheer range and bewildering choice in every conceivable area of human need and desire.  All of a sudden my nose twitched appreciatively of a pleasing scent.  Was an aching part of me that wanted just to be back in my beloved India conjuring up a familiar olfactory delight of Kodaikanal and the roasting of a batch of “Nandan Royale” coffee? 
 
No, the roasted coffee scent was more than mere imagination. I followed my nose a good hundred metres down the aisle till I came upon a barista and behind him was a line of mini silos from which transparent hoppers displayed a whole array of differently labeled roasted coffees. Now this would have been an acceptable sight in a European setting but in New Zealand, at least the New Zealand grown up in, this was a revolution. New Zealand till the 70’s had been a tea-drinking nation and I was now to discover that within one generation the coffee shop culture had changed the drinking habits of the entire country.  I surveyed admiringly the line of coffees and saw Columbian, Costa Rican, Brazilian, Nicaraguan, Indonesian, Vietnamese and even to my dismay, Australian coffee.  Australian?!  The barista, outfitted in an immaculate coffee coloured apron was a little bemused at my search for an apparently elusive coffee brand.  Finally I called him over and asked if he had some Indian coffee. “Indian”, he repeated, scrunching his face and scratching his head, “do they grow coffee in India?”
 
Well, that question was like a red rag to a bull.  I launched into a eulogy on the wonder that is Indian coffee, the exquisiteness of its mild arabicas, the full-bodied glory of its robustas and the sheer variety of regional flavours.  Moreover, I added, we have a growing range of organic and biodynamic coffees.  “Biodynamic too” he commented, “now that shows real sophistication.”  Indeed, I had already noticed in the dairy section of this supermarket that a separate area above the organic section had been earmarked for biodynamic cream, cheese, milk and other dairy products. That Biodynamics was known as the acme of organic production was some consolation even if they were ignorant of Indian coffee!
 
My first morning out shopping in my hometown had given me a host of lessons the implications of which were rather awesome, even cosmic.   The first of these lessons was that the market economy was here to stay and that choice, variety and quality were important.  Now to anyone sensitive enough to be instinctively repelled by the growing hegemonic grip of the multinational corporations, this was bad news.  I was amazed at how New Zealand, a socialist-oriented welfare state till the 1970’s had transformed itself into a market driven economy where all her natural resources and services had been sold off to global interests far beyond her shores.  Even for Heaven’s sake the Post Office and Railways! All the questions that Indian farmers and businessmen are facing in this inexorable evolution to a new world order are the same as those faced by their counterparts in New Zealand.  The only (though important) difference is that one nation is 
developed” while the other is “developing”.  In the space of a few decades we have been thrust into the realisation of the oneness and globality of our world situation.  The transition is particularly difficult for developing nations.
 
My experience of promoting organic/biodynamic farming over the last 3 decades has taught me that the future evolution of capitalism is far
too important to be left in the hands of the capitalists.  Conventional
agricultural practices of the past 60 years have evolved from myopic
economic models foisted upon us by capitalist ambitions.  Socialism as a viable binary alternative to capitalism has long since lost its way because the centre of its “focus” had been erroneous identified as the “State” instead of something truer.  Within the framework of this first lesson I have discussed emerges my second lesson, that of the abject failure of the Indian Coffee Board to effectively represent and market the coffee of the Indian coffee producer.   This failure is intimately connected with the failure of the Indian experiment in bureaucratic socialism and the need finally to restructure in order to effectively interface with the emerging global realities.  What exactly was the nature of the failure of the Indian Coffee Board and what clues does it give us for the future development in Indian coffee and agriculture in general?
 
At this stage the reader may well ask what have these broader questions got to do with biodynamic coffee, biodynamics or even organic      agriculture for that matter.  Well, I find that the more one dwells upon a particular problem, or shall we say, challenge, the more its wider ramifications become evident.  What the experiment of “Nandan Royale” coffee was all about was not to successfully produce a biodynamic coffee product in an isolated corner of the Western Ghats in order to satisfy the palate of a few discerning and appreciative souls in Europe or elsewhere. That is how Biodynamics has evolved in Europe – for the select and rich few who can afford it.  It has become so jolly “clubby” in Europe that they even claim intellectual property rights to use the term “biodynamically grown”.  So in the interests of proprietary rights we have to erase the term from our pouch.  Are we in India going to “repeat the mistakes of the West” and become a little “clubby” biodynamic organization that carefully finds a little  percentage of turf in the Indian agricultural field and be satisfied with that?  Or do we boldly declare our confidence in the evolving biodynamic principles that can usher in a sustainable non-toxic form of agriculture that will provide the proper nutrition for the Indian
consumers in the generations to come?
 
Thus far I have only raised issues and questions. In the forthcoming issue of Biodyne I would like to look at some answers. In the meanwhile should any readers wish to share their thoughts and ideas on the questions so far raised please contact me at dhoggn@yahoo.com, davidhogg@rediffmail.com and we can hopefully have an interactive article for the next issue of our newsletter.   
 
 

An interesting use of CPP in hygiene and sanitation

 

During the last few years of experimentation in biodynamic agriculture, while the making preparation BD 505, kept under water in small ponds in my farm in Nainital, I discovered the cleansing properties of CPP.  In earlier years, the biodegradable matter around or within the skulls would start putrefying and the surroundings would start to stink. Since the last year we started to apply CPP in small quantities (2 kg) after soaking for 8 hours in the pond to hasten the process of decomposition of the pathogens and do away with the smell. Within a week we found that the water no longer stinky. And to prove the purity of the water the farm pony fell in the water pond while trying to drink the water.  In addition, the quality of the preparation was found better in term of its humidified nature.  This is a technique that would be of use for all involved in making BD preps 505 where unwanted and suspicious dogs and vultures are to be kept away.

 

CPP has also been used in the farm to do away with flies and mosquitoes. Therefore its use for sanitation and hygiene is a property that can be studied further.   

 

    Binita Shah, SUPA Biotech Pvt. Ltd., Nainital, Uttaranchal.

 

ANIMALS IN BIO DYNAMIC AGRICULTURE

-Willy Schilthuis

 

Animals are also part of the earth, water, air, heat and plants.  However, they have a very different mode of life and therefore a different place in the interrelated system.  They are not rooted in the earth, but are able to move about freely.   They do not live on minerals and water and light like plants, but need living matter as food in the form of plants or other animals. 

 

There is another big difference: they have instincts, passions, feelings of hunger and thirst.  They are able to express these feelings and take steps to satisfy their needs.  In other words, animals not only have a physical body and a life body like plants, but they have a higher organization which enables them to act in a more independent and free fashion.  They can express their feelings through their behaviour, they can make us hear their call; they have an inner world and can clearly react to and even affect the outer world, digging a hole or building a nest.  Therefore, they are less dependent on the earth, less rooted in the life body of the earth.

 

This organization, which gives animals their consciousness and the potential to express themselves, is known as their ‘astral body’ or ‘sentient body.’  It is called ‘astral’ because the forces which act on the astral body come from the world of stars and planets.

 

Every animal has its own life body and its own inner world of feelings, or astral body.  However, all animals of a single species are interrelated in an even higher organization, as revealed in their behaviour and instincts.  All hares have the same instincts and behave in the same way, as do all deer and all foxes.  Sometimes this instinctive behaviour is less strong in domesticated species, when the human influence is dominant.  Nevertheless, our domestic animals and the livestock on a farm all clearly have their own species-bound behaviour.  Cows walk differently, behave differently and graze differently from sheep or horses.  Goats are different again.

 

Although these animals may graze in the same field under the same conditions, their manure will have a completely different composition.  The grass, which they eat, is assimilated and processed in a very different way in a cow and in a sheep.  Cow manure is soft and slimy and flows down to form a cow pat.  Sheep droppings appear in the form of solid, round pellets and these droppings smell very different from cow pats.  The effect of these different types of manure on the soil is also very different.  When an animal digests fodder, the substances and life forces assimilated from the plant nutrients are useful and necessary for it.  What is excreted has been worked upon by the animal, with its astral body.  Astral forces are contained in the manure, and these are expressed, for example, in the form of the odour and properties of the manure. 

 

The soil therefore receives very new and valuable additions from this manure.  The soil is enriched by these astral forces and is therefore better able to develop its own soil life, to form humus and to become more open to the beneficial effects of the sun, the moon and the other planets on the plants.

 

The farming cycle

Animals ensure that there is a cycle of substances on a farm.  What livestock, for example, eat as fodder and then digest, later becomes partly available in the form of manure.  The manure is returned to the land and the land can then produce more fodder and other products.  This cycle of substances is permeated with life forces and qualities and this gives the farm its own individual quality.

 

Therefore the ideal set-up for a biodynamic farm is a mixed farm with livestock and fodder crops, producing its own manure for the soil.  This farm is (or should be) a self-supporting closed organism, in which the different organs such as the fields, the manure, the meadows and the animals all interrelate properly.  One organ should not produce more than what is needed by the other organs, except of course for what is produced for human consumption.  Foreign elements, such as artificial fertilizers or bought-in feed, which do not belong in this organism, are not constantly introduced on this farm.  Elements are assimilated from the air such as the nitrogen which is absorbed by leguminous plants, the carbon dioxide which is assimilated and the energy of the sun.  The farm feeds on these and the food produced for man is created as a contribution to

life on Earth.

 

Animals on bio-dynamic farms must be able to express all aspects of their innate behaviour with minimum stress. Each farm has to find the right types of animals and their number in connection to the farm’s crop.  Soil, animals and the manure from them can thus be brought into a fruitful co-operation.

 

Rule of thumb in animal husbandry is identify with your animals and look after them as family. This perspective solves most problems.

 
Cattle – Milking Cows

The cow is connected with the land.

1.   Feed biodynamic food – mostly green 1-2 kg wheat grass for cows, especially during summer or drought. Animals will be happy and healthy if being well-fed. Good feeding should begin as a calf, wean only after 3-4 months. There is some evidence that giving grain reduces nutritional quality of their milk and meat also lowers resistance to disease 

2.   Regular exercise is required for cows that aids in easy calf delivery

3.   Shady but airy shed,  warm floors, as you yourself would like

4.   Can be trained when young to urinate on sound of a whistle – to aid in collecting cow urine for organic and bio-dynamic remedies, etc.

5.   For breeding get your own bull. Mating ‘best’ to ‘best’ leads to mediocrity.             Look for pure Indian breeds.

     

Chickens

Their scratching gives the soil deep litter

1.   Feed good BD pulses, grain for good eggs. 50% diet should be green.

2.   Clean, airy,             warm and dry living conditions.

3.   Have a few hens, roosters walking around. But feed them in the hen house then they can go out to walk and return for shade or sleep and laying eggs.

 

Grazing Livestock

If you are planning to graze the animals through an area where you will be growing vegetables or a cover crop the next year, how you manage the pasture is less important than other issues, such as soil fertility and weed management.  However, if you plan to graze the animals in pastures which will be permanent, you will need to pay some attention to pasture management so that the grasses and clovers stay productive over time.  A simple grazing rotation will be better than no rotation.

 

 

 

 

FOOD WEB IN THE FARM

 

A well developed farm should function as a healthy organism, with all the parts in balance and harmony with each other.  Pigs till the soil where cover crops and vegetables are grown.  Cows graze the cover crops as well as the nearby pastures and produce manure, which fertilizes the gardens.  The pigs eat garden produce and left outs.  The sheep manure fertilizes the garden.  Orchard grazing along with chickens scratching under the trees helps disrupt the life cycles of the insect.  The pastures are grazed by sheep and cows which maintains a diverse mix of plants, which when flowering provide nectar for the bees.  The bees pollinate the gardens and meadows and make honey.  The farmer collects some honey to eat and makes mead for harvest celebrations.  The chickens are grazed in the gardens in fall to add fertility, and graze near the gardens in the summer to eat insects.  The farmer eats lots of eggs, full of nutrients from the green plants and insects.  The farmer and his children gets healthy milk and meat, fruits and vegetables. Fruits produced in the farm are dried or processed to juice, jam or jelly which is a low sugar treat for children.  Apple waste is fed to the pigs.  In rainy season the farmer makes grow and store grass/fodder for summer or winter. 

 

GM Potato - Magic Bullet or mere hype?

 

After the failure of the much-hyped 'golden rice', comes another magic bullet from the trashcan of biotechnology industry - a protein-rich genetically modified potato - to combat malnutrition in India. For thirty years after the advent of green revolution technology, scientists are rediscovering the importance of nutritional security for masses. The desperation is not in reality aimed at addressing the problems of 'hidden hunger' but are more tuned to according public acceptance to the controversial science and technology of genetic engineering. The 'magic bullets' therefore fail to enthuse the hungry masses.

 

At the time of the green revolution, the high yielding varieties of wheat were bred for increased yield potential at the cost of reduction in nutrients. The policy makers too remained blind to the existing ground realities as a result of which, crops that could meet the requirements of nutritional security did not attract attention. Such was the callous neglect and apathy that agriculture was sacrificed at the altar of GDP and economic growth once the country achieved food 'self-sufficiency'.

 

For an average Indian, the common menu revolves around 'dal' and 'roti'. While the 'roti' (or Indian bread) was easily accessible (if you had the purchasing power), the availability of 'dal' (or pulses/lentils) has been on a continuous decline. Pulses being the crop of marginal areas, were ideally suitable for the rainfed areas, which account for 70 per cent of the country 's land under plough. Pulses require very less water and are known to enrich the soil by fixing atmospheric nitrogen. The neglect of pulses pushed the prices of the common 'dal' beyond the reach of an average Indian, with the result that micronutrient deficiency continued to grow.

 

At the National Centre for Conservation and Utilization of Blue-Green Algae, New Delhi, scientists have developed a mutant strain of Spirulina that contains 80 per cent protein. Normally, Spirulina, which falls in the category of cyanobacteria, carries 65 per cent proteins. For two years, scientists have been sitting with the wonder strain of Spirulina but there is no enthusiasm. It use in human, animal, agricultural and nutritional needs has been well documented but no one seems to be as excited as the molecular biologists are over the GM potato. The reason is simple: there is no industry for promoting and applying such useful technologies.

 

Pulses on an average contain 20-24 per cent protein. Any effort to increase the production of pulses would have helped reduce the prices thereby making it easily accessible. It didn't happen. Instead, the country, which consumes the largest quantity of pulses gradually turned into a major importer. There has been no effort at all to encourage the domestic farmers to cultivate pulses, and pull the crop out from the marginal areas.

 

'Golden rice' was the first such magic bullet. The ICAR was quick to latch on hoping that it would perhaps salvage some of its lost prestige. And then came the magic of GM potato, which is being developed by a team of scientists led by Dr Asis Datta.

 

Nevertheless, the transgenic potato that is under field trials, has a gene called AmA1 from amaranth that gives it some 50 per cent more (some say a third more) protein than normal, including substantial amounts of the essential amino acids lysine and methionine. Dr Padmanaban says he hoped Western-based environmental groups and charities would not criticise the potato as they did a "golden rice" developed by AstraZeneca's to make more vitamin A.

 

Not being a western environmentalist, let us make an attempt to decipher the great 'scientific' achievement. It is true that potato is part of the common Indian diet. It is also true that potato is priced so low that it can be afforded by even the slum-dwellers. Although potato (especially the way it is cooked in India) has been held responsible for obesity and other health-related problems that afflicts the trendy generation, it is very low in proteins. Potato, on an average, contains 1.98 per cent protein. Even if its availability has been enhanced by 30 per cent, the protein percentage comes to 2.5 per cent. How will this 'protein-rich' potato help solve malnutrition in the country? With 2.5 per cent protein, how will the country 's nutritional security be addressed? These scientists must be blind to the ground realities.

 

About the availability of amino acids, this is what Dr Arpad Pustzai has to say:  As regards the claims of increased essential amino acids; it is meaningless. The nutritional value of potato proteins is high because its amino acid composition is balanced, containing the right amounts of lysine and methionine. It is not clear that the increased essential amino acid content is the result of the increased protein content or not."  At the same time, some reports point to another flaw. The protein is expressed more in the leaves than in the potato itself. It must also be ascertained as to what has been the cost involved in producing and developing the transgenic potato. Isn't it time the civil society questions the wisdom of such expensive research projects when simple and adaptive technological solutions and the right policy mix can make a monumental difference. If only the plant scientists had focused more on the policy framework that needs to be put in, hunger and hidden hunger would have disappeared by now.

 

The global effort to shift the focus of agricultural research from addressing immediate hunger to 'hidden hunger' is in reality an effort to postpone the real problems confronting the society. Scientists and

socio-economists need to come out with strategies that make available the abundant food rotting in the countryside to the needy. By diverting attention from the more pressing problems of hunger and starvation, scientists are merely trying to protect their own livelihood security. They know for sure that any attempt to eradicate 'hidden hunger' is bound to fail unless an all out attack is launched to first remove hunger. 'Hidden hunger' cannot be removed without eradicating hunger. And that is what the 'cutting-edge' science refuses to accept.

 

Devinder Sharma, AgBio India, E mail: dsharma@ndf.vsnl.net.in
  
 

Vegetable Cultivation

by using Bio-dynamic Farming Methods

 

High yielding hybrid varieties in vegetables are susceptible to pest and diseases. There is demand for more plant protection, usually with toxic chemicals.  Moreover, even post harvest treatment requires Agro Chemicals before it reaches consumers, to increase the shelf life.   As a result of all these practices, we are ultimately consuming high dosages of toxic chemicals, which are causing un diagnosable diseases.

 

Availability of organically grown, good quality vegetables are very rare.  The best solution for this could be developing a Kitchen Garden with all varieties of vegetables that is available round the year. Due to short life cycle and vagaries of pests and diseases, makes organic cultivation of vegetables challenging.  It is possible, if the Organic and Bio-dynamic agricultural principles and methods are followed. Pest and disease occurs mainly due to wrong cultivation practices.  Hence, to avoid pest and disease occurrence, the following agricultural practices should be taken into consideration under “Prevention is better than cure” ideology.

 

Flat dwellers can practice it using pots, provided they have an open terrace.  For those who have backyards, it provides a better chance to keep their surroundings clean and productive.

 

a) Design of Vegetable Farm or Kitchen Garden

Vegetable gardens with intensive farming practice need more attention for proper planning.

 

It can be planned, so that

  1. there should be a steady supply of vegetables round the year
  2. soil fertility status should be maintained
  3. self-sustainable ecosystem should be installed

 

For achieving the above said objectives:

  1. Polyculture is essential.
  2. Crop rotation should be followed by including more leguminous crops.
  3. Proper soil conservation measures must be taken.
  4. Raise life fence with plants that can be used for green manuring & with pesticidal properties like Vitex nugundo, Adothoda, Nerium thevitifolia, etc.
  5. Make heap type BD Compost & Vermi compost.
  6. Select fruit trees and vegetables which are well suited to the water availability and climatic condition of the area.
  7. Raise trap crops along the field borders.
  8. Do companion cropping wherever possible.

 

b)  Soil Fertility Improvement Measures

Basically a healthy fertile soil can only give good plant health.  Plants growing in poor soil with nutritional deficiency will be very susceptible to pest and disease attacks.  Healthy fertile soil will impart power to plants to resist pest and disease attacks.  Hence, vitalising and improving the soil by suitable organic and Bio-dynamic agricultural methods is very vital.  For this purpose:

 

a)      Spray the soil with Horn manure (BD500) @ 25 g/acre and CPP Manure @ 500 g/acre once in 4 months

b)      Apply good BD compost @ 10 t/year/acre.

c)      Apply 2-3 t/year/acre of Vermi compost

d)      Practice Green Manuring

 

c)  Quality of the seeds and seedlings

Quality of the seeds has a very significant role in pest and disease incidences in a crop.  Hence, it is very important to get good quality seeds and seedlings for sowing and planning respectively.  If quality seeds are not available, the quality of available existing seeds can be improved by:

 

a)      Proper selection of mother plant.

b)      Repeated sowing and harvesting of seeds on Moon opposite to Saturn days in subsequent seasons.

c)      Maintaining the mother plants by organic and Bio-dynamic farming methods.

 

Quality seeds can only produce a healthy and vigorous seedling that has an inherent capacity to resist any pest and disease attack and also to give good yield.  With the help of the quality seeds, good seedlings can be raised by following the principles mentioned below:

a)      Prior to sowing, the seeds should be treated/coated/dressed with CPP manure

b)      Select the sowing date based on BD Planting Calendar.

c)      Spray BD 501 at 4-5-leaf stage to impart the power of resistance against pest and disease.

d)      Then while buying the saplings / grafted seedlings make sure that the seedlings are raised from good and selected mother plants.

d)  Transplantation

If seedlings are to be transplanted from the mother bed:

a) Dip the root portion in CPP manure slurry for 5-10 mts before transplanting to avoid root diseases

b) Select the planting date according to BD Planting Calendar based on the produce to be harvested.

d)      Apply good quantity of BD Compost as basal before transplanting the seedlings.

 

e)      Bio-Dynamic Planting Calendar Usage

The Bio-Dynamic Planting Calendar should be used while planning all garden activities.  This helps to utilize the unutilized natural forces (Cosmic forces) for better crop growth and development which once again increase the power of plants to resist any pest and disease incidences.  Henceforth, while planning the garden activities follow the guidelines given below:

a)      Land preparation – descending Moon phase

b)      Sowing – ascending Moon phase, and on a particular constellation of that period based on the produce to be harvested

c)      Planting – descending Moon phase, and on a particular constellation of that period based on the produce to be harvested.

d)      BD Compost & Vermi Compost application descending Moon phase.

e)      CPP Manure (foliar), BD 501, BD 508 and all herbal extract sprays for plant protection ascending Moon phase

f)        Harvest (General) – ascending Moon phase

g)      Harvesting root crops – descending Moon phase

 

f)       Integrated Pest Management  (IPM)

Vegetables attract many pests depending on the crop, locality and season. It is generally observed that the incidence of pest is minimum over years of organic bio-dynamic cultivation. They can be controlled suitably by using IPM components like maintaining field hygiene, trap crops, light traps, use of bio-control agents, use of various herbal preparations using locally available herbs and peppering as a last resort.

g)      Integrated Disease Management   (IDM)

Vegetables also suffer from many diseases. They can be controlled suitably by using IDM components like maintaining field sanitation, Control the vectors by IPM, use bio-control agents against wilt and rot diseases. In severe cases of fungal disease, 1.0% Bodeaux spray can also be sprayed. Apart from these herbal preparations like mixture of Garlic (2%) and Turmeric (1%) can also be used effectively for various diseases.

 

In addition use of bio-dynamic preparations in following method also help to prevent diseases.

 

a)      Spray BD 501 on Moon opposite to Saturn days every month

b)      Dress the seeds with CPP manure slurry – will help to overcome seed borne & soil borne pathogen attack.

c)      Dip the roots of the seedlings in with CPP manure slurry to reduce root rot & collar rot diseases.

d)      Spray CPP manure as foliar (1.5kg/acre/50 litre water) once in a month for annuals and once in two months for perennials against leaf rot, leaf blight, fruit rot, sheath blight & sheath rot (as prophylactic and also as a foliar nutrition).

e)      Spray 2% well fermented buttermilk – Mix 2 lt of well fermented curd (6-7 days) in 98 liter of water and after thorough mixing & potentising by 10-15 minutes of clockwise & anti-clockwise stirring.

f)        Use BD 508 – Take 1kg of Casuarina equisitifolia or Equisetium arvense or Equisetum ramassisimum and boil it for 2hrs in 10 lts of water.  Leave it for two days, dilute it to 100 lts,  filter and spray.

 

Note:  Preferably all the above-mentioned sprays should be done on Full Moon Day & on Perigee, or 1 or 2 days prior to these days.

 

f)  General Precautionary Measures  

      (against pest & disease control)

a)                  Avoid irrigation 1 or 2 days prior to Full Moon and Perigee

b)                  Avoid close planting.

c)                  Avoid excess application of Nitrogenous manures.

d)                  Avoid wrong season to raise any crop.

e)                  Avoid cross hybrid seeds, but use selection hybrids.

 

Conclusion

Pest and disease management should be carried out in a holistic way by properly planned farming practice.  Hence, rather than searching for remedies let us try to identify the cause and rectify it by correct farming methods.

Jaison J. Jerome MSc (Agri),  E-mail: jaisonjerome@yahoo.co.in
 

Gene robbery – a recent case of bio-piracy in India

The memorandum of understanding was proposed between multinational Syngenta Corporation and Indira Gandhi Agricultural University, Raipur, Chhatisgarh on research collaboration in which the university is entailed to transfer all the rice germplasm collection to the company. Intern Syngenta would pay royalties to the University for new rice varieties developed under the collaboration. The official collection of the university comprises about 24, 000 accessions, out of which 19, 000 comprise traditional varieties, which was collected together in the 1970s by the efforts of the famed rice scientists Dr. RH Richharia while he was director of Madhya Pradesh Rice Research Institute. The rice was originally collected with farmer’s consent as part of Richharia’s ‘adaptive rice research’ endeavor, to improve the varieties as per local requirements and redistribute them amongst farmers. Fortunately news leaked through local daily in Raipur in November 2002. Due to peoples’ protest the deal was dropped.

 

In the light of this episode, an important question being asked is whether a new Indian law would have safeguarded against the attempted bio-piracy. The Indian Biological Diversity Act was cleared by both housed of Indian parliament in December 2002. At a closer look, it seems that the law would have been unlikely to be able to help in this instance. The law mandates that collaborative research projects especially those involving transfer or exchange of biological resources or information must have clearance by the secretary of the concerned ministry/department or a high level committee of the government of India.

 

In the Syngenta –IGAU case no such approval was obtained. The information was made public. But had the transfer of germplasm already been executed, its recovery would still be very tricky, because the legislation says nothing about what course of action should be taken to repatriate germplasm. More significantly, approval from the national Biodiversity Authority (which was set up under the Biodiversity Act) would not be applicable for intellectual property right issues in relation to plant varieties. For that legislation points to India’s Plant Variety Protection & Farmers Rights Act instead.  This act, passed in 2001, allows foreign corporate breeders to register their plant varieties in India. Despite an entire Chapter on Farmers Rights, the rights of farmers described are no more than a ‘new variety’ of farmers privilege and a derogation of corporate breeding rights. The Act does not have provisions to safeguard against situations in which traditional crop varieties are taken out of the country. Because of these shortfalls in the legislation, there is growing opinion that domestic law and policy on plant genetic resources is in adequate. It remains to be seen whether or not the implementing rules to be drafted under these laws can plug some of the loopholes.

 

Source: Extracts from Seedling, April 2003