The attack on agroecology -Sujatha Byravan
Powerful lobbies with vested interests see agroecology as a threat to their influence on farming systems
Agroecology is recognised worldwide as a system that enhances fertile landscapes, increases yields, restores soil health and biodiversity, promotes climate resilience and improves farmers’ well-being. Its practices are supported by many agricultural scientists, the Food and Agriculture Organization, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, farmers’ groups and several NGOs. It is therefore surprising that the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences, based on a brainstorming session that included industry representatives, sent a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi opposing Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF). ZBNF, developed and publicised by agro-scientist Subhash Palekar, has been adopted by Andhra Pradesh.
Threat to powerful elites
Farming in India, as in most other countries, is largely under the control of powerful lobbies with vested interests and connections to deep pockets. These include fossil fuel, fertilizer and seed companies as well as scientists with funding connections to agribusiness. These lobbies perceive large-scale transitions to agroecology as a substantial threat to their influence on farming systems. If India, a large developing country, shifts to sustainable farming methods, they would all have to look elsewhere for support. The battlelines are drawn and when natural farming, still a small player in the margins, starts to move towards the centre, shrill voices in opposition are likely to get louder.
In Britain, when public hearings were held in the early 2000s to discuss genetically modified (GM) crops, corporations threatened to pull grants from scientists on the committees if they voted against GM. When individual scientists in Europe and the University of California published articles describing how GM foods and crops affected the health of human beings and insects adversely, they were personally attacked and vilified. When glyphosate trials against Monsanto were recently decided in favour of litigants who accused the company of causing cancer, some voices called to have only scientists on such juries, thus opposing the central tenet of “a jury of one’s peers”.
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The Hindu, 25 September, 2019, https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/the-attack-on-agroecology/article29501822.ece?homepage=true