NEW DELHI: A common platform of several farmers groups, the Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements, has charged the Central government with complete lack of transparency on the implications of the proposed Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement or CEPA with Japan and the inclusion of agriculture on its agenda.
"Such EPAs, like other FTAs, go beyond what cannot be negotiated under the WTO and we are openly opposed to agriculture in the WTO, in EPAs or FTAs," the Committee has said in a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh , Commerce minsiter Anand Sharma and agriculture minister Sharad Pawar .
Demanding that the full text of the CEPA be discussed with State governments and debated in Parliament first, the Committee has also expressed apprehension that the CEPA could encroach on the rights of farmers as plant breeders and seed consumers as outlined in the PV&FR Act, 2001 (Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act of 2001). Japanese seed companies could gain stealthy entry into the already crisis-ridden Indian agriculture sector by way of the CEPA, it said.. .
Expressing surprise that the Centre had not bothered to consult or even inform states about the contours of the EPA with Japan and the possible impact on agriculture on account of it, the Committee has pointed out that agriculture is a state subject and expressed immense concern. "Such a centralising trend to fast track decision making on controversial issues like free trade, GMOs (genetically modified organisms) and agricultural research, issues that pertain to state governments, is a disturbing trend," the letter states.
Although the governmetn of India has agreed "in principle" to enter the EPA with Japan, farm organisations have dubbed this an "undemocratic underhand deal." demanding that the UPA government publicly disclose what agriculture-related and IPR (Intellectual Property Rights) provisions are being negotiated in the Indo Japan CEPA. Referring to reports on the CEPA, the Committee has pointed out tha t the "international standards" on new plant varieties that the two sides are apparently working on generally refer to UPOV standards.
"UPOV provides more protection to industrialised natioan seed corporations as opposed to developing country farmers. India has already taken a progressive step with its own Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act of 2001 and no new trade agreements should impinge on the rights of its farmers as plant breeders and seed consumers as enumerated in this Act," the letter to the PM emphasizes.
Japanese companies like Sakata, Taikii and Tokita Seeds already operate in India and apprehensions are that Japan’s obvious interest would be to protect the proftis of its corporations, even as other Japanese agri-related companies eye India’s agricultural market. "We therefore demand that the farmer’s right to save, re sow and exchange seeds are not compromised under any circumstance, but that our own seeds be given the space and priority they warrant," the letter states.
The Committee has not only demanded making the text of the CEPA agreement public, but also a study of the impact on key constituents by the government, pro active consultation with State governments to reach a consensus and consultations with stakeholders including farmers, fishworkers, trade unions and people’s organisations.
The Committe includes key farmers’ organsations including Ch Mahendra Singh Tikait’s BKU, the Karnataka Rajya Ryotha Sangha, Kerala Coconut Farmers’ Association, Tamil Nadu Farmers’ Association and others