Bangalore/Delhi, October 24, 2010: The pan-Indian bus tour by Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture (ASHA) called Kisan Swaraj Yatra, for the cause of “Food, Farmers & Freedom”, reached Bangalore today after spending three days in Karnataka, reaching out to thousands of citizens. Joining the Organic Market in Lalbagh this morning, the Yatra urged urban consumers in Karnataka to support the cause of ecological farming, both to bring our anna daatas out of their crisis and also to ensure that safe food is available for all.

“We have had a tremendous response from farmers all over the state so far; there is a near-unanimous understanding around how the corporate stranglehold over current-day farming is making agriculture unviable and eroding our resources. The Karnataka government has to immediately step up its efforts in promoting ecological farming in the state and set an example for other states to follow. There should be greater efforts to conserve seed diversity, to build capabilities of farmer-breeders and to promote agro-diversity in situ across the state”, said Krishna Prasad of Sahaja Samruddha.

Speaking to media representatives at Institute of Agricultural Technologists (IAT), Kodihalli Chandrasekhar, President, Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha said, “We want the government to immediately scrap any agreements with corporations like Monsanto like Project Sahyog and so on since it is apparent from evidence that these corporations are interested only in profiteering at the expense of farmers. We also want the government to direct the State Agriculture Universities to immediately stop any GM crop trials as this would be against the organic farming policies being pursued by the government. The USAID-supported Bt Brinjal development project should be immediately cancelled since there is no need for Bt Brinjal, which carries different hazards with it and most importantly, this project is being used for appropriation of farmers’ resources. Since native varieties like Mattu Gulla have been conferred with legal recognition under GI Act, it is imperative on the government to step in at least now and scrap the Bt Brinjal development in the state. We also want the state government to take a pro-active role in Central legislations like Seeds Bill and Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) Bill so that farmers’ interests are protected”.

Presenting data compiled from official records on the past several years of Bt Cotton cultivation in the state of Karnataka, Kavitha Kuruganti of Kheti Virasat Mission pointed out that it is quite apparent that Bt Cotton has not lived up to its claims or promises. “Data obtained from the Directorate of Agriculture’s records shows that cotton yields have been fluctuating quite a bit in the top five cotton-growing districts of the state, in the past few years after the advent of Bt Cotton, belying claims of runaway success of Bt Cotton. More importantly, pesticide usage including specifically insecticide usage in cotton has actually been going up in the recent past even though Bt Cotton has spread rapidly in the state. This brings to question the very rationale for bringing in this technology. Thirdly, official records acknowledge the surfacing of newer pests like Mirid Bug in Bt Cotton which is causing economic losses too in districts like Haveri. Further, cost of production per quintal of cotton has been showing an erratic trend too, which clearly demonstrates that the costs for farmers have not come down. This should be a good lesson to the government and farmers not to believe in the hype around GM technology”, she said.

A brief review of Bt Cotton in the state from 2002 was released on the occasion. In the evening, Yatris hailing from Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chattisgarh, Delhi, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Orissa, Punjab and Tamil Nadu interacted with Bangaloreans explaining why the crisis of farming is a crisis of urban consumers too. “If we do not protect Indian farmers and support them to take up ecological farming, the control over our food and what we get to eat will end up in the hands of big corporations leaving us with very little choices”, said the organizers.

The Kisan Swaraj Yatra has so far traveled through Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Goa after setting off from Sabarmati Ashram on Gandhi Jayanti and would be traveling into Tamil Nadu from Bangalore. This 71-day tour across India is meant to put out a message of hope to farmers across the country, to draw in urban consumers into its fold to support ecological farming and to get the government to take up pro-farmer, pro-Nature steps in Indian farming. The Yatra will cover 20 states before it reaches Rajghat on December 11th 2010 where it will end.

In Karnataka, it drew support of government representatives, MPs, MLAs, technocrats and thousands of farmers all along its way in various stops like Dharwad, Haveri, Harihar, Davanagere, Chitradurga, Sira and Tumkur. Public rallies and bonfires of GM seeds marked the yatra’s visit to Karnataka in addition to seed diversity festivals all along.

For more information, contact:

Krishna Prasad, Sahaja Samruddha: 098-808-62058
Kodihalli Chandrasekhar, Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha: 098-442-93908
Kavitha Kuruganti, Kheti Virasat Mission: 09393001550

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