OTHERS

Campaign against use of chemical fertilisers launched

CHENNAI, NOV. 15. A cross-country campaign against use of chemical fertilisers, pesticides and genetically-engineered seeds, `Peoples Caravan 2000' organised jointly by the Pesticide Action Network - Asia and the Pacific (PANAP) and the Tamil Nadu Women's Forum was launched here on Tuesday.

Farmers, a majority of them women, had gathered from various parts of the State to participate in the Caravan which will go to Marakanam, Pondicherry, Sirkazhi, Pudukottai, Puliyur, Tiruchi, Ulundurpet, Tindivanam, Chengalpattu and Arakkonam, from November 14 to 17.

The message will be `citizens on the move for the land and food without poison'. Ms. Sarojini V. Rengam of PANAP, Malaysia said that the main aim of the Caravan is to build solidarity with the agricultural workers and women, to claim safer and sustainable food, right to land, right to decent livelihood and to safe food.

She said that the Caravan will also later pass through Bangladesh, Phillipines and Indonesia carrying the message of going towards organic cultivation. Condemning the `terminator' technology of rendering seeds sterile, she said that while 1.4 billion Asian farmers save seeds for each year, this ``dangerous'' technology will deny farmers their right to seeds.

Director of the Institute for Research in Soil Biology and Biotechnology, New College, Dr. Sultan Ahmed Ismail, compared the `Green Revolution' of the 1960s to a swelling on one hand. ``Since the swelling gave a shine to the skin, we thought it is beautiful. Little did we realise that it is caused by excess salt and less water''.

Taking this analogy further, he said that this had become the state of the soil. Though initially there was a rich harvest of healthy vegetables, the constant use of pesticides and fertilisers had rendered the soil salty and unfit for further use.

Prof. Inqulab of the New College said the aim of corporate agriculture was to sell fertilisers and seeds to farmers in developing countries, enabling to keep their own coffers filled. ``India has its own ancient technique of maintaining soil fertility,'' he said.

Dr. Romy Quijano of PANAP, Phillipines said that the people of Phillipines and India had the same struggle for land, food and safe environment. Leaf cups or `Donnais' with organically cultivated and germinated pulses and grains was distributed to the participants on the occasion.

A `Thappattam' dance performance by the Sakthi group at a programme in the city on Tuesday, to encourage farmers to adopt organic farming instead of using chemical fertilisers and pesticides.