Corporate Hijack Of Organic Farming Initiative In Punjab
By Umendra Dutt
20 April, 2006
farming is taking pace in Punjab. "Punjab is going the organic
way"- this could be the general impression that anyone can have
from the news and media campaign of Punjab government. There are several
things going on in Punjab related to organic farming. The Punjab Agro
Export Corporation is involved in promotion of organic farming, appointing
consultants, roping over 1200 farmers and on the other hand, several
large companies are taking-up organic farming projects in state, taking
large chunks of lands on lease from government. Then Punjab government
is also going to establish Food Park at Fatehgarh Sahib. Bhoomi Vardaan
Foundation established in collaboration with Prince Charles for promotion
of organic farming. More over state council for organic farming is constituted
and the Chief Minister himself announced that soon Punjab would have
an organic farming policy. All these developments were enough to be
termed as revolution in making.
Let us have a look on other
side of this glossy picture.
According to information,
the Punjab Government has leased out thousands hectors of land to various
companies especially the agri-business corporations for Joint Ventures.
Due to one or other reasons best known to government officials no body
want to share the exact figure that how much land was given to agri-business
corporations so far. This land earlier held by department of agriculture
first transferred to Punjab Agro, and further given to JVs. The precious
land is in the hands of corporations now. It seems that corporataized
organic farming is fast taking its pace in Punjab.
The much-hyped visit of Prince
Charles and his interaction with organic farmers and then formation
of Bhoomi Vardaan Foundation though received vast media attention but
the way organic farming was projected during Prince Charles' tour, raises
several questions. It was corporataized government organic farming show.
Prince Charles programme has become show of big agri-business companies
and the investors only. Any individual farmer who is practicing organic
farming on his own was not invited at Moti Bagh; nor was any civil society
groups neither any small entrepreneur working on organic invited. The
farmers invited at New Moti Bagh Palace; were part of Punjab Argo's
Network. There was no space for any other initiative, nor was any of
voluntary group involved in the programme. The entire show is indicating
that, the corporate houses were the champions of organic farming in
Recently, Punjab government
has extensive advertisements in papers stating – Visit of Prince
Charles will boost organic farming in Punjab. But, how mere visit of
prince would boost organic farming without any proper planning and widespread
participation of farmers and other stakeholders. One has to answer that
why other initiatives, institutions, and individuals who are not with
Punjab Agro network, were not involved in this programme.
Why the government had overlooked
those farmers or institutions that had started organic farming much
before Punjab Government's project?
The Bhoomi Vardaan Foundation
(BVF) could be good initiative if it is planned in such a way. Punjab
government is likely to get funds from Prince of Wales Foundation for
organic farming promotion. However, it is also matter of concern if
agri-business Corporations have proximity in BVF board; multi-nationals
like HLL and KPMG had more access and say in this entire process. More
over it should be clear that what would be the modus operandi of BVF.
Is it only an affair of Punjab Agro? If it has to remain a Punjab Agro
venture then how the participation of general farmer has been assured.
Punjab Agro is an export promotion body and if organic farming ventures
goes in its control then it means that for Punjab Government organic
farming is for export only. Organic farming in Punjab does not meant
for export only; we have to take care of domestic market also. After
all people of Punjab have very right of safe and toxic-free food.
Another important issue is
the formation of State Council of Organic Farming by Punjab Government.
Although it is a good initiative but lacks direction, vision and participatory
spirit, yet interestingly, this organic farming council had also become
a Punjab Agro affair only. Ironically, even Director Agriculture has
not been taken as member of this council. Council has provision of including
two farmers' representatives, but selection of these farmers would be
only from Punjab Agro network. It seems that Punjab Government has made
Punjab Agro as nodal department to run the organic farming operations
in Punjab. Nevertheless, Punjab Argo's mandate is to promote agro export
only, not sustainable agriculture. The motive behind the formation of
organic farming council is almost defected when a mere commercial motivated
venture takes the reins of organic farming council.
If Punjab government wants
to take-up its organic farming initiative in sustainable way for a long-time
then, the organic farming council should remain with department of agriculture.
Punjab Agro could be taken as one of the promoter and more over government
must assure the equal participation of volunteer groups and representatives
of organic farmers. The organic farming council should become a tool
for restructuring agriculture in Punjab. It should not become merely
an offshoot of Punjab Agro for exporting health foods to rich countries,
and supplying our own people with GM contaminated food stuff which has
uncertain impacts on the human body. Further more there are more questions
must be answered before we go to organic farming.
Firstly, what is our prime
objective for promoting organic farming? Is it export-commercialization-agri-business
promotion, corporate investment? On the other hand, sustainability,
livelihood security, and environmental health? Alternatively, blend
Doing organic farming in
a fashioned glamorous manner would not give the results. This way of
organic is again an expensive affair and could not be done by the aid
only, it again pushes our farmers into another trap of resource and
technology intensive farming practices. This would lead to another system
of externalizing agriculture. The organic farmers of this stream will
remain almost dependent on external support. This is not the real sustainable
Secondly, government should
make clear how this highly publicized Bhoomi Vardaan Foundation would
work. Then, what would the role be of agri-business companies in running
the BVF. Interestingly, the with in last one year several companies
had landed up in Punjab for contract farming, food processing and agro
exports and few of them are in organic farming also.
Then the most important issue,
which would repeatedly rack this organic initiative, is co-existence
of GM crop with organic crops. If Punjab government seriously wants
to promote organic then it should not mix-up organic with BT/GM crops,
why it is so hesitant about taking other opinions. After all, Punjab
government is doing organic for export then what is harm in considering
GM crop issue in this context. Moreover with his contradictory stand
the Chief Minister, not only make mockery of organic farming but he
is also showing disrespect to the very basic principals of organic farming.
The CM repeatedly making statements that he will promote GM crops as
well as organic, making clear that as far as Punjab government is concerned
it has no idea about organic farming systems, nor it had intention to
listen other view on the issue. The 'liberalized' government works this
It is liberal towards corporate
agenda of agriculture and GM crops.
Therefore, it is right time
to take put organic farming initiative on right track now; otherwise,
it would be too late. By then Punjab may lose its opportunity and prospective
strength in organic farming. Organic farming could lead Punjab farmers
to a debt free, suicide free, toxic free and healthy life co-habitat
with nature. This would save the rural ecology and entire ecological
equilibrium of Punjab; conservers fast depleting natural resources of
Punjab; the organic farming with natural systems will provide a sigh
to magnificent biodiversity and would also give a chance for ecological
heritage to pass on to our own future generations. Government should
initiate a participatory public dialogue on the issue to evolve vast
public participation in planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.
However, for this a sea change
is urgently needed in vision and mission of organic farming plans of
Punjab governments. The present system needs total re-structuring, re-focusing,
and re-prioritizing to attain the desired goal of prospers and sustainable
Punjab. For success of organic farming, what is really needed is a peoples'
Movement. The government cannot become substitute of any voluntary action
for organising a People's Movement. The best way is to educate the farmers
to make them understand their own interest and the interest of the soil.
Vinoba Bhave has said that" Sarakari kaam kabhibi asarkari nahi
Only this non-sarkari organic
movement will bring the Sarbbat Ka Bhala in real terms to Punjab.
Author is Executive Director
of KHETI VIRASAT MISSION. KVM is at Street-5, Hardayal Nagar, JAITU,
Distt. Faridkot, Punjab, Phones: 01635-503415, 9872682161; Email:firstname.lastname@example.org