“Rural People are Hungry for Food System Change”

Press Release

October 16, 2020

Roots for Equity and the Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT) in collaboration with  People’s Coalition for Food Security (PCFS), Pesticide Action Network, Asia and  Pacific (PANAP) and Asian Peasant Coalition (APC) is marking the World Food Day as World Hunger Day on October 16, 2020. A webinar and protest has been organized in this regard in which small and landless peasants including PKMT members participated from different districts.

This event is part of a campaign, launched on the occasion of World Hunger Day, and titled “Rural People are Hungry for Food System Change”. It aims to promote a strategy for highlighting the toxic impacts of industrial chemical agriculture production systems and the acute need for food sovereignty and agro-ecology based food production systems. This year’s global campaign focuses on the plight of rural populations during the pandemic, and their demands for changes in the food and agricultural systems.

Tariq Mehmood, a member of PKMT, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, spoke on the situation of hunger, poverty and unemployment during the Covid19 pandemic, He said that the transnational mega agro-chemical corporations’ domination in the food and agriculture system around the world, their exploitation and destruction of biodiversity and natural habitats is a catalyst for Corona pandemic.

According to a report by the United Nations FAO (The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World), the epidemic could lead another 83 to 132 million people suffering from hunger by 2020, and if the current situation continues by 2030, 841.4 million people in the world will be hungry.

According to a member of PKMT Mohammad Zaman from Sahiwal, it is reported in the Pakistan Economic Survey 2019-20, the corona virus had a severe negative impact on the Pakistani economy and at least another 10 million people are feared to be pushed to living below the poverty line in Pakistan. The number could increase from 50 million presently to 60 million. In the Global Hunger Index, Pakistan ranks 106th out of 119 countries where consumption of meat, poultry, fish, milk, vegetables and fruits is six to 10 times lower than that of developed countries.

The worsening situation of hunger and poverty can be gauged from the statement of Sania Nishtar, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister for Poverty and Social Protection, that “almost half of the country’s population will be covered by the Ehsas Program.” The statement indicates that in Pakistan, where almost half of the population is employed in the agricultural sector, the current epidemic of rising hunger, poverty and unemployment has exacerbated the pervasive exploitation and brutality of this rotten food and agriculture system that is based extracting super-profits from the poorest segments of society.

Speaking on the global food and employment crisis, Wali Haider, of Roots for Equity said that rural populations around the world are already aware of these facts and now the food and employment crisis and growing hunger during the Corona virus pandemic has proved that the current system of food and agriculture, which is dominated by the big capitalist countries and their for profit companies, has failed.

This domination of the imperialist powers over the global food and agriculture system has linked the local rural economy, in third world countries like Pakistan, to the global agricultural market. This has resulted in the most important resources like our agricultural produce, our land and water have become a source of surplus profits for multinational corporations.

A clear example of this is the increasing production of sugarcane and other cash crops for the production and export of agro-fuels like ethanol, while the production of the most important food crops such as wheat is declining. This is one of the reasons for the rise in food prices and the consequent increase in hunger.

There is an urgent need to change the system where farmers are forced to depend on seeds, chemicals and toxic inputs of companies. These chemicals also pollute the entire food and agricultural system and destruction of the ecosystems and biodiversity.

In contrast, a sustainable food production system, agro-ecology, provides farmers with a strategy that protects not only their rights but also of other small food producers. Farmers’ right to land under agro ecology guarantees the establishment of collective and individual seed banks and their exchange. It also protects and promotes safe and natural systems of food and agriculture production ensuring food security of the most marginalized and vulnerable communities as well as safe nutritious food and environment for all.

Speaking on the women farmers’ rights Azra Sayeed of Roots for Equity said that the livestock and dairy sector accounts for 56% of the total agricultural production and the majority of farmers involved in milk and meat production are small scale. It consists of cattle breeders, especially women, who make it possible to produce 60 billion liters of milk annually in the country, but these same rural populations are starving themselves as a result of the monopoly of capitalist companies in the food and agriculture sector.

In the name of achieving so called standardization of milk, meat and other foods, corporations are paving a clear path to monopolizing the dairy and meat sector. This will only lead to further exacerbation of hunger and malnutrition in the country. It is important to note that according to the National Nutrition Survey 2018, 53% of children and 44.3% of women in the country are suffering from anemia.

Raja Mujeeb, a member of PKMT Sindh, referring to the small and landless peasants are most affected by the Covid19 epidemic, said that food producers have been forced to depend on poor quality seeds where the companies have established a monopoly and at the same time land is in the hands of feudal lords and increasing encroachment of capitalist systems of production and marketing.

If the farmers have control over all the productive resources including land and seeds, then our farmers, laborers, fishermen and the rural population can get food even in the face of the current pandemic or any kind of emergency. That is why PKMT believes that food sovereignty and self-sufficiency in food and agriculture based an end to feudalism through just and equitable land distribution among farmers and imperialist food policies is critical for a peaceful democratic sovereign state!

Released by: Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT) & Roots for Equity

Press Release in Urdu (PDF) 

PKMT Jazba Farmers’ Cooperative Awareness Program

PKMT Jazba Farmers’ Cooperative organized an awareness session program based on the Agroecology farming and sustainable agriculture on village level at different districts of Sindh, Punjab and KP. In Sindh district Tando Mohammad Khan, Shikarpur and Ghotki, in Punjab district Multan and in KP district Haripur and Lower Dir the session were organized.

The session begins with the introduction of the team and the farmers. The team asks different questions from the farmers like who cultivate the land and which sort of cultivation is going on nowadays?

 

The participants replied that nowadays, we are using artificial means of production, which had chemicals in it, and we use chemical fertilizer in cultivation. Different topics of production and consumption were discussed with the help of pictures.

Unhealthy Production: The participants were told about the unhealthy food production that how modern machinery and chemicals are introduced to increase the production for example, breeding of cows by using artificial means, increasing of milk and meat of animals, increasing chemical spray, fertilizer, use of hybrid seeds and genetically modified seeds. The participants agree that they use the chemicals and machinery which results increase in diseases and unemployment.

Unhealthy Consumption: The participants were told about the unhealthy food like big companies use artificial methods in the preparation of food and are enforced on us for example, Potato chips, burgers, pizzas and unbalanced diet. The participants said that the junk food made by the companies has no energy, the threat of diseases increases and the food is also expensive. Capitalism increases class system. The rich influence on poor just because of this system. The working class is deprived of basic needs of life like food and health; we should not use these things.

Healthy Production: The participants were shown opposite mechanical and artificial method of production. The natural and traditional ways of farming, which includes milking, traditional way of cultivating pure and healthy food. According to our history, we use traditional seeds and eat pure food and live in a clean environment for centuries. The capitalists now capture the markets enforced farmers and labors into poverty.

Healthy Consumption: The participants said that the food from companies are unhealthy, the bread, Saag (local spinach), Lassi, butter, pure ghee are healthy foods. We should promote our own things, which we get through natural means.

Poverty and hunger! Why ? The adopting of chemical methods and an increase in production, the participants said that hunger, poverty and unemployment is increasing day by day. Continue reading

PKMT Demands Land for the Landless!

Press Release

March 29, 2019

Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT) and Roots for Equity in collaboration with Asian Peasant Coalition, Pesticide Action Network, Asia Pacific and International Women’s Alliance commemorated the International Day of the Landless, which was marked by the slogan “We Will Take Back Our Land, Our Future!” Globally, the Day of the Landless highlights the struggle of the landless farmers for genuine land reforms and food sovereignty, where they are being evicted from lands that had been tilled for many generations by their ancestors. It is in this context that the many protests and demonstrations have been planned in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, India, Mongolia, Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia among others Asian countries.

PKMT carried out press conferences at the Peshawar, Multan Press Clubs and a protest rally in Ghotki against the landlessness of farmers, as well as countrywide happenings of land grabs and in the name of foreign investments and development projects.

According to the PKMT National Coordinator Altaf Hussain stated that from 2000 till now, transnational corporations worldwide have land grabbed more than 50 million hectares of land through 1,591 agreements. Further, 200 more negotiations are in ongoing for acquiring 20 million hectares. No doubt, rich capitalist countries along with their imperialist institutions such as the World Bank, the IMF and the WTO have wrought changes in policies which has allowed the massive push in land grab, drowning the farmers in debt and deprivation, all methods which give transnational corporations control over production and markets.

According to the Raja Mujeeb, Secretary General Asian Peasant Coalition, imperialist corporate agriculture is here to plunder our lands, take away our livelihood and poison our lands. No doubt, most of the land deals are being carried out to in countries like Pakistan that are rich in natural resources. It is draconian that only 8% of these land deals are exclusively for food production and 60% of this is for export. Further, most of these land deals, around 70%, are reserved for agro-fuel production – industry bound oil seed production of oil palm, jathropa, corn, wheat, and sugar. This push for agro-fuel is fulfilling the needs of the rich capitalist countries. In the past few years, China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) initiative has further accelerated land grab, and China is now second to the US, in the number of concluded transnational land acquisitions. In Africa alone, land acquired by Chinese companies range from 240,000 to 6 million hectares.

According to the KPK Provincial Coordinator, Fayyaz Ahmad after leasing an additional 1,000 acres of land in Haripur for a special economic zone, and eviction of farmers from their land for building the Northern Bypass, Peshawar, the next target for investors seems to be Palai in Malakand, a green belt famous for its farmlands and orange orchards. The government of KPK is planning to build a cement factory in the area and has imposed Section 4 for acquiring 400 acres of land. The critical importance of this land for the local communities and its fertility can be gauged by government figures which state that Palai has 171,000 fruit trees which are not only a source of livelihood and food security for the local communities but also critical for the environment; all this happening in a country which is in the frontline of vulnerable countries from climate change impacts. Similarly, for the construction of the Swat Expressway precious agricultural land of local farmers has been acquired for pittance, and on top of that farmers are facing delay in payments for the land.

According to PKMT Sindh Provincial Coordinator Ali Nawaz Jalbani, small and landless farmers were facing exploitation and deprivation because of the unjust distribution of land, corporate agriculture, and the imperialist neoliberal policies inflicted on the command of capitalist countries. At the same time, feudalism is not only forcing misery on the landless farmers but the women face further discrimination based on their gender. They are forced to work under scorching heat for harvesting crops such as wheat and cotton; Hindu are forced to bear not only the oppressive feudal mechanisms but also face further discrimination based on religion. According to Mir Babal, a youth PKMT member from Ghotki, various development projects for energy and infrastructure under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor agreement has resulted in land grab in the area for a number of years.

It was pointed out that in Sanghar, a district where the landless facing acute exploitation with a very high percentage of the population suffering from malnutrition, the government under different guises was taking back land that had been distributed to landless farmers in 2004. The much higher percentage of children suffering from malnutrition in this district was proof of the impact of the industrial agricultural production, which takes its toll on impoverished farmer communities. The Sindh government in many districts of the province for the past many decades has been evicting small farmers. On the other hand, farmers have been forcefully evicted from centuries old villages so that big property dealers and investors, who are well known to have acquired land illegally, are given further opportunities for land grabbing.

PKMT Provincial Coordinator Maqsood Ahmed stated that the government of Punjab after leasing 6,500 acres of land for growing high yielding seeds to foreign corporation in Punjab has recently adopted a policy for leasing state land to national and foreign corporations. The Punjab government has provided state forestland to the corporate sector for planting commercial forests. In South Punjab, proposals by investors for developing commercial forests on 99,077 acres of land have been approved. On the other hand, the same Punjab government in district Rajanpur, South Punjab is bent on displacing small farmers from an area called Rakh Azmat Wala, where the farmers have lived for more than a century.

PKMT demands that development project across the country including those for special economic zones as well as land lease to investors should be stopped. In addition, the role of international corporate sector in agriculture should be eliminated, the ever-increasing allotment of land to the corporate sector should be stopped and instead just and equitable distribution of land to small and landless farmers should be carried out immediately.

Urdu Press Release

Released by Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek/PKMT

News Coverage;

https://www.dawn.com/news/1472729

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/450888-distribution-of-agri-lands-among-landless-farmers-urged

Say no to GM maize

March 01, 2019

Zubeida Mustafa

THERE is bad news and there is good news for our environmentalists, agriculturalists, healthcare givers and all those who care for the welfare of Pakistan. First, the bad news.

In January, the Prime Minister’s Office announced that Cargill, the global food and agricultural producer with an annual revenue of $114.6 billion (2018), will be investing $200 million in Pakistan in the next two to five years. This announcement came after two top-ranking executives of Cargill met Prime Minister Imran Khan. It seemed innocuous, at least to people who know little about biotechnology giants.

One of them, Monsanto (now merged with Bayer), fathered the genetically modified organism (GMO) in 1983 which did terrible damage to numerous crops and farmers all over the world. As a result, we saw a spate of high-profile lawsuits in which the company admitted to having bribed officials abroad. At least 35 countries have now banned GMOs.

Obviously our political leadership is not well informed on such matters, nor is transparency its forte. Hence the Cargill heads’ meeting with the prime minister and their offer to create a huge number of jobs in Pakistan raised no scepticism in government circles.

Our experience with GM cotton has been disastrous.

But mercifully the Ministry of National Food Security & Research still has men of integrity and knowledge at its helm. It appears they have resisted this move. That has now prompted the American Business Council of Pakistan (representing 64 companies), a leading foreign investors’ group, to seek the prime minister’s help “to allow commercial cultivation of GM maize”. These American companies want the “obstacles” removed that are preventing them from implementing their controversial plans.

The good news is that the Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek has issued a press release titled ‘Peasants Declare “NO TO GM MAIZE!”’ The party has categorically supported the ministry’s refusal to grant approval to genetically modified maize in Pakistan. The PKMT’s own position on GMOs and the seed companies has been clear for over a decade: they violate farmers’ collective rights to seed and will pauperise the small and landless tillers of the soil.

The Seed Association of Pakistan has also “sternly opposed” any commercialisation of GM maize in Pakistan. Civil society is also gearing up to resist any such move which will have a devastating effect on food security as well as agriculture. BT cotton should come as a lesson — that is, if we are willing to learn. Introducing BT cotton proved to be easy sailing in 2010. There was hardly any resistance from those in authority.

The Seed Law was changed by the National Assembly in 2015 to accommodate the seed multinationals. This was done at the behest of the US in spite of the fact that the 18th Amendment was in place and a courageous lawyer, Ahmad Rafay Alam, went to court on behalf of the Kissan Board to challenge its legality as well as the safety of BT cotton. The case has still to be decided.

BT cotton — Monsanto’s GM pet project — has proved to be a disaster for the country. Since its debut in Pakistan — by virtue of seeds smuggled from India in 2005 and later sanctioned by the government in 2010, cotton production has been falling. The figures cited have varied from source to source. It has of late been in the range of 10.5m and 11.5m bales. In 2004, cotton production stood at a record high of 14.1m bales (of 170kg each). Contrary to the government’s claim, the All Pakistan Textile Mills Association says the weight of the bales is now 160kg each.

For years cotton production has failed to meet the target set by the government. This has adversely affected the national economy as cotton is the major element in the textile sector, the mainstay of Pakistan’s exports. BT cotton has also introduced new bugs in the cotton fields requiring greater use of pesticides, produced as can be expected by the biotech companies themselves. With Monsanto monopolising the seed market, nearly 88pc of the area under cotton cultivation is BT. The yield per acre has also fallen. All this adds to the cost of the inputs, causing farmers to switch to other crops.

It is horrifying to think of what the impact would be if maize, which is a thriving crop at present, is handed over to producers of GM maize. Has GM maize been thoroughly tested in our soil and climatic conditions? Without extensive research we cannot assess its impact on human health. We cannot afford to risk a rise in the prevalence of deadly diseases; the pesticide Roundup, which is required to be used, has been declared carcinogenic by WHO. This should be reason enough for the government to resist pressures from the biotech multinationals which are out to destroy our economy.

Let us learn from our own sordid experience of GMO cotton. Let sanity prevail. Besides, we cannot allow our peasantry to be destroyed. It is the backbone of our agriculture.

www.zubeidamustafa.com

Published in Dawn, March 1st, 2019

https://www.dawn.com/news/1466871

Petitioner’s arguments concluded in Farmer’s Rights case

Press Release

Lahore, 21 February 2019: A Full Bench of the Lahore High Court heard arguments by Petitioners challenging the Seed (Amendment) Act, 2015 and the Plant Breeder’s Rights Act, 2016.

Advocate Sheraz Zaka, appearing on behalf of the NGO One-World, submitted that these laws were passed at the behest of multinational seed and GMO companies and were against the interests of farmers in Pakistan. He pointed out how these law prohibit the storage and sharing of seeds, which has been a fundamental feature of agriculture since the dawn of civilization. The new laws would require farmers and seed companies to register new verities with the Intellectual Property Organization in Islamabad.

Advocate Ahmad Rafay Alam appearing for NGO Sojhla for Social Change argued the Plant Breeder’s Rights Act, 2016 could not have been passed by Parliament as it was a provincial subject. He pointed out the province of Punjab had taken measures to draft the Punjab Seed (Amendment) Bill and Punjab Farmer’s Rights Bill, and that the laws passed by Parliament usurped the powers of the provinces.  The laws passed by Parliament, it was submitted, failed to recognize Pakistan’s international obligations to protect Farmers’ Rights and also usurped provincial jurisdiction.  The petition filed by Sojhla for Social Change is supported by the Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek.

A representative appearing on behalf of the Federation of Pakistan submitted the Seed (Amendment) Act, 2015 and Plant Breeder’s Rights Act, 2016 were passed keeping in view advancements in technology and the needs of seed dealers.

After hearing arguments, the Full Bench adjourned the hearing of the matter to 26 February 2019 for arguments by the Federation of Pakistan.

Peasants declare “NO TO GM MAIZE!”

Press Release

February 13, 2019

There has been news in print media, which indicates that the Ministry of National Food Security & Research has distanced itself from going ahead with approval of genetically modified maize in Pakistan; the first indication was the cancellation of Variety Evaluation Committee (VEC) by PARC, where it was expected that approval of commercial farming of GM corn varieties, developed by multinational seed companies may be granted.
Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek (PKMT) fully support the Ministry’s position, and reiterate their demand for a moratorium on genetically modified seeds and foods in the country. PKMT has opposed the introduction of genetically modified seeds in the country for the past decade as it violates farmers’ collective rights to seed. It needs to be recalled that granting of patent rights to mega-transnational corporations springs from the TRIPs agreement of the WTO.

The stand against GMOs by peasant organizations and activists globally and of course in Pakistan since inception of the WTO have shown ample proof of their soundness. The recent lawsuit against Monsanto won by a USA citizen suffering from cancer due to the company’s herbicide Roundup Ready clearly shows the critical health hazard to Pakistani famers who will be forced to use the herbicide along with GM seeds. In India, Monsanto’s Bt Cotton has shown to fail drastically; and the story is no different in Pakistan. Farmers are extremely unhappy with Bt Cotton, and the rapidly falling cotton yield is a testimony to the fact. Now, after BT Cotton failure, the company wants the maize seed market. There is no doubt that the company for past many years has been lobbying for commercial use of GM maize; if approved GM maize will be even worse than Bt Cotton since it cross pollinates and will rapidly destroy the local maize seed varieties. Pakistan’s per hectare production of maize was already showing an upward trend that is already ahead of many countries that are using genetically modified maize.

The coming years will show that our farmers will be totally dependent on extremely expensive GM maize seeds as is the case for cotton. It should be noted that we are allowing corporate control in our food crops; further it is well known that maize is used for ethanol production as well for commercial purposes in synthetic biology. All of this will exacerbate the extremely dire situation of hunger, malnutrition and environmental catastrophe, not to mention the increasing pauperization of small and landless farmers.

Press Conference was addressed by PKMT National Coordinator Altaf Hussain, Provincial Coordinator KPK, Fayaz Ahmad and senior member Zahoor Joya, Tariq Mahmood, and Asif Khan.

Release by: Pakistan Kissan Mazdoor Tehreek/PKMT

Urdu Press Release

Urdu Press Release GM Maize