South Indian Farmers not satisfied with Seed Bill

Press Release

South Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements [SICCFM] Meeting on the Seed Bill, 30 June 2010

The South Indian Farmers Coordinating Committee (SICCFM) comprising of Karnataka Rajya Ryotha Sangha (KRRS), Uzhavar Ulaippalar Katchi, Thamizhaga Vivasayigal Sangam (TVS) and Kerela Coconut Farmers Association held an urgent meeting on the seed bill at the Indian Social Institute in Banglore on the 30th June 2010. The meeting was attended by eminent farmer’s leaders like Kodihalli Chandrashekhar, Nallagounder of Uzhavar Ulaippalar Katchi, Mr.Sadagopan – President of Uzhavar Periyakkam, Kannaiyan, Thamizhaga Vivasayigal Sangam( TVS) and eminent agriculture policy analyst Dr. Ramanjaneyalu.

This crucial seed bill will be discussed during the upcoming monsoon session of the Rajya Sabha and has the potential to change the face of Indian agriculture. This bill seeks to regulate the quality of seeds sold commercially in India – i.e. sold under brand names for profit. This bill was brought into being because of the changing face of the Indian seed
industry with many seed companies and technologies entering Indian agriculture like GMOs and hybrids -already some crops like cotton, maize and sunflower are totally controlled by very few companies. The bill aims among other things to ensure that Indian farmers receive quality seeds from companies and commercial seed sellers.

On the face of things this bill might seem like it is really great for farmers as it seeks to save them from spurious seeds, however in reality the SICCFM said that that bill lacks teeth and is letting companies off the hook as there is no control on seed prices – which is the major issue when it comes to company seeds. Also incase company seeds fail to perform then the act asks farmers to approach Consumer courts – this is a weak and unfeasible provision. There is no provision to control huge company royalties – letting seed companies have one of the highest profit margins compared to any other industry. State governments as well do not have powers to regulate these companies in their states due to the current weakness of the laws. In AP for example, the state government has been taken to court various times by seed companies on charges of harassment when the state government tried to regulate exorbitant prices, royalties and seed failures to protect their farmers.

The SICCFM made a few sharply focused amendment demands to this bill. They demand firstly that this bill needs to regulate not only the prices of seeds but also the royalties received by companies – currently 75% of some seed prices go as royalties to companies – probably the highest royalties in any industry. Kodihalli Chandrashekhar of KRRS said
that, “State governments must have powers under the act to regulate company seed prices otherwise companies will raise prices, monopolize seeds and exploit farmers and the food security and sovereignty of the country will be under threat.” Secondly SICCFM demanded that this bill needs much stronger infringement clauses – both compensation to
farmers as well as fines that are proportionate to value and volume of company sales. SICCFMF commented that Rs 30,000 is hardly a fine for a large company and that the state governments should have the power to impose fines. Nallagounder of TVS said that, “According to the bill farmers have to approach the consumer protection act for
compensation – this is hardly possible for a poor farmer with no legal knowledge or resources. Sharad Pawar has proposed an amendment to create a different compensation committee for compensation purposes but we demand that localized committee should be appointed by the state government in a manner which is easily approachable by the farmer and so that he can receive quick and reasonable compensation within a time frame
of 60 days.” Lastly they demanded that all imported seeds must be tested and produced on Indian soil. Imported seeds should prove their environmental and health safety according to Indian standards as well as match up to claims of performance made by companies.

Kannaiyan the convener of SICCFM said, “We will be meeting various political parties, Rajya Sabha MPs and state governments of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu and Kerela to make our demands before the monsoon session of the parliament starts and unless the farmers interests are not protected then this bill should not be passed in the parliament.”

For further details:
S.Kannaiyan – 09444989543.
Kodiahally Chandrasekar- 09844293908