Monday, November 30, 2009


Greetings from "MY RIGHT TO SAFE FOOD"

Shocking indeed. The jig saw puzzle is meticulously solved and revealed by Kavitha Kuruganti from the Coalition for GM-Free India.

Please find attached a report from the Coalition which describes how the Expert Committee on Bt Brinjal was a rigged-up affair so to speak. To quote Kavitha
"(1) it was systemically rigged up by USAID through ABSPII and SABP projects and (2) by many individuals in the Expert Committee posing a question mark on the committee itself.

The biggest question mark is on the Chair, who seems to succumbed under pressure brought on him. The objectionable presence of many in the Expert Committee leads us to conclude that this was rigged up and was designed for a particular outcome - that of approving Bt Brinjal!

There is also an issue that is still somewhat unclear about how many GEAC members were actually present in the October meeting which further cleared the Bt Brinjal approval, since the minutes of the GEAC meeting don't have a list of the members present but the minutes seem to indicate (seem to indicate) that there were probably around 12-13 members not present".

Please view this link - Monday, November 30, 2009 - India's GM scandal: By Devinder Sharma

"Bt brinjal approval rigged
The environmental clearance by an Expert Committee (called EC-II) set by the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) to accord approval to the controversial genetically modified crop -- Bt brinjal -- was actually rigged.
As a consumer, you need to understand how you were likely to be served poisonous food by a bunch of people (who operate in the name of scientists) whose only job is to promote the commercial interests of the private seed and biotech companies. The conflict of interest of most of the members of the EC-II comes out clearly in this exposure".



New Delhi, November 30th 2009: In the light of new information emerging on the Bt Brinjal Expert Committee being compromised, casting a bigger shadow of doubt on fair and scientific inquiry into the safety and other issues related to Bt Brinjal, the Coalition for a GM-Free India demanded the immediate withdrawal of the report which recommended Bt Brinjal for India. News emerged yesterday on the Chairperson of the Expert Committee admitting to coming under pressure to approve Bt Brinjal. Further, fresh information on other members of the Expert Committee shows that this Committee was rigged up, said the Coalition.

The following are the new facts emerging on the Expert Committee which recommended Bt Brinjal for clearance (EC2 or Expert Committee II):

The Chairperson, Prof Arjula Reddy, confesses to coming under pressure from “Agriculture Minister, GEAC and the industry” to approve Bt Brinjal (Attached report has Dr Pushpa Bhargava’s statement on a telephonic conversation that Prof Reddy had to this effect with Dr Bhargava, the Supreme Court observer to GEAC, the apex regulatory body in India)
The Member-Secretary, Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation (RCGM in the DBT), Dr K K Tripathi has a Central Vigilance Commission complaint pending against him for exercising undue discretionary powers to promote interests of companies of his choice (Mahyco, in this instance) and harm others. He sat in the Expert Committee which was considering Mahyco’s application, while the CVC complaint was still being examined!
At least two Bt Brinjal developers in the Expert Committee bring in conflicting interests. One of them is part of the Consortium project that is developing Bt Brinjal in India with American aid!
At least two members sat in the Expert Committee, reviewing their institutions’ own findings on Bt Brinjal biosafety!
At least two members who were expressly representing the Union Health Ministry sat as observers in the Expert Committee without providing any inputs into the EC2 process.

Further, the GEAC deviated from the agreed mandate for the Expert Committee, as minuted in its January meeting minutes, to set up a new mandate that allowed the EC2 to recommend Bt Brinjal for cultivation.

The Expert Committee was also privy to some data that was never put out in the public domain for independent scrutiny and analysis but which was used for decision-making.

“The new information on the Chairperson of the Expert Committee confessing to coming under pressure and actually showing that he has succumbed under pressure given the final contents of the EC2 report and the objectionable presence of several members who were carrying conflicting interests puts a huge question mark on the scientificity and objectivity of this Expert Committee in assessing Bt Brinjal and its safety. The Government of India asking us to respond to this rigged-up report is an irony, given that the outcomes are being pre-decided in this fashion. We demand that the EC2’s report be immediately withdrawn”, said the Coalition.

For more information, contact:

Kavitha Kuruganti, Kheti Virasat Mission: (0) 93-930-01550
Bhaskar Goswami, Forum for Biotechnology & Food Security: (0) 98-111-91335

Encl: "Is this what Indians should be trusting?" - a note on the rigged-up Expert Committee.

Ms. Aruna Rodriques from Sunray Harvesters

Aruna Rodrigues wrote:
9 November, 2009, 15:09

The following extracts from Supreme court submission are of relevance.

From Submission of Aug 08 to the SC
" Furthermore, it is on record that for toxicity and allergenicity, testing is grossly inadequate by international standards and even the ICMR guidelines have not been adhered to. Testing for chronic toxicity of GM food crops is essential and requires long term testing, a point agreed to by the ICMR representative and recorded at point 5.7 of Agenda item 4 of the 85th Meeting of the GEAC. It was further agreed that therefore, the ICMR bio-safety guide lines would be amended and that Dr Vasantha Muthswamy would interact with Dr Bhargava to prepare another draft (item 4.2 of the 85th Meeting)".

NOTE: This was never done. Now, at some point the draft guidelines of the ICMR were finalised and diluted went public

From Nov 1st Submision (please note, tests for chronic toxicity were objected to on grounds that they would take too long. Now we have diluted guidelines by the ICMR and these are the justification. (genetically engineered guidelines with intended effects!)

"There are very few established protocols internationally to determine the human health impacts of GE foods. These are generally piecemeal and fragmented. India is a faithful adherent of the US system where safety testing is undefined and haphazard. In the US it also voluntary because GE foods are given GRAS status (Generally Recognised As Safe). The methods of rigorous bio-safety and risk assessment in their time-scale are by definition, long term, to uncover the potential harmful changes in GE proteins in foods as a result of the transformation process. These include testing procedures for chronic toxicity. Yet the Regulators in their Reply are on record dismissing both, scientific methods of risk assessment and long term multi-generational animal feeding studies because they will take too long. The question must be asked: too long for whom? Whose advantage are the Regulators pushing?"

Definition Conflict of Interest From the Court Submission:

A conflict of interest is a situation in which someone in a position of trust has competing professional or personal interests, which make it difficult to fulfil his or her duties without grace or favour, i.e. impartially. A conflict of interest can create an appearance of impropriety that can undermine confidence in the person, profession, or court system.


In solidarity

Sangita Sharma

Friday, November 27, 2009

Response to the article by Dr. S Shantharam by leading organic farmers

Greetings from "My Right to Safe Food"

Powerful hard hitting, thought provoking response by Juli and Vivek Cariappa - Organic Farmer, Krishi Pandit, ex-Gram Panchayat member, President of Savayava Krishikara Sangha, Member Empowered Committee On Organic Farming, GOK, Member, State Horticulture Mission, GOK. to an interview with Dr S Shantaram, former Syngenta man and key player in India's industry-linked GM lobby group Foundation for Biotechnology Awareness and Education (FBAE).
I was rather surprised to read the article / interview with one Dr. Shantharam from the USA. The tone of the responses to the questions regarding GM food and the debate going on in India, was very much like the petulant tantrum of little children whose toy is taken away for their own protection, as they are not mature enough to handle things that can harm them!!

Some points I would like to clarify for the benefit for your readers who might take seriously what the good scientist had to say.

***Modern science is only about 200 years old. To say that what is in the lab is the only science is nonsense. Science happens in the fields and in daily life. What knowledge we have today is the result of "science" from a time long before modern science came into the picture. Modern science has a way of creating fascists. Scientists, barring a few, have become totally fascistic in their belief systems. There can be no other truth other than what they believe. Science should liberate the scientist taking him/her closer to the truth. Today that is far from the truth.

***The scientist says that only one crazy African Nation has said no to GE food. He should know that that is totally false. Included in that list is Switzerland, Ireland, Japan, and many European nations that have a very strict system of labelling, even Australia. This is only in processed food and grain. No nation has as yet allowed vegetables to be genetically engineered for human consumption. All Nations that export food are saying "No" to GE food as there are export sanctions against GE food.

***If GE was so good for us poor countries then why did the MNCs wait for patenting and the intellectual property laws in India to be changed? The only reason as any intelligent person will realise, is that it is because there is a huge amount of money to be made in India with patented seed. Maybe the scientist is not able to see this simple truth.

***The article gave the impression that "some NGOs and Organic Farmers" are misleading the farmers, and that organic farming is only a fashion that will die out. If that were true then why would the government of Karnataka and other state governments In India support a fashion - why would they believe in a self-reliant agricultural sector? Was Mahatma Gandhi making a fashion statement when he argued for rural sustainability? Why should the state invest Rs.100 Cr. Annually to promote organic farming? Is the government misleading the farmers then? The State Governments of Kerala, West Bengal, Uttranchal, Chattisgarh and Jharkhand have said NO to GE food. Are they stupidly misleading their people? Obviously not. They have serious doubts about the claims of the GE industry claims.

***Look at the issue of farmers' suicides - how many sustainable organic farmers have taken that extreme step in the past 25 years - NONE. So if the present government feels that the way to improve the rural economy is to go the sustainable orgainc way, does Shantharam feel that the government is fooling the people? Farmers' Unsustainability is a great profit maker for the agri-industry, is that being proposed by him?

***Shantharam also encouraged the readers to check certain websites for the truth regarding GE. His true mental picture and his convictions/bias were revealed when he gave websites of two of the most corrupted lobby groups in this field of GE food. ISAAA is a lobby group recently formed to push the GE issue funded by Monsanto; their papers are edited by Dr T. M. Manjunath who until recently was the head of reasearch of Monsanto India, and still is its mouthpiece. And IFPRA is the same but a little older. There are other websites also, like those of the Union of Concerned Scientists - from the world over:, GMWatch, and one can look at the whole PIL (public interest lawsuit) in the Supreme Court of India (pil 260/2005). One can also type in on Google, words that bring a shiver to those who know what really happened - Starlink, thalidomide, endosulfan, EMS etc.

***Shantharam spoke about monoculture and how it can not happen here in India, because the land holding is small. As he has lived 15 years in the USA, I guess he has not visited or looked much this side. From Mysore to Bangalore, entire Mandya district grows only two crops in the irrigated area - sugarcane and paddy (rice). Entire Mysore district grows thousands of acres of cotton in the rainfed areas just as northern Karnataka and every state in India; this is monoculture even though the land holding is small. You do not need similar social conditions of the west to have the same downfalls from the imported technology.

***As all myopic scientists who see Indian history and heritage as that of poverty and famine, Shantharam also talks of the' begging years' of 1960-65. And how the great science saved our people from starvation. Shantharam forgets that we as a civilisation are more than 8000 years old, and have seen many famines and wars in the long past. I would say that it was the failure of our scientists then that they could not find any other solution (other than the so-called Green revolution) that would have saved our fertility, health and environment from chemicals and at the same time solved the food crises.. These were the same scientists who then told the farmers to use chemicals on our lands and called them medicines: ironically, these very same people today encourage organic farming!

***It was because of a PIL in the Supreme Court of India that the honorable Court Appointed an observer (Dr P. Bhargava, an eminent scientist himself) on the GEAC (genetic engineering approval committee), because the Judges in their wisdom felt that it was too important an issue to leave in the hands of scientists who had been put on the committee to promote genetic engineering in the first place. There was an obvious conflict of Interest.

***The reason why organic farmers have taken a stand against GM food is because they are more alert to the problems than others and see things in their fields in a different light than those who look at land as something only to make money .

***Dr. Shantharam also mentions, rather stupidly, that people always take the path that brings them most profit. Let them decide (he also says that
farmers do not know much!!). Is that why people drink Pepsi and Coke? Is that why a majority of farmers use tobacco? Is that why alcohol is such a rampant problem in rural areas? Is there no consideration for social pressure? Is the advertising industry ineffective in rural areas? The truth is that the seed industry has misled the farmers for their profit.

***Lastly, Shantharam apparently speaks from long experience in the laboratory and is working today at a prestigious foreign institution. Congratulations to him. Many educated people have opted to leave India for a lucrative and prestigious career. Their patriotism is not in question here, though their commitment to India is. They have contributed to the world scenario, but India, our nation, is built on the blood, sweat, tears and sacrifice of those who opted to stay behind, not the NRIs [Non-Resident Indians]. Unfortunately he is not qualified to talk about Indian agriculture, let alone policy.

It is natural that one says what one believes, but there are many who confuse the issues because they serve masters whose aims/goals are different from that of a sustainable, safe and responsible society. These are people who do not know the A of accountability or the B of Building-the-Nation nor the R of responsibility, nor the H of honesty.

The truth of the matter is that GM food as direct consumption has not been tried and tested on humans anywhere in the world. Can the scientists swear that GM food is safe for the old and infirm ? Is it safe for pregnant mothers ? Is it safe for the unborn fetus ? Can they prove that there will not be any deformed babies born (like with Thalidomide)? Can they prove that there will not be any deterimental effect on our soil after 10 years or more ? Can they prove that GM food will not destroy our health and sap our strength in the short or long run? Can they protect our seeds
from horizontal gene transfer and the contamination of our national heritage of germ plasm? The answer is -- "No".

Just like science thought that there was no water on the moon for more than 45 years, just like science said that DDT was harmless, just like all those things that science said and came out false, the answer to all those questions is "No".

Science does not know the answers. Science cannot be sure of anything. Only time can tell.

But besides this, what is the purview of science and the scientific community? To do research responsibly for the benefit of the whole of society. To question the correctness and social and environmental relevance of their research. To accept the validity of peer reviews and criticism and accept facts in a scientific manner. Science is about humility not arrogance, no one is bigger or greater than scientific fact. And in this case the science has a great potential for harm. In the practise of good science there is a principle called the “precautionary principle" which guides a responsible scientific community. It is law in our constitution.

So why should an untested technology be tried on an unsuspecting public? Is it because we are not a developed nation? Are we supposed to be guinea pigs for the "developed” world? These are the real questions that scientists like Shataram need to answer, instead of putting blame and ridicule on dissenting public opinion.

Science should make a scientist accommodating and open to dissent and debate.... Instead the biotech industry and its scientists are making a breed of arrogant, reductionist facists, who do not have the courage to think for themselves.

We are not opposed to using science to understand our world in a responsible and beneficial manner. Science must always address the consequences of its actions. Whether it is liked or not, there is a social contract between science and society which must be respected. When this contract is violated we begin to lose our trust in the scientific community. Agriculture has been a science long before it went into the lab, it continues to be a science in which we all take part in in our fields every single day.

The Organic Farming Mission, GOK, is building a dialogue with the University of Agricultural Sciences at Dharwad which is one of the institutions which has been doing Bt Brinjal trials. We are not interested in discarding something if it is worthy and safe for the agriculture of India and if it is proven to be safe for our children and their children to consume, but whatever the results may be, the scientific community must “respect the sanctity and integrity of all species, preserve and honour biodiversity and protect the environmental health of all inhabitants of this planet”.

Juli and Vivek Cariappa
Krac-a-Dawna Organic Farm
H.D.Kote Taluk 571121

Monday, November 23, 2009

Q & A about the relevance of Bt brinjal and the regulatory regime

Posted By Devinder Sharma to Ground Reality at 11/21/2009 11:03:00 AM

The debate over the environmental clearance for Bt brinjal in India is hotting up. There is a tremendous uproar against the technology that is visible, provided of course you want to see it. Many State governments have woken up, and opposed the introduction of Bt brinjal crop. West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Chhatisgarh, Orissa, Tamil Nadu, Kerala are some of them. In the days to come, I am sure more State governments will oppose the technology.

It gives a clear pointer. At least the politicians are much better than the agricultural scientists. Vice-Chancellors of agricultural universities are completely on the bandwagon of the GM industry. None of them can muster courage to stand up and be counted. In a vitiated academic atmosphere where even the post of an Assistant Professor comes with a price tag (not everywhere, but most of the universities have earned quite a name for 'money-for-job' rackets operating for quite some time), you cannot expect anything better from these universities.

At the same time, the media is deliberately trying to downplay the resistance to GM foods, especially Bt brinjal. As I have said earlier, they are counting their chicken, which comes in the form of advertisements from these biotech and agribusiness companies. There are some exceptions, of course. At times, I do receive a set of questions to be answered. But I must acknowledge this is only a miniscule section of the journalists who appear keen to balance their story. The rest look for an opportunity to travel to the US for an exposure trip/orientation course in genetic engineering, and to qualify for that they are eager to show their writing skills and also 'understanding' about the technology.

Anyway, one such set of questions along with my answers is placed below.

Q: A Mahyco representative said that during the testing phase in which environmental biosafety and agronomic evaluation of Bt brinjal was carried out, an isolation distance of 300 metres was maintained as mandated by the regulators. And that this applies to the evaluation phase only.

Ans: The isolation distance between two plots is to ascertain how much is the gene flow from a Bt brinjal field to a neighbouring brinjal field. In India, the vegetable fields are back to back. The testing parameter should have actually laid out the experiment to evaluate the gene flow when fields are at a distance of one feet or so. In fact, there should be three different distances -- can be one feet, one meter and three meters. By just setting a standard (even if it is only for evaluation phase) for three metres the scientists have actually ensured they get the desired results. So, as I said in my blog, this is simply to make fool of the people who do not understand what the isolation distance means. If the isolation distance was, say one metre, the experiment would have failed.

Q: GM crops in India is a realty, regardless of the oppositions and reservations. Beginning from that premise, what kind of a regulatory system would satisfy you? As in, what strikes you as the obvious loopholes in the current trials and how can they be fixed?

Ans: First, I do not agree with your premise. Nuclear reactors were a reality 50 years back, and look what is happening now. All over the west the love-affair with nuclear reactors has disappeared. It is only in India that we are willing to accept even shit from the western countries. Some years back, I had exposed a plan to export cow dung and piggery droppings from Holland to India. It was dropped after people reacted and showed their anger following the exposure.

The present regulatory system is a complete sham. It has been designed by the pro-industry scientists (who are the beneficiary of the GM technology) for the industry. There is a need for 29 tests to be done before a GM food crop is allowed. In India, we conduct hardly 4 tests and that too just to satisfy the ignorant media. For instance, I don't understand how could health risks be ascertained after 90 days tests. It should be for a lifetime. At least, for the lifetime of a rat, which is 2 years.

Interestingly, GM foods are for the masses. GM drugs, which are for a a target population there are several stages of trials and even that is not foolproof. Why can't we follow at least the same regulatory mechanism for GM foods? We do not need the FDA kind of regulation for GM foods. We actually need RDA regulatory system that exists for genetically modified drugs in the US. Under the RDA, you are supposed to tell the regulators the negative impacts of the drug. This is exactly what we need to do in the case of GM foods.

And also, there is a dire need to bring in a clause for accountability. The Chairman of GEAC should be put behind bars if anything goes wrong. In fact, the former chairman and members of the GEAC should be already behind bars for the damage done to cotton farmers through the introduction of Bt cotton. Thousands of cotton farmers who grew Bt cotton in Vidharba for instance have been forced to commit suicide. Scientists have blood on their hands.

The EC-II report for instance says that the health risks from Mahyco's own feeding studies are 'statistical significant' but 'biologically insignificant'. How can this be possible? Who will questions the fraudulent cover-up provided by EC-II? Why can't the report be publicly discussed, why can't a team of respectable citizens from all walks of life, look into the claims? After all, GM food is not being consumed by scientists and company officials, it is to be eaten by the masses. So why shouldn't they decide? And if the EC-II report is proved to be fraudulent, shouldn't the members of the committee be punished, and that too in a manner that it becomes a deterrent for others?

Q: According to IFPRI, Washington DC, the regulatory process in India involves not only environmental risk assessment but also food safety assessment. India is known to be the country with a that has the largest biosafety requirements in terms of animal feeding tests. Do you agree?

Ans: Please don't hold IFPRI in such high esteem. It is a an industry think-tank and if you have read my views, I have been demanding closure of IFPRI. Just to give you an instance. The FAO is calling the land-grab by companies in Africa, Latin America and Asia as 'neo-colonism'. IFPRI is calling for a code of conduct. So you should know who IFPRI represents. I have known their present/past DGs (and I have shared the platform with some of them). They openly speak the language of biotech industry.

If India's regulatory system is so good, I think the US should close down FDA and look at the tests being done in India. If this was true, they wouldn't have opened several offices of FDA in India.

The way environmental clearance has been given to Bt brinjal, it only shows the scandalous manner in which the GEAC and the RCGM operates. Let me tell you, the Ministry of Environment & Forests has no courage to set the GEAC in order. The Department of Biotechnology on the other hand is stuffed with people (most of them are advisors) whose only qualification for the job is their proximity to the biotech companies.

Q: What are the implications of the 2006 CD Mayee report, that paved way for event based testing? Could you, once again, elaborate the pros and cons of an event-based regime for the mainstream audience?

Ans: This is again flawed. Many a times we have seen that the same event or the gene can act differently in different crops. MON810 corn variety which stands banned in most of Europe is one such classic example. If you were to go by the event-based regime than MON810 corn should not have posed any problems. Each transgenic therefore needs a fresh round of biosafety studies. Moreover, when you appoint a team under someone like C D Mayee, you know the outcome even before the report is submitted. Why can't we have a team let us say headed by someone who has no stake in the technology.

Q: Mayee quit GEAC following his appointment to ISAAA board. Just what kind of an organisation is ISAA ---the organisation counts among its donors, not just Monsanto, but also our ministry of science and environment. ..

Ans: ISAAA is an industry outfit. They call themselves NGO, but are in reality funded by the GM industry, and has allies like the Ministry of Science & Environment. Interestingly, the Dept of Biotechnology and ICAR always swear by the reports/studies of ISAAA and at the same time talk of taking all stake-holders views/opinions into account. I have often challenged the DBT Advisors to please tel who they represent if all their slides in presentations are by and large based on ISAAA.

ICAR is much worse. You canot become the director of any ICAR institute till you demonstrate your blind support for GM technology. CD Mayee has already managed to put a biotech industry person as a deputy director general. Even the next Director General of ICAR will be a biotech supporter (and mabe a GM practicioner himself). I can even name him now before the selection committee provides us the name.

Don't forget, CD Mayee did not quit GEAC on his own. He was forced to quit GEAC following pressure from NGOs. In addition to continuing on GEAC and ISAAA board, he was also chairperson of the agriculture scientists recruitment board. It is here that his role has to be examined. he has recruited many scientists to the top slots in ICAR who are known to be GM supporters/beneficiaries and there are question marks over their merit and credibility. #

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Messiah of hope - Brazil shows how to fight hunger but do we Indians care?

Greetings from "My Right to Safe Food"

Now what is to stop India from doing what Brazil has achieved - A Zero Hunger Programme"??? President Lula of Brazil has achieved this admirable feat despite opposition. My Salutations.

As aptly described below by Andrew Mac Millan, it is up to all of us ( people) to demand such action from our elected leaders.

"But history suggests that unless their people demand urgent action on hunger, many leaders will forget their pledges. There is thus a need for a global campaign built on growing popular understanding of the scandal of hunger and malnutrition to galvanise leaders to declare their commitment publicly and agree to be held accountable. If they do, the world will be a better and safer place for all".

But,then does the 30% urban population in India care? Since the voice of the marginalised poor remains unheard nor does it ever make it to the breaking news on TV. Yet, the same urban sector expects to be provided with safe food from marginal farmers once the pride and backbone of the economy, now reduced to a begging bowl! Thanks to this disinterested educated sector with no efforts to understand where and how the food comes from but ingest only to appease the senses, keeping with the trends in society and publicly flaunt "we only eat safe foods". What a sad joke! Whilst the producer of food is mercilessly exploited and abused by the whims of policy makers hand in glove with industry, manic preoccupations are the order of the day. With no time, nor inclination, whose to challenge the fate of food? This callous attitude and superficial concerns surely merits the oncoming catastrophe, forsake traditional food for industrial food only to become victims of one own fate.

Aping the West in lifestyles and technologies is quite upbeat. The West having had their share of disasters lean hungrily towards our rich Indian cultural heritage and practice with pride and credit our ancient wisdom as "The messiah of hope". But what do we foolish Indians do, forsake our lot to stride in the name of progress, straight in the face of doom!

Interestingly, I learnt only yesterday, how most of Europe managed to stand their case against GM foods in their respective countries. Mind you, it was not their leaders who pledged the safety for their citizens and ban GM foods, it was the voice of the common masses/ people who were so forceful and loud that their leaders had no choice but to listen to the majority, lest they get uprooted from their seats of power. Focus and Care taken by volunteers within their own communities, where they would call upon meetings in the evenings, gather one and all... from children, students, mothers, seniors to gain momentum and oppose for what is right and safe. Concerning alarm bells raised spreading from one county to another like a raging fire. Please note, the enthusiasm of volunteers who took it upon themselves after work to create an uproar was only to safeguard their food, driven not by any prominent activists.

This concern to raise voices in unison on our rights as citizens unfortunately lacks sadly in our country. It has irked me no end as I spend countless days with so many concerned visitors from all walks in life to assure me of their support like as if it were my cause alone! Some even write to their network of friends to extend me support to feel they have done their bit so as to appease their conscience. Few others, start in zest with no follow up's giving excuses galore. What one needs is involvement of parents, children and society in general to start within their own communities, grow locally safe natural food on a daily basis. In doing so, the food thus produced will undoubtedly be healthier and more nutritious for the rich and poor alike and no poor will go hungry. Victory can be ours only then! If not we deserve what's to unfold.

In solidarity

Sangita Sharma


Zero Hunger recognises that the immediate cause of hunger is not just lack of food by Andrew Mac Millan,

Thursday 12 November 2009

It is scandalous that in a world of ample food supplies, over one billion people face constant hunger — and the number is still rising. What makes matters worse is that we know how to end hunger, and yet few governments are doing so.

Brazil’s ‘Zero Hunger’ programme shows that it is possible to make very rapid progress towards eliminating hunger and malnutrition.

While the world committed itself to halving hunger by 2015, Brazil set out to eradicate it as quickly as possible. The halving target condemns millions to a lifetime of utter misery, ill-health, and social exclusion. Going for eradication creates a sense of urgency and triggers immediate action.

From his first day in office in January 2003, President Lula made hunger eradication his top priority. The full impact of Zero Hunger will only be felt when today’s children grow up. But there are already many signs that it is moving in the right direction. Brazil tops the list in ActionAid International’s recent scorecard of countries fighting hunger. It is not only improving nutrition on a vast scale but also stimulating economic growth where it is most needed, in the poorest corners of the country. And it is enabling millions of Brazilians to begin to play their full part in the life of their nation.

In just six years, infant mortality fell by 73 per cent and the number of people in extreme poverty dropped by 48 per cent.


Brazil’s success shows what can be done by combining strong political commitment to an unambiguous goal; institutional reforms that lead central, state, and local governments to work together within a common strategy; and the full engagement of civil society.

Zero Hunger balances immediate measures to relieve suffering with fundamental reforms to address the underlying reasons for people being hungry in the first place. Lasting solutions are based on the formal recognition of the human right to food. They involve managing the economy more equitably, improving income distribution, broadening employment opportunities, raising minimum wages, and enabling more people to have access to land.

Zero Hunger, however, also recognises that, as in many other countries, the immediate cause of hunger is not lack of food. It is the fact that, even when economic growth is strong, many families simply cannot buy it. This recognition led to launching a monthly cash transfer programme that enables almost 12 million of the country’s poorest families to buy the food they need for a healthy life. By linking these grants to children’s school attendance and regular health checks, it ensures that the young are better fed, educated and healthy. An expanded school meals programme reinforces these effects.

Brazil is showing how the twin-track approach to hunger reduction, recommended by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), can be put into practice. It calls pairing immediate measures to improve access to food with an expansion in food output, especially by small-scale farmers. The increased demand for food stimulated by cash transfers is expanding markets for the output of Brazil’s family farmers, including the million who have benefited from land reform and are themselves vulnerable to food insecurity.

This support for small-scale farming is reinforced by targeted credit programmes and by state-run food procurement for emergency and institutional feeding programmes.

Guaranteed income

Zero Hunger demonstrates the vital role that direct action against hunger can play in reducing poverty and increasing the resilience of the poor to shocks. This has been very evident during the current economic crisis. Zero Hunger has enabled almost all Brazilians to enjoy a guaranteed income and access to essential food. It has also helped to sustain domestic consumption levels, which is one of the reasons why Brazil was able to overcome the crisis more quickly than many other countries.

The World Summit on Food Security, convened by FAO in Rome from November 16-18, will provide an opportunity for all governments to follow Brazil’s example and commit themselves to eradicating hunger — for once and forever. In the last two Food Summits, in 1996 and 2002, heads of state made bold promises, but most have failed miserably to deliver on their commitments. Hopefully this time, when the presidents, queens, kings and prime ministers go home, they will, like Lula, launch their own Zero Hunger programmes and help other countries to do likewise.

But history suggests that unless their people demand urgent action on hunger, many leaders will forget their pledges. There is thus a need for a global campaign built on growing popular understanding of the scandal of hunger and malnutrition to galvanise leaders to declare their commitment publicly and agree to be held accountable. If they do, the world will be a better and safer place for all.