Posts Tagged ‘Sunita Narain’

Sunita Narain proposes more Government

September 5, 2009 Leave a comment
Dilbert knows all ...

Dilbert knows all ...

we bought samples of leading brands available in the market and analysed content for the toxin. What we found was staggeringly high levels of lead in virtually all samples we checked. India does not have a mandatory standard for regulating lead in paints. We only have a voluntary code laid down by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), which specifies that lead content should be 1,000 parts per million (ppm). Our tests found that the biggest and best companies had lead levels 180 times the voluntary standard.   

But we were not surprised, as I said. After all, the government has not set standards to phase out lead in this daily-use product. Something most governments had done some 20 years ago. In the US, lead had been termed the number one environmental threat to the health of children. But it was a non-issue for the industry in India. We were angry at this indifference and decided to write to all major paint companies asking them about their plans to phase out lead. We expected little response. But this time we were really surprised.   

Two of the major companies — Asian Paints and Nerolac — wrote back saying that they were planning to get rid of lead. They promised that this would happen soon, within a few months. So, instead of immediately releasing our report, we thought we should wait: To recheck and to validate if the companies kept the promise they had made to us. Some months later we went to the market and picked samples of the same companies.   

Our analysis found a change. Of the big five, three companies had no lead in their product. Asian Paints and Nerolac had indeed cleaned up. Berger and Shalimar still had lead in the samples we tested. Both are big companies and neither have any excuses. The fact is that companies have the technology to phase out lead. (via Sunita Narain: New coat of paint).   

Failed agency, failed agenda, failed model

Failed agency, failed agenda, failed model

Actions matter

 Much as I like Sunita Narain’s work, her reading of this situation is wrong.   

Unlike her fault-finding, this was good news. For three reasons.   

1. Three out of the five biggest companies voluntarily agreed and reduced lead content – at a significant cost to their own bottom-lines. Without a sword over their head or legal threats hanging over them. Just a gentle pointer did the trick. That is good news. This is possibly why Indians trust their companies more than the Rest of the World.   

2. The Government has voluntary codes – which are NOT enforced. Unlike the US. We should do more of this – and not less, Ms.Sunita Narain. Bigger Government, with greater enforcement agenda is a bad idea – and no good can ever come out of it.  

EPA does nothing about Environment and Justice does nothing to do with justice

EPA does nothing about Environment and Justice does nothing to do with justice

For you to call for greater Government activism is simply more bad news. The American model is faulty, expensive and prone to abuse. Why copy a failed model?  

3. Ms.Narain – Maybe, your organization can franchise a ‘प’ (Prakriti) logo – for all companies that voluntarily adhere to the highest global standards. And that will again be good news.   

Let us take away the regulatory load (which will soon become overload) from the Government and move towards self-regulation.   

I think it is time you took a 2ndlook.   

The real pandemic – Sunita Narain

May 23, 2009 2 comments
Indus Valley seal showing domestic animals

Indus Valley seal showing domestic animals

Take swine flu — now renamed. We know it started in La Gloria, a little town in Mexico. We know a young boy suffering from fever in March became the first confirmed victim of the current outbreak, which, even as I write, has reached India. What is not said is this ill-fated town is right next to one of Mexico’s biggest hog factories, owned by the world’s largest pig processor, Smithfield Foods. What is also not said is that people in this town have repeatedly protested against the food giant for water pollution, terrible stench and waste dumping. (via Sunita Narain: The real pandemic).

This will jolt you upright

There were two things about this post which made me sit up.


Annual World Wheat Production

One – The real story behind the ‘probable’ pandemic. This is something that most mainstream media writers do not tell. Take official Government press releases, (sometimes) change the language and call it news. Sometimes, they help in the cover up. If this story does not become well-known enough, Mexico and its poor will be blamed for the starting this pandemic – by the West.

Two – the fragile state of US agriculture, specifically, and the West in general.

About 46,000 ‘corporate’ farmers, account for nearly 50% of US farm output – and most of the US$20 billion in subsidy. The US Government prints vast amounts of currency notes or issues US Treasury Bonds, which are lapped up (earlier by the Middle East Oil Potentates, and the Chinese these days). This money is then handed over to these ‘American farmers’.

The US agricultural system

An interesting situation exists in the food sector – especially in the US. Giant food corporations, killed buying competition with high prices (to farmers), direct buying from farmers (at higher prices), monoclonal seeds that destroy bio-diversity. And the US consumers are not getting the lower food prices that are being promised in India.

Industrial crops will create a foodgrain crisis

Industrial crops will create a food-grain crisis

Farmers became dependent on corporate supplies of seeds (at high prices) and corporate purchases by the same corporations (at low prices). Today, an ‘efficient’ and ‘hi-tech’ agricultural farm sector in the US needs more than US$ 20 billion (conservative estimates are US$12 billion) of subsidies to survive.

The US-EPA says, “By 1997, a mere 46,000 of the two million farms in this country (America), accounted for 50% of sales of agricultural products (USDA, 1997 Census of Agriculture data) (bold letters supplied) – and gobble up most of this huge subsidy that lowers Third World agricultural prices. These lower agricultural prices devastate agriculture in Third World countries, creating man-made famines. These man-made famines, of course, gives the West a false sense of superiority.

A study in contrast

The Indian agricultural system, with nil subsidies, working with cost disadvantages, does not have giant buying corporations and monoclonal seed stock, is holding its own against subsidized agricultural systems of the West. And paid hacks of these Western corporations are trying to tell Indian consumers and policy makers that these giant corporations will cut food costs in India.

Economic crisis

Economic crisis

These giant corporations are aiming for entry into India – promising ‘efficiencies’ in buying (which will give consumers a better price), and higher prices for farmers (which will increase farm incomes). Of course, this will last as long as there is competition.

Once, these giant corporations, fueled by huge amounts of debt and equity, drive out competition, they will lower the boom on the consumers and the farmer – like in the USA.

Stuffed and starved

Raj Patel, in his book, Stuffed and Starved, demonstrates how global food corporations are behind global food habits, imbalance traditional diets, creating disease epidemics (like diabetes) – and how India needs to be careful before crafting industrial policies that encourage these global corporations to destroy Indian agriculture. A book review extracts some key points as follows,

Polluter cleans up principle ought to apply (Carton by David Horsey; courtesy - Click for larger image.

Polluter cleans up principle ought to apply (Carton by David Horsey; courtesy - Click for larger image.

What we think are our choices, says Patel, are really the choices of giant food production companies. Millions of farmers grow food, six billion people consume it. But in between them are a handful of corporations creating what Patel calls “an hourglass” model of food distribution. One Unilever controls more than 90% of the tea market. Six companies control 70% of the wheat trade. Meanwhile, farmers across the world are pitted against each other, trying to sell these gatekeeper companies their produce. And if you think the consumer comes out on top because of all this competition, think again.

The End of Bretton Woods

With the collapse of Bretton Woods, this will become increasingly difficult. Where will US agriculture be without subsidies – in a massively high costs zone. US food exports will shrivel and global agricultural prices will reach (at least) 200 year highs (my estimate). And that will be the golden hour for Indian agriculture. What is the only dark cloud in this scenario – GM seeds which the West is pushing down the reluctant Indian agriculturists’ throat. With significant help from the Indian Government.

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