Drawing Women’s Agenda for BRICS

The BRICS Summit is scheduled to be held in Goa on October 15-16, 2016. The stated theme for the Summit is Building Responsive Inclusive and Collective Solutions. Civil society activists and women’s collectives such as the 30 year old Bailancho Saad in Goa1, realised that women and women’s issues are conspicuous by their absence in the BRICS Summit  agenda. So how is it Inclusive and Collective?  Bailancho Saad decided to lead the effort to draw up a women’s agenda for BRICS. To celebrate 30 years of its formation the Collective organised a vibrant celebration on October 12th in Goa. The celebrations included a sharing of experiences by women activists from various national and international civil society groups as part of “Drawing Women’s Agenda for BRICS”.

Food Sovereignty Alliance, India was invited to join in the celebrations and participate in drawing up this agenda. Others who shared their experiences included activists from the Transnational Institute (TNI) (Dorothy-Grace M. Guerrero and Brid Brennan), Stop Wall Outreach, Palestine (Maran S K), Goa Foundation (Norma Alvares), Domestic Workers Forum, Goa (Sister Escaline) and Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (Albertina Almeida) participated in the discussion.

The various speakers pointed out that the BRICS does not provide any alternative to the hegemony of the dominant countries of the global north and the corporations that are increasingly shaping international treaties and agreements to gain greater control of our lives, livelihoods and food systems.

Drawing from its struggles for seed and food sovereignty, FSA drew attention to the fact  that one of the most profound impacts of climate change is on our food and farming and seeds are central to our food systems.  It emphasized the centrality of women’s role in seed sovereignty and pointed out that while the industrial seed business is being built on women’s knowledge and their labour it is alienating this very same knowledge, exploiting their labour and reinforcing patriarchy. FSA also expressed that any alternative strategy to the dominant system must reject the increasing privatisation of knowledge, resources and life. Unless the strategy rejects the status quo of corporate hegemony and is aimed at being transformative through a collective, commons approach it is impossible to ensure a more equitable and just world.

While sharing their experiences the various speakers reiterated that the alternative must resist corporate hegemony and demand policies and legal mechanisms to protect the land, water and biodiversity which is the basis of the lives and livelihoods of communities. They urged that social movements in the BRICS countries must fight against corporate impunity in their own countries since it is corporations from the BRICS countries that are grabbing land, polluting water resources, destroying biodiversity and the livelihoods of communities who have no recourse to this domination. The need for a collective effort in solidarity with each other was expressed strongly whether it is women domestic workers, farmers, fishworkers and others whose resources and knowledge are under threat by corporatiions and private interests.

1Bailancho Saad, a non-funded women’s collective in Goa celebrated its 30th anniversary on October 12th, 2016. The collective was started in 1986 by a small group of women to resist all forms and symbols of patriarchy. Bailancho Saad is a non-registered body and has a non-hierarchical structure since its founding members viewed hierarchical processes as contradictory to the organisation’s values of working “towards equality through collective functioning”. (Fore more on Bailancho Saad see: http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/2722/15/15_chapter%206.pdf)

In Condemnation of Telangana Government’s Move on Conduct of GM Crop Field Trials

On October 27, 2015, the Telangana Government issued a Government Order 496 for the conduct of GM crop field trials. The GO titled Conduct of GM crop field trails- No Objection Certificate (NOC) from State Government –Constitution of a New Committee states that Bio-technology has become an important source of crop improvement and BT research is progressing at an accelerated pace not only all over the world but requires encouragement in the State of Telangana also.” Telangana now joins eight other States (Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Delhi, Rajasthan and Karnataka) where approvals for field trials for food and cash crops have been provided by the State Governments.

This move by the Telangana Government completely disregards the strong caution sounded by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture (August 2012) and the Technical Expert Committee appointed by the Supreme Court (June 2013).

The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture in its report strongly recommended:

In case of transgenics in agriculture crops in India, the experience of last decade has conclusively shown that while it has extensively benefitted the industry, as far as the lot of poor farmers is concerned, even the trickle down is not visible.

The Committee, therefore, unanimously recommend that till all the concerns voiced in this Report are fully addressed and decisive action is taken by the Government with utmost promptitude, to put in place all regulatory, monitoring, oversight, surveillance and other structures, further research and development on transgenics in agricultural crops should only be done in strict containment and field trials under any garb should be discontinued forthwith.

The Technical Expert Committee appointed by the Supreme Court echoed similar concerns in its Report:

Based on the deliberations of the TEC and particularly the examination/study of the safety dossiers, it is apparent that there are major gaps in the regulatory system. These need to be addressed before issues related to tests can be meaningfully considered. Till such time it would not be advisable to conduct more field trials.

A single committee such as the GEAC or RCGM doing all the evaluation is not sufficient.

Today, based on approval from only GEAC, the Telangana Government has issued this GO.

The Food Sovereignty Alliance strongly condemns this action by the Telangana Government: an action that will further and strengthen the corporate control over agriculture and food production, erode diverse, resilient local agroecologically based food systems and result in an irreversible impact on the ecological integrity of our natural systems.

Killing Fields………..Where is the Justice?

In State after State in the country small farmers are committing suicide. The country is in deep agrarian crises. Mainstream media, print and television, politicians and other commentators cannot seem to tear themselves away from the soap-operaish news to even comment on this issue. In the midst of this “Neroesque” situation (Emperor Nero played the flute while Rome burnt) the Frontline magazine has found the issue important enough to present an in-depth analysis and reportage of the crises in various States across the country.

As part of the report on the situation in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, the September 4, 2015 issue of the Frontline has quoted the FSA. In its Matthadiguda Declaration signed at the Telangana Food Sovereignty Summit in February 2015 the FSA had alerted citizens to the rapid supermarketisation and corporate takeover of food systems stating that ……”These markets that offer ‘cheap food’ cover up a reality of massive injustice [to farmers] and hidden subsidies to multinational corporations.…..Read More