Friday, October 12, 2012

The Conspiracy only gets worse....Read on

 A Walk for Monsanto? by Deepak Patel - 30 Sep2012 By

In San Antonio, Texas, and across the country, people will be walking for a global foundation.
Partnership Walk 2012
How Far Will You Walk
to end global poverty?
October 6th, 2012 (Saturday)
Hemisfair Park, San Antonio
Live entertainment, exhibits food and fun for the whole family
Partnership walk is an initiative of Aga Khan Foundation U.S.A and its volunteers in communities across America. AKF USA uses innovative solutions to empower communities to overcome poverty, hunger, illiteracy and illness in Asia and Africa. 100% of your tax-deductible contribution goes directly to projects supported by AKF USA.
The invitation doesn’t mention Monsanto but on the Aga Khan Foundation USA’s web page on Rural Development in India, buried among much that “sounds” positive, is mention of “new inputs or technologies that improve agricultural productivity.”  Those are code words for pesticides and genetic engineering.  Further down in the same paragragh, the Aga Khan Foundation says that it has set up village organizations that by pass local traders to provide “seeds and other inputs.”  It sounds as though the Foundation is cutting off local farmers from small local suppliers to arrange a single outside source of “seeds and other inputs.”  What kind of seeds and what kind of inputs is this global foundation leaving small farmers in India with?
Aga Khan USA says they are setting up “collective agri-input supply and marketing to ensure that poor farmers are not exploited by local traders,” but this only sounds good if one is not aware of what happened to farmers in India when Monsanto came in with their “seeds and inputs.”
But a little investigation shows the extreme exploitation that has occurred which did not come from the local traders.
Monsanto’s GMO Seeds Contributing to Farmer Suicides Every 30
“Monsanto’s cost-inflated and ineffective seeds have been driving farmers to suicide, and is considered to be one of the largest — if not the largest — cause of the quarter of a million farmer suicides over the past 16 years. ….
“According to the most recent figures (provided by the New York University School of Law), 17,638 Indian farmers committed suicide in 2009 — about one death every 30 minutes. In 2008, the Daily Mail labeled the continual and disturbing suicide spree as ‘The GM (genetically modified) Genocide’. Due to failing harvests and inflated prices that bankrupt the poor farmers, struggling Indian farmers began to kill themselves. Oftentimes, they would commit the act by drinking the very same insecticide that Monsanto supplied them with — a gruesome testament to the extent in which Monsanto has wrecked the lives of independent and traditional farmers. “To further add backing to the tragedy, the rate of Indian farmer suicides massively increased since the introduction of Monsanto’s Bt cotton in 2002. It is no wonder that a large percentage of farmers who take their own lives are cotton farmers, the demographic that is thought to be among the most impacted.”
In San Antonio, the Indian community is invited to participate and enjoy “Live entertainment, exhibits food and fun for the whole family” as they donate to a Foundation that appears to be fund raising for Monsanto, which has been responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths of poor Indian farmers.  The Foundation says it is helping small farmers but small farmers were not killing themselves en masse before Monsanto and other outsiders introduced what they claimed were “new inputs or technologies that improve agricultural productivity.”
“In India, around 60 percent of the population (currently standing at 1.1 billion) are directly or indirectly reliant on agriculture. Monsanto’s intrusion into India’s traditional and sustainable farming community is not only concerning for health and wellness reasons, but it is now clear that the issue is much more serious.”  Monsanto’s GMO Seeds Contributing to Farmer Suicides Every 30
On top of the outrageousness of asking Indians to donate to Monsanto (or other biotech companies doing the same thing) after how many Indians have died because of them, there is a special irony in this “Walk to end Global Poverty” occurring this weekend.  The Walk is being held right before early voting begins in California with an initiative on the ballot to get GMOs labeled for the first time in the US (Prop 37).  As Monsanto and the biotech industry and giant US food and agricultural interests are pouring in billions to keep people from knowing what is in their food, and grass roots groups are struggling to come up with enough funds to counter the media lies, a fund raiser is occurring to support Monsanto – a multi-billion dollar corporation,  playing on the sympathies of those who care about the poor.  For Monsanto, the presence of its GMOs, whether in food or in NGO activities occurring in Asia and Africa, must be hidden.
Ordinary people are doing all they can to get the truth out.   Passing Prop 37 will allow people to know what is in the food, and the need to do so is now urgent.  Results are continuing to come in on how deadly GMOs are.  Monsanto’s corn’s impact on test animals is horrifying.
But now scientists are warning about GM-wheat as well.
“Expert scientists warn that genetically modified wheat may cause Glycogen Storage Disease IV, resulting in an enlarged liver, cirrhosis of the liver, and failure to thrive. Children born with this disease usually die at about the age of 5.  …. Professor Heinemann’s expert opinion outlining how CSIRO’s GM wheat silencing technology could transfer to humans is believed to be a world-first, and has been reviewed by scientists in Australia, the UK and Austria.”
The Aga Khan Foundation is involved offering “systems to improve …. wheat yields.”
The “Walk to End Global Poverty” appears to be a nationwide fund raising event – fun for the whole family! – to raise money for Monsanto and the biotech industry.  This are the companies threatening families with cancers and early deaths.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Block now - Two day organic farming workshop in Bengaluru

Workshop details

Date: 8th & 9th September 2012

Time: 9.00 am - 5.30 pm

Fees: Rs.3000/- per person

(Refreshments and organic lunch included)

Register now: Limited seats available

Venue: Ishana,Gopathi farms, Bangalore

Contact - Pavithra- +91 8277116606

Email -

Route map link

 "From Soil to Seed to Plate" 
A two day hands-on organic farming workshop 
Grow your own food and take charge
We are what we eat. We believe that every person has the right to food and especially to safe food. The human race is charged with the potential to preserve bio-diversity through sustainable farming so that our children inherit an earth that is clean, healthy and fair. But none of this is possible unless we know where our food comes from, the price paid by farmers in delivering such nourishment to our tables and our rich heritage of natural resources, seeds and plants are being choked. This is why disease is so rampant.

So how can we reverse this? Seeing is indeed believing, we are proud that ‘Ishana' a 5 acre certified farm is fast emerging as Karnataka’s leading knowledge centre for promoting sustainable biodiversity as an alternative to modern corrosive agricultural methods of cultivation. Our workshop will focus on giving you a holistic understanding of starting and how to run an organic farm one which is replicable to a kitchen/terrace gardener. Learn how to grow organically, eat locally, save your own seeds, preserve the harvest and live self sufficiently. We touch upon those factors that affect the growth of plants which include light, moisture, temperature, soil fertility, mineral balance, biotic life, weeds, pests, seeds, labour, planning and skills.

For whom - Green Gaurdians, beginners, experts from all walks who are interested to rediscover their relationship with growing their own food that in turn safeguards health

Programme Schedule

DAY- 1 ( 8th September 2012, Saturday)

     9.00 am - 9.30 am


A.  Introduction to sustianable farming -                                9.30 am - 10.00 am   
  •    Annadana’s best farming practices 
B.  Compost and Composting -                                               10.00 am -11.00 am
  •  Movie on composting – 15 mins, Practical demonstration – 45 mins
C. Raised bed preparation - Practical demonstration          11.00 am - 11.30 am

Refreshments -                                                                         11.30 am - 11.45 am

D. Preparation of Organic Growth Promoters                        11.45 am - 1.00 pm

  •  Panchgavya
  •  Vegetable waste enzyme
     An organic splendor for lunch  -                                          1.00 pm - 2.00 pm

E. Green manuring and its importance                                    2.00 pm - 2.30 pm
F.  Nursery and its activities                                                      2.30 pm - 3.30 pm

  • Preparation of pot-mixture
  • Seed sowing in trays, on raised beds
  • Pricking
  • Transplanting
G. Bio-plant extract preparation                                                 3.30 pm - 4.00 pm

Refreshments                                                                             4.00 pm - 4.15 pm

H. Main field preparation                                                           4.15 pm - 5.30 pm

DAY-2 ( 9th September 2012, Sunday)


A. Importance of Open pollinated seeds/ Heritage seeds-    
9.00 am - 9.30 am

B. Visual demonstration of seed saving of 11 species-        9.30 am - 11.00 am

Refreshments-                                                                          11.00 am - 11.15 am

C. Seed bank operations and practical demonstration of seed saving -
                                                                                                      11.15 am - 1.00 pm

Lunch break   -                                                                       1.00 pm - 2.00 pm

D. Pest management -                                                                   2.00 pm - 4.00 pm

Refreshments -                                                                              4.00 pm - 4.15 pm

E. Pest management -                                                                   4.15 pm - 5.00 pm

F. Bio diversity gift pack with a certificate-                                5.00 pm - 5.30 pm

About our faculty: Sangita Sharma, a self contained organic farmer who believes in the sanctity of soil and seeds. The underlying force of her work over the past decade is to create replicable knowledge centric organic farms built on the foundation of farmer's time tested wisdom.

John Paul, an innovative agronomist who simplifies this eco-science on how to grow your food using organic methods which are low cost user friendly, replicable and waste free.

Pavithra Prasan, a bio technologist who has a penchant for organic farming is now a sound organic farm educator

Somnath Deepak, a bio medical engineer whose shift in energies to understanding intergrated farm management skills is crucial to sustaining a farm

Payment Options:
Online money transfer details
Beneficiary name: Annadana Soil and Seed Savers Network, Bangalore
Bank name: State Bank of India
Branch name: Jalahalli East
Account no: 30235939314
Type of Account: Savings Bank Account
IFSC Code: SBIN0000963

On- Spot registration details
Cash payments can be made at the registration desk at the venue
A token advance of Rs 500 to ensure reservation of a seat.

*Cheques are not acceptable

                                             snap shots from our workshops

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Annadana Broadcasts upbeat happenings

The beauty of growing safe foods in season, enjoying the harvests and more importantly sharing wholesome foods grown daily with our community of 14 farmers and 5 team experts, so delicately prepared using biogas is rather gratifying. Each working day in our lives is literally a virtual working holiday. Trust me, i would never trade this for another vocation.

I take this opportunity to introduce Annadana broadcasts to keep you abreast:

Farm activities:
Despite the delayed and erratic monsoon, our soils are rich and fertile after a healthy dose of green manuring with effective management of our water resources from the previous rain harvests. For years now, we have faithfully given back to our soil and she in turn repays us back with such abundance. Whilst the nation of policy makers, conventional farmers, distraught agriculture activists are in a state of distress, we encash on sowing and transplanting. Our secret to this.....we practice  ‘knowledge intensive techniques’ rather than ‘resource intensive inputs’ with a focus on planning, design and management from the outset which forms the basis of successful organic agriculture. 

 Our fields nurture young saplings of a vast local traditional diversity of vegetables from our all time favorites of multi coloured tomatoes, gourds, brinjals, beans, lettuces, okras, corn, radish, carrots, cow pea, potatoes, onions, amaranth, spinach, leeks, chillies, capsicum, rucola, cucumber, parsley, turmeric and more. Flowers range from varieties of marigold, sun flower, cosmos and more. Cereals like paddy, a traditional Karnataka variety called Rajamudi adorns our fields. This is both for food and mostly seed conservation.

Workshops - Our farm workshops keeps us on our toes. The whole team of 19 energised bunch of us thrive on sharing 'our hands on knowledge centric skills' with a single pointed focus on empowering participants. Here is feedback from a enthused participant Sharlene Das "It was a pleasure to meet and interact with all of you.  It is only like-minded people who would come for Workshops like that and I could feel that energy among each one of you. I have jumped right in and am still building my first ever compost pile.  Its taking me a while as I didnt realize how much raw material is required for even a small 4'x8' pile.  But am thoroughly enjoying the experience. Thank you Team Annadana for this information passed on so freely and enthusiastically. At the end of the day, it is being true to Mother Nature that really counts".

Farm Trails for Schools
- With educational fun farming trails abuzz, we have schools responding with a zeal. Thanks to the proactive interests by heads of schools encouraging faculty and vice-versa to partake in our well structured integrated organic farm trail.  We have students from diverse schools indulging in farming activities galore. Our campaign 'Adopt a seed' with seed saving tips on vegetable varieties have students enthralled. With promises to 'save a seed to save a species' now becoming their mission! More importantly is when sordid facts on junk fast foods is revealed, it has them really thinking. When safe food alternatives which are equally delightful on palettes are disclosed, their eyes light up with glee.  All these interactive sessions has them so enraptured that despite subtle hints 'its time to leave', it is with much reluctance! The boisterous energies whilst bidding us bye with overwhelming thank you's is most heartening.

Yesterday saw 35 students from class of 9 class from National Academy for Learning walk our trail. At first the students appeared rather sombre but once the trail commenced the zest of energies that sprung from their beings was amazing....touch, feel, smell the soil and the diverse aromas brought in such a spark to kick start their hands on practicals in our soil health program...from understanding soil types, to broadcasting green manuring, to pit composting, transplanting and more!
With each school visit we get to learn and implement new constructive ideas. We continue to sow seeds of consciousness! You can view this and more in our FB link...
Feedback from teachers from Jain Heritage School in their recent visit – 'it’s wonderful day with lots of knowledge about organic farming. The children got a real experience of what they are actually eating and doing to mother nature. It’s a bright programme which should be put into practice for our future generation to sustain healthy edible foods.
We have learnt a lot about healthy farming and what a farmer does in his field. Thank you team Annadana from all Heritagians '.

Farm Trails for visitors
- We have visitors from all walks wishing to walk our trail 'from soil to seed to plate' and some wish to document our time-tested techniques. 
One such recent visit was to capture Annadana as 'solution providers' for a agrarian documentary film. The comments in our visitors dairy is also very encouraging. "Thank you for this lovely visit. Your presence to the agriculture world is very inspiring. May it radiate to all humankind". Benoit Aquin, a renowned award winning Canadian photographer.

Namma Farm Store
- To cater to the growing demands from visitors and participants attending our workshops, we have opened an informal ' Annadana Farm store' where we have a diverse farm products available from Bio pest control preparations, plant enzymes, vermi-compost, user friendly technical publications, films, memberships, sowing trays, gro bags to nurseries of vegetable saplings, rare insecticide and medicinal plants to educate new age gardeners on their valuable properties and more.

Safe Farming advisory services
- A well wisher has helped us in floating a private limited company to extend our expertise on organic agriculture.
If you wish to live in the luxury of your own farm and make your farm productive or commercial or your land may be lying vacant
but you do not know how to get started? Trust us, farming is no rocket science, if we can do it, you can too! Our expertise ranges from advising ethical corporates, private farms, resorts, hotels, government horticulture farms to International Institutions. Just call an Annadana expert who will offer you consultancy advice and help you getting started.

Safe Food outlets Broadcast
- To further strengthen the safe food movement, we have launched an exchange programme with safe food outlets where we invite and encourage safe food outlets to send in their A4 posters for display on our notice boards and vice versa. Since we have visitors galore, we would like them to have access to safe produce available close to their homes.  And thereby hope to bring harmony and well being to their homes.

Last but not the least, I thank all my dedicated team members, trustees, environmentalists, media and all our well wishers who are generously contributing to Annadana's efforts to make all this happen.

Come join us and spread the message of safe foods

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Ensure access to safe food, sign petition

Dear Friends,

You might have watched the last episode of Satyamev Jayate - “Toxic Food - Poison on our Plate” aired on 24 June 2012, Sunday, anchored by Bollywood icon, Aamir Khan, which highlighted how the food that we consume everyday is contaminated by dangerous pesticides. But what are you doing about it? “India for Safe Food“offers you a platform. Join us to urge the Union Agriculture Minister to ensure access to safe food, sign petition here:

The reality is that farming can indeed be done without pesticides and still can yield good results. “Non- Pesticide Management (NPM)” movement in Andhra Pradesh through which millions of farmers are moving out of the pesticides treadmill is a live testimony for the country to emulate. Further, thousands of organic/natural farmers across the country have been producing safe food in the country. All of these are win-win situations for both farmers and consumers.

For all of us to get access to safe food, there needs to be a drastic change in the way agriculture is practised. We have to get rid of dangerous chemicals from food production. But the government does not create a level playing field between chemical agriculture and alternative agriculture in terms of its investments on research or extension or other support systems/incentives in agriculture. Ask Union Agriculture Minister to change this situation and ensure access to safe food for all Indians. Sign the petition here.

Safe food is our right – let’s demand for it!

In solidarity,

Kavitha Kuruganti
India for Safe food

Monday, June 25, 2012

There's a Fish in my Tomato


Look closely at that tempting tomato, especially if you are vegetarian. Is it 100% tomato, or is there a fish gene lurking in its succulent, scarlet squashiness? What about that cob of corn? Is that a human or a jellyfish gene spliced into its crunchiness?
Makes you think twice, doesn’t it, about the food that you put in your mouth?
GM foods are more mainstream than you think, and if those aromatic displays of fruit and veg in your supermarket aren’t organic, you may want a closer look at their labels.

The Fish Tomato and other Marvels
The fish tomato, a genetically engineered marvel conjured up in the labs of biotech firm, DNA Plant Technology, never quite made it past its USDA field test. But many other genetically modified foods have. GM watchdog, the Institute for Responsible Technology,
provides a chilling list of GM-fortified foods that make it to the table of unsuspecting consumers:
"bread, cereal, peanut butter, pasta, ice cream, infant formula and commercial crops like sugar beets, zucchini, soy  and canola."

Frankenstein Foods
Despite the claims of Monsanto, Dow and other biotech companies that champion GM engineering, the inherent safety of so-called Frankenstein foods remain unproven, hinging on longterm studies that haven’t yet occurred. In fact, there is a growing body of proof to the contrary - reports on sterility, allergies, auto-immune diseases, eczema and epidemics among animals and some humans exposed to GM foods –  are not uncommon on Google and in your daily paper!
Together with irrefutable evidence that pesticide residues in food create havoc with our bodies, this information raises the worrying spectre that because of our diet, future generations will spring from a distinctly odd gene pool.
Sangita Sharma, Eco- Warrior 
In Bangalore, India, one woman decided that educating the public about toxic foods and campaigning against the GM industry wasn’t enough. In Jallahalli, on the outskirts of Bangalore, Sangita Sharma, a feisty organic farmer, is paving the way with innovative solutions to organic food production.
Sangita  runs Annadana, ( a verdant, self-contained farm, where her minimal but efficient team grows, harvests and conserves seeds in a seed bank that has become a lifeline to many small scale farmers.
At Annadana, Sangita practices and advocates low-cost, sustainable, organic farming techniques, aimed rural farmers and farming communities.
Farmers, Debt & Suicide
The harsh reality is that hybrid GM seeds are not self-sustaining. Traditionally, says Sangita, farmers who used to save seeds for their next crop cycle, are now are relying on subsidies, year after year, to purchase hybrid seeds from agribusiness giants such as Monsanto and the Swiss Syngenta. The backlash of this dependence  - rising debt and farmer suicides - has been explored in Frontline, a US documentary series, the award winning Indian film, Peepli Live (2010) and Mahesh Bhatt's 'Poison on the Platter' (2009).
But what does this dependence on GM seeds and subsidies really mean? To Sangita, it means:
“that farmers today are losing their age-old knowledge of seed saving techniques” .
So at Annadana, her mission is “to revive the ancient art and science of seed saving, restore the farmers' right to open pollinated heritage seeds and empower them to be debt-free.
How Annadana works  
In the seed gardens that dot Annadana’s five acres, Sangita and her team cultivate  traditional vegetable seeds - diverse varieties of corn, capsicum, brinjal, chillies, squash, lettuce, tomato  - and as well as field crops of ragi, paddy and wheat.
The team follow crop rotation cycles and traditional farming technology - such as raised vegetable beds (reframed every four years when they shrink), and net covered tunnels to prevent natural hybridisation between varieties.
Rainwater collected in five harvesting pits scattered around the farm and natural fertilizer mixed with rich, eroded topsoil, are used to nurture growth.
Natural pesticides made from biomass plants – neem and mango leaves, congress grass, cow manure, weeds and urine, among them – keep pests and vermin at bay.
Sangita follows the constellation cycle when sowing seeds - in traditional farming, the four elements of air, water, fire and earth influence the growth cycle of seed, flower, root, leaf and fruit – a process that "enhances taste to its fullest potential."
These simple, natural and inexpensive techniques, says Sangita, can easily be replicated in farming communities around the country and restore to farmers, an age-old tradition that was once theirs.
The Seed Bank
The farm sells and exchanges only seeds, and its produce is not for consumption. So once the seeds are harvested, they are processed, stored and packaged in an insulated, temperature controlled unit. The seeds are dried on mesh-covered wooden trays that provide both shade and ventilation. A warm oven is used to eliminate moisture and ensure both the longevity and viability of seeds.
Farmers have access to organic, open-pollinated vegetable seeds at a fraction of what it costs them in the open market.  Twenty to thirty thousand packets are distributed free of cost to nearby farmers. Sangita also takes her seeds to farming expositions across the country to introduce farmers to the possibitlity of low-cost, hybrid-free farming.
All you need  are a few pots
Sangita’s vision for eco-friendly farming includes more than just the farming community. She urges people to grow their own vegetables..”all you need are a few pots“ and organizes field trips to Annadana for local schools.  Children particpating in her farm trails project, "From Soil to Seed to Plate' refuse to leave: 
She is a passionate advocate of eco-friendly farming at corporate events, runs campaigns and takes her message to symposiums across the country.
It's an incredible achievement from someone without a background in science or agriculture; in fact in her previous avatar, Sangita worked in the media, and she clearly understands its power as a medium for her eco-farming message.
“Just try it, farming is not rocket science, if I can do it, so can you! ….my lessons are learnt from nature and time-tested farmers' wisdom.”
Annadana in Sanskrit means ‘the gift of food’ ....and Sangita’s seed bank does just that!
Useful links:

About Talking Cranes

Talking Cranes is a social site founded by Hyma Menath, based in the San Francisco bay area and Aneeta Madhavan, based in Oxford, UK to create an online space for women of South Asian heritage and people interested in a multicultural world. We were joined by Meera Kymal and Lakshmi Rao Sankar, both from New York. The four of us had a blast creating and shaping the site. We want to provide a platform to communicate ideas and share stories, ask questions and get support and mostly find humor in our everyday lives. So that's the "Talking" part of Talking Cranes.
And now for the Crane bit - there is something eloquent and beautiful about these large majestic graceful birds celebrated in myth and folklore. They are very communicative, form strong bonds and make caring parents. For us, cranes also represent wanderlust. Many of them migrate up to 3000 miles, and, in folklore, these birds of heaven are the only creatures that can traverse heaven, the earth and the underworld.
So join us and connect with this community of people interested in a multicultural world and share your stories and perspectives of the world through your unique point of view.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Memorable visit by students of Class 7
from Jain Heritage School

Ishana Farms witnessed a trail of 45 young enthusiastic minds belonging to class of 7 from Jain Heritage School(JHS). This is was thanks to the efforts of Sudhir and Namrata Mahajan.
Several schools have visited in the past but this by far was the most energized and gratifying experience. Even the two teachers with farm backgrounds went down memory lane to share their experiences in their villages back home. At each juncture of the trail, it revoked a nostalgia on how agriculture was practiced at Ishana farms was the same in the villages once upon a time but no longer done now! Which is the sad truth.

Taking you back to the trail -  Students were first introduced by coming 'face to face' with the producer of their foods ' Farmers'. The students were split into 4 batches of 15 each with a Annadana farm educator to guide them through the journey of the seed to the plate.  The interest to understand and learn every aspect of integrated farming was joyful. To keep children captive and attentive is one thing but the inertia that came from within these students and the values imparted by the school and parents must be complimented.

Most student visits in the past to the compost, biogas, bio digestor yard are seen with such averse reaction to just the smell and profanities galore of disgust.
But students from JHS participated in all our activities by touch and feel be it the earthworms, cow dung, manure or compost without reacting to the smell. They handled each aspect with a finesse like no other. So refreshing.

Students excitement knew no bounds with the ' Vow and oh look at that" to the vast vegetable diversity captured when presented to them. Questions galore were shot out ...why cannot we see this diversity in the supermarkets? We then showed them a short crisp film on the Immortal burger and what junk foods does to their bodies. Their disgust was evident with the most impressive reaction of "Oh No, No more!".  We explained the food they ate now was devoid of this rich diversity and nutrients which is why disease was so rampant. A vow was then taken that should they pass by junk food places they will refrain from entering such places. A loud NO to junk foods still resonates in my ears. Absolutely heartening.

Now these young green guardians after the farm trail indulged in fresh hibiscus lime juice and cheered at the thought that they were actually drinking nectar of nature. They then watched the most thought provoking potent documentary film 'Poison on the Platter' and were horrified that this biodiversity was under threat from genetic modification. So they wished to go a step further and asked us how they could help in safeguarding biodiversity. So we in turn wished to know  ' how many would take the responsibility in conserving one variety and partake in 'save a seed to save a species' campaign? The answer in a animated unison was a "YES"   We then circulated " Adopt a seed" fliers with seed saving tips along a few heritage seeds of two varieties of tomatoes and brinjals. Boy oh boy...silence prevailed whilst they lapped up all the information and their queries answered. They then decided that they would faithfully sow the seeds and contribute back to our seed bank.  The intention to just do this was in itself encouraging.

A hungry bunch who now deserved food was packed and brought along to be served by Mr Raajkumar and team, was simple yet wholesome. He kept all students in check, cautioning them to not litter Ishana Farms. True to his word, when they left there was not a single plastic not a plate or food that was dropped nor wasted. We were most delighted to see discipline.  We thank Mr Raajkumar's conscious ways.  
With each effort to alert and educate students makes me realise that all our efforts in sowing seeds of consciousness over the years is well worth our while. You may view our face book link on Jain Heritage School's visit....

We hope to see educate many more students this season... our trails and teams are all set. Join us.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Wish to start and run your own organic farm? Fear not we are here. Following the pouring requests and demands, we continue with much vigor to conduct our organic farm workshops at our knowledge farm 'Ishana' in Bangalore.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

This change from 'My right to safe food' to 'Our right to safe food' has long been over due. The contamination in our food chain leaves me in despair when almost every home has an invasion of a life threatening disease. We need you to stand with us as we defend our food chain from disease through repeated assaults.

Here at Annadana, we continue in our endeavors to focus on workshops, consultancy and lobbying so that people from all walks of life are educated on the issues of safe food and sustainable farming. We need your help to keep our children safe, healthy and inherit an earth that is pristine and clean. We need your hands to support us in our quest for a fairer world.

You can help in any one or more of these ways –

Ishana Farm Trails – Take a break from the urban jungle and come visit our farm. Discover the pleasures of feeling the moist soil beneath your bare feet, the smell of fresh rural air and the sounds of a working farm. You can even lend a hand on the farm if you wish – a fantastic educational experience for all ages – kids as well as their grandparents! For further details and bookings, please email us at or call 08277116606, 080 23254400 .
Please view link -  "" \t "

Soil to Seed to Plate
– Not quite confident of growing your own veggies? Fear not…Annadana to the rescue! For a small charge, we will help you grow your own fruit and veg at home – regardless of whether your kitchen garden is one window sill, a few pots in the balcony or a lovely large patch in the back garden. You will even get a starter pack to help you in the path to food independence. Call
08277116606, 080 23254400 for further details.

 The Seed membership - Gift a membership to a friend, family or loved one – after all, the gift of a seed is the gift of a life. We have various membership packages with bio-diversity gift packs and information that will allow you to become a bio-diverse farmer yourself! Your membership will go towards supporting our committed farmers and preserving our seed heritage. Please view our website

 GYO veggies
– Grow Your Own pesticide free fruit and veg – straight from your garden onto your plate. Please download Annadana Seed Catalogue 2012 from our website which offers a diverse collection of heritage organic vegetable seeds. Select what you want to grow, fill up the seed selection form and send it to us at :"  Simple!

 Safe Farming advisory services
- Wish to live in the luxury of your own farm and make it productive. Your land may be lying vacant but you do not know how to get started? Trust us, farming is no rocket science, if we can do it so can you!  Our expertise ranges from advising private farms, resorts, hotels, government horticulture farms, botanical gardens to International Institutions to suit any agro -climatic zone. We take an integrated holistic approach as Soil and Seeds are sacred to us. Our qualified team and farmer teachers are armed with experience and knowledge.  Just call an Annadana farm expert who will offer you a consultancy advice and help you getting started. For further details  -write to or call
08277116606, 080 23254400

Come join us to celebrate the greatness of food, its emergence out of the vital essences of the earth and its intimate connection with all life.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Neotame: Artificial Sweeter kills faster than Aspartame

One of the more recent toxic additions to our food supply is the artificial sweetener called Neotame.

In the European Union, where it was approved as a flavour enhancer as of November 2010, it is known by its “E number,” E961.

Made by NutraSweet (a former division of Monsanto and the original manufacturer of aspartame), neotame is 13,000 times sweeter than table sugar, and about 30 times sweeter than aspartame.

It’s based on the aspartame formula—despite the fact that 80 percent of all FDA complaints pertain to adverse reactions from aspartame.

Neotame is essentially aspartame plus 3,3-dimethylbutyl--the presence of which ends up reducing the production of phenylalanine, which allegedly makes it safe for those suffering from phenylketonuria (PKU).

Neotame, which is based on the aspartame formula, is 13,000 times sweeter than table sugar and about 30 times sweeter than aspartame. It’s approved for use in a wide array of food products, including baked goods. However, contrary to internet rumours, neotame is not allowed in organic foods

Neotame is essentially aspartame plus 3,3-dimethylbutyl, which blocks production of phenylalanine, thereby eliminating the need for a warning on labels directed at people who cannot properly metabolize phenylalanine. 3,3-Dimethylbutyraldehyde is a highly flammable irritant, and carries risk statements for handling including irritating to skin, eyes and respiratory system

Neotame is used as a substitute for molasses in cattle feed. The product is marketed as “Sweetos” in India, and according to a press release, cattle consume more fodder when mixed with Sweetos—a statement that effectively bursts the myth that artificial sweeteners like neotame are excellent diet aids

(Hence neotame does not need to bear a PKU warning label like aspartame.)

Unfortunately, it may actually be an even more potent and dangerous neurotoxin, immunotoxin and excitotoxin than aspartame.

Proponents of neotame claim that increased toxicity is of no concern because less of it is needed to achieve the desired effect.

Still, Monsanto's own pre-approval studies of neotame revealed adverse reactions, and there were no independent studies that found neotame to be safe.

That said, my recommendation for neotame is similar to that for aspartame, which is: avoid it at all costs if you care about your health. Neotame is like aspartame on steroids, so while you want to avoid both, neotame appears to be more toxic. One way of avoiding all artificial sweeteners is to purchase foods bearing the USDA 100% Organic label. I don’t believe there’s any reason to suspect organic foods will contain neotame.

I’ve previously expounded on the many health dangers of aspartame, and all of those dangers apply equally to neotame. But as if aspartame wasn't bad enough, NutraSweet “improved" the aspartame formula by adding 3,3-dimethylbutyraldehyde, which blocks enzymes that break the peptide bond between aspartic acid and phenylalanine, thereby reducing the availability of phenylalanine. This eliminates the need for a warning on labels directed at people who cannot properly metabolize phenylalanine.

Neotame is also more stable at higher temperatures than aspartame, so it’s approved for use in a wider array of food products, including baked goods.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

'The Foundation for New Agriculture' taking roots

We ushered in the new year with an energised start that saw a gathering of 14 veteran natural farmers up at Patanjali Yog Peeth in Haridwar to discuss the potential of agriculture with a new dimension. Agriculture that is safe, sustainable, user friendly and affordable by marginal farmers.

I am truly delighted to share the highlights of this 4 day meet (1st - 5th Jan) with you.

The 'One small step towards chemical free agriculture' as Devinder coins it, is his brain child.( article below). For a long time now, it has been Devinder's mission to equip marginal farmers and release them from debts by linking like-minded green guardians on a common platform, help provide alternative safe farming practices. Hence, revolutionize the safe food movement, a dream now slowly manifesting not just for him but for all of us.

By educating and winning the trust of most spiritual leaders on food and trade issues, Devinder's concerns finds a voice to awaken and alert a vast devotee following. His perseverance is bound to bear fruition. His consistent proactive advice and interactions with Swami Ramdev, the yoga guru whose unceasing zeal since 2002 has been to educate the masses daily on a package of seven simple breathing exercises whose message to all, more so to young India, is to take charge of the mind, body and soul. In fact while at the deliberations, we were invited by Swami Ramdevji to partake in his yog session amidst 40,000 devotees. Most admirable, especially when you get to witness first hand a 100 Surya Namaskaars in record time of 4 mins! Whilst each one of were dazed, overwhelmed at his energy levels, it also unraveled how unfit we all were! Swamiji does not just advocate good health through yog but to indulge in safe foods and avail the benefits of Ayurveda to make it an integral part of one's life rather than to be at the mercy of hospitals.

To this effect, Swami Ramdevji wished to explore how safe sustainable agricultural practices could be brought into the forefront of National food security that starts at the grass roots. Hence, 14 best practitioners in this field were identified from across the country and then invited for a 4 day deliberation at Haridwar. We had the privilege of Swami Ramdevji's energised presence throughout these 4 days from 9am- 8.30pm!

I have yet to know of any spiritual leader who takes such deep interest and quality time out to understand the best practices presented by each one of our veteran farmers. My joy knew no bounds as i had the privilege and opportunity to present and share my farm learnings with Swami Ramdevji, Devinder and our humble agriculture gurus. This was aired live on Aastha channel. The genuine interest, the probing dilemmas, the crisis faced by our farmers, the solutions were dissected and tackled in earnest by Swami Ramdevji. Most inspiring to see his intensity during our presentations, the grave questions asked, jotting relevant points in his small black note pad, then summed it all up with much ease.

It did not just stop there. The most important issue that arose was how this would translate on the ground. Then came an action plan to execute three safe sustainable farm models in Hardiwar to start with, as seeing is believing! Prompt decisions were instantly taken by Swami Ramdevji and Acharya Balkrishanji to allocate land in Hardiwar for the 3 farm models. Suresh Desai a founding member of an Organic Farmers' Club with over 400 members in Belgaum District of Karnataka will design a model, Subhash Sharma- whose 32 acre farm in Yavatmal is flourishing, and has become a model for hundreds of other farmers will design the second one. And me and team Annadana the third one...on the traditional vegetable and cereal for the purpose of seed production, multiplication and conservation. Concurrently Team Annadana will also design a seed bank, one that is replicable.

Further, to strengthen our models, the back up ammunition of time tested knowledge and expertise arising from our team of Krishi Vigyaans or Krishi Rishi as Swami Ramdevji fondly calls us are Natbar Sarangiji who maintains 365 indigenous rice germplasm collection, Raghuvanjiji on 100's of varieties of indigenous wheat, Dr Surendar Dalal expertise has no bounds on insect and pest management, Dr Narayan Reddy on his wisdom of integrated farm practices, Rajbir Singh from All India Pingalwara Amritsar sharing his successful experience, Amarjit Singh Sharma from Faridkot who continues with vigor in producing and marketing safe crops in the most infested toxic bowl of Punjab, Shoor vir Singh from Uttar Pradesh whose knowledge on 95 varieties of weeds and their uses is just incredible, Ahir Mayan Hamir from Kutch with his expertise on groundnuts and castor and the young new age farmer Poorvi Vyas, with her research and development background so handy to document and aid each one us willingly and cheerfully.

Work has already commenced in the selected fields with best practices in soil fertility management being implemented. A team of reliable, enterprising points of contact co-ordinated by Vinod Kumar Birkhani, Uttarakhand open university, school of agriculture and Sanjay Khare, a dedicated sevak from Patanjali Peet Yog are monitoring this whilst we have come back to our respective destinations carrying forward the energy to our teams.

There is a buzz, an excitement, a challenge to plan and showcase low cost sustainable farm models and we hope to see this through in 2012.

An overwhelming response of interest and support continues to flow when Devinder Sharma's wrote about this on his facebook. Those interested to lend support may connect him on

One small step towards chemical-free agriculture
by Devinder Sharma
For quite sometime now there has been a silent resurgence in sustainable farming practices across the country. After the environmental destruction wrought by the chemical-based external input driven agriculture for almost four decades now, I find a large percentage of farmers trying whatever they can to salvage the situation. While on the one hand I can count a sizable number of progressive farmers in different parts of the country who discarded chemical-based farming system (and some of them were even awarded and honoured for achieving record yields) and opted for more sustainable farming practices, there is quite a significant proportion of the farming community which has moved away from the Green Revolution approach to farming.

Call it organic agriculture or natural farming or holistic farming or whatever variation you can think of, the fact remains that Low External Input-based Sustainable Agriculture (LEISA) is now being increasingly adopted. Innovative farmers are trying all kinds of permutations and combinations, and I am really amazed at the extent of wisdom our farmers carry. I am not going to list here the innovations being applied, but all I can say is that the mainline agricultural research system would certainly be the gainer if they were to move out of the 'lab-to-land' approach and follow the reverse mode of 'land-to-lab'.

For quite sometime I had wondered if I could ever bring some of these innovative leaders together on a platform and chart out a strategy to put this all together and spread it across the country in a mission mode. I am aware of the reluctance on the part of the agriculture universities as well as the policy makers to extend a helping hand. At the same time, I was also aware of the limitations that the civil society has. Although several groups/individuals are spearheading the silent movement in their own way, but given the monumental constraints that prevail, it isn't moving ahead at a pace I would have expected.

At my own level I had discussed the possibility of forming a consortium with like-minded groups/farmer organisations to spread sustainable farming practices far and wide and to even the remote corners but somehow it didn't work out. It was then that I met the Yoga Guru Swami Ramdev who is better known for the monumental role he has played in promoting healthy living through yoga. Healthy living is directly related to healthy food, which in turn is directly proportionate to cultivation of healthy crops. Over the period, we discussed the possibility of laying out sustainable farming models, where soil, water and food is not poisoned, and then preparing an outreach programme through regular training and learning exercises.

The New Year provided an opportunity. 14 well-known practitioners in sustainable farming methods assembled at Haridwar (at the foothills of the Himalayas) for deliberations which continued non-stop for 4 days. We would sit from 9 in the morning and the discussions would go on till 8.30 in the evening. Such was the intensity of deliberations and the commitment to the cause that even after dinner the participants would once again assemble for an informal round of discussions. Well, to cut the long story short, it has now been decided to layout three models of chemical-free farming, each catering to the requirement of farmers who farm in one acre, two acres and five acres. Once the farming system comes up in Haridwar, we would throw it open to farmers to adopt and improve upon depending upon their local conditions and requirements. This would simultaneously be followed with preparations for a nationwide training programme, which too would depend upon the need and the requirement of different regions.

The plots were selected, earmarked and soil preparations began the day the deliberations ended. Soil samples have been drawn, and we are now getting ready for the next step. Meanwhile, a week-by-week action plan has been laid out, and the package of practices to be immediately followed is also being worked out, and improved with each passing day. Soon after Swami Ramdev made public the initiative on Aastha TV channel, I have been deluged with requests and support from hundreds of people from across the country. Let us hope that this small initiative galvanises the country to move away from 'business as usual' in agriculture, and ends up promoting healthy farming. I am looking for the day when agriculture does not lead to suicides, does not push farmers into distress, and above all does not usurp the natural resources. The Haridwar initiative is a small step, and I am aware we have a long journey ahead. #