From the Deccan Chronicle
Continuing violence of Green Revolution
by Dr Vandana Shiva
A farmer called Sidhalingappa Choori was killed on June 10 when police opened fire on hundreds of farmers waiting for fertilisers at the Agricultural Produce Marketing Cooperative Centre in Karnataka's Haveri district. This was an entirely unnecessary tragedy.
However, fertiliser protests are not just taking place in Karnataka. Similar incidents have also occurred in the Vidharbha and Marathwada regions of Maharashtra. First, the Green Revolution got the Indian farmers addicted to chemical fertiliser and now, globalisation is forcing them to depend on imports.
Chemical agriculture has created the need for almost 4.8 million tonnes of synthetic diammonium phosphate or DAP in the country. About 1.9 million tonnes are produced domestically. The rest — nearly 2.9 million tonnes — has to be imported. In 2000-01, though the country did import a small quantity of DAP, it did not need to import any urea. Since then, import dependency has increased dramatically.
With rising oil prices, prices of fertilisers are going up and so is the burden of subsidy. Imported fertiliser costs approximately Rs 55,000 to Rs 60,000 per tonne. At the same time it is sold at Rs 9,350 a tonne. Government subsidies make up for the gap of Rs 45,000 a tonne.
However, even at such high prices, fertilisers do not reach the farmers on time. This is at the root of the farmers' protests as also Sidhalingappa Choori's tragic death. Choori's death is one more aspect of what can be termed the "violence of the Green Revolution."
Farmers do not need to wait for chemical fertilisers. The government does not need to pour a trillion dollars into subsides. There is an alternative — ecological agriculture and organic manuring — which can ensure better crops and higher output at very low costs.
Humus is the secret of soil's fertility. As Sir Albert Howard describes it in his classic The Agricultural Testament, humus is "the name given to a complex residue of partly oxidised vegetable and animal matter together with the substances synthesised by the fungi and bacteria which break down these wastes. If the soil is deficient in humus, the volume of the pore space is reduced; aeration of the soil is impeded; there is insufficient organic matter for the soil population; the machinery of the soil runs down; supply of oxygen, water, and dissolved salts needed by the roots is reduced; the synthesis of carbohydrates and proteins in the leaves proceeds at a lower tempo; and finally, growth is affected."
Soil micro-organisms maintain soil structure, contribute to the bio-degradation of dead plants and animals, fix nitrogen and increase soil fertility. Their destruction by chemicals can threaten our own survival and food security.
When scientists in Denmark scooped up a cubic metre of earth from a beech forest and took it into their laboratory, they found 50,000 small earthworms, 50,000 insects and mites, and 12 million roundworms. A gram of the same soil contained 30,000 protozoa, 50,000 algae, 4,00,000 fungi and billions of individual bacteria of 5,000 unknown species. It is this amazing bio-diversity which maintains and rejuvenates soil fertility. For feeding humanity we need to feed the soil and its millions of workers including the earthworms.
Soil treated with farmyard manure have from two to two-and-a-half times as many earthworms as untreated soil. Farmyard manure encourages the growth of earthworms by increasing their food supply. Earthworms contribute to soil fertility by maintaining soil structure and breaking down organic matter and incorporating it into the soil. It is estimated that they also increase soil-air volume by upto 30 per cent.
Farmers who have not been brainwashed into believing that fertilisers are mandatory for soil fertility do not need to wait for the government to provide them with expensive fertilisers at subsidised rates. They can turn to soil organisms, which renew soil fertility for free.
Chemical fertilisers, on which the Green Revolution is based, need fossil fuels. One kilogram of nitrogen fertiliser requires energy equivalent of two litres of diesel. With oil getting costlier, synthetic fertilisers are getting costlier too.
Chemical fertilisers also account for 38 per cent of the greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture. Chemical fertilisers emit nitrogen oxide which is 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. These pollutants are the cause of climate change. Getting rid of chemical fertilisers is the single most significant step in reducing emissions and also for adapting to climate change. Organic manuring reduces emissions and increases adaption to climate change while also ensuring food security for the community and the country.
Farming can only be sustained on the basis of ecological renewal of soil fertility. It is, therefore, irresponsible of the World Bank to use the present food crisis to dump more chemical fertilisers on the Third World as it did at the Food Summit in Rome in June 2008. Like the addiction to oil, the addiction to synthetic fertilisers only benefits giant corporations. The same corporations, which sell high-cost fertilisers to farmers like Choori and buy low-priced commodities from them. And while buying low-priced commodities from farmers, the corporationg are also driving up food prices and fertiliser costs through speculation.
Food security needs freedom from giant corporations and their toxic products — chemicals and GMOs. This has become even more necessary in the context of the climate chaos.
Dr Vandana Shiva is the executive director of the Navdanya Trust