ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

15 April 2002


"to replace the legacy of 10,000 years and of a billion skilled and experienced people with the simple formula of cash and hi-tech - that is a lunacy that will eventually outweigh all the other follies of these most mischievous times." - Colin Tudge

The last piece we posted on Andhra Pradesh and Clare Short's support for Vision 2020 was George Monbiot's article 'Angel of Death: Britain's development secretary is helping to destroy the lives of 20 million people'. Here's some of the coverage since.

More urls for other articles and further information at end.

1. Clare Short attacks Monbiot, denies everything - Bomber Short's letter
2. Guardian Diary: Bomber Short makes an ass of herself - Matthew Norman

3. We have our own development vision - P V Satheesh and others
4. Indian farmers oppose UK aid plan - BBC
5. The greatest folly of our age - Colin Tudge


1. Guardian: Letters, April 4

Vision 2020 outlines the government of Andhra Pradesh's development goals, which include the eradication of poverty in 20 years. It is not a scheme or project that can be funded; it is a consultation document (see There are no references to GM crops or forcing people from their land.

Millions of people in Andhra Pradesh are very poor and dependent on agriculture. Vision 2020 recognises the need to create growth and jobs in agriculture and in other sectors, especially in rural areas. It anticipates that growth in other areas - eg services and manufacturing - will lead to less dependence on agriculture. There is no question of coercing people into leaving their land.

My department has provided a grant to the government of Andhra Pradesh of £65m to support its programme of reforms. These include tackling corruption, reorienting public expenditure towards poverty reduction, and improving service delivery for the poor. It is part of a wider DfID programme of assistance that includes support to primary education, health, improving rural livelihoods and improving slums.

George Monbiot is a very strange man. There is so much that can be done to make the world a better place. Instead he is obsessed with inventing false enemies.

Clare Short MP
Secretary of state for International Development


2. Guardian: Diary

Matthew Norman
Friday April 5, 2002

Nice to see Clare Bomber Short on our letters page directing people to the Vision 2020 document on the Andhra Pradesh government website ( and stating "there are no references to GM crops or forcing people from their land." Indeed not? Turn to Ch15, p6, and it reads: "The state will need to strengthen research and technology in the fields of genetic engineering. This is already part of the vision strategy." And Ch9 p2, relates: "Agriculture's share of employment will actually reduce, from the current 70% to 40-45%," which according to George Monbiot "translates to: '20 million people will have to leave their land'." Perhaps if you'd do some research before firing off letters, Bomber, you might make less of a frightful ass of yourself.



3. We have our own development vision

Guardian: Letters
Saturday April 6, 2002

Vision 2020 is an Andhra Pradesh government strategy that has been developed without the participation of those it claims it will raise out of poverty. As small farmers and concerned Indian citizens, we have monitored the "consultation" process to which Clare Short (Letters, April 4) refers. This generally has consisted of three-and-a-half hour meetings during which government officials spend over three hours outlining their plans, the remaining few minutes being dominated by the voices of already wealthy farmers.

In contrast to this tokenism, the "Prajateerpu" citizens' jury process was an attempt to allow the participation of the poor, organised by a coalition of organisations from India and the UK, including the government of India's own national biodiversity strategy and action plan. Nineteen jurors heard evidence from those in the Andhra Pradesh government responsible for developing Vision 2020, and unanimously rejected the strategy in favour of an alternative vision for food and farming, based on equitable access to natural resources and the regeneration of more localised food systems.

Clare Short also denies that there is any reference in Vision 2020 to GM crops or displacement from the land. Anyone who visits the website she cites will see that this is untrue. The Department for International Development's partial and incomplete understanding of the nature, intent and implications of using British taxpayers' money to support Vision 2020 in Andhra Pradesh is deeply disturbing.

Earlier this week we invited ourselves to the DfID's London offices. Senior civil servants gave us a guarantee that they will now begin a dialogue with Andhra Pradesh's poorest farmers. But we would like the department to provide more evidence that its current funding is being used to alleviate poverty rather than increase it.
Pastapur Ansuyamma
Nagwar Balayaa
Edulapally Manjula
Pastapur Narsamma
Algole Ratnamma
Bedakanna Sammamma
P V Satheesh
Andhra Pradesh Coalition in Defence of Diversity, Hyderabad, India,4273,4388635,00.html


4. Indian farmers oppose UK aid plan

Friday, 5 April, 2002, 13:13 GMT 14:13 UK
By Alex Kirby
BBC News Online environment correspondent

Six Indian farmers are in the UK to urge the government not to support a radical farm restructuring plan. They are visiting the Department for International Development (DFID), asking to see the Development Secretary, Clare Short, to make their case.

They say DFID has promised £65m ($93.5m) for the plan, called Vision 2020. But DFID says it has made no specific promises, and there is no formal plan. A DFID spokeswoman told BBC News Online: "We are giving the state of Andhra Pradesh £65m for poverty reduction, but it is not tied to Vision 2020.

"And it is wrong to call it a plan anyway. It's just a consultation document, covering sectors like health, education and employment as well as farming." The Andhra Pradesh Government, which has developed Vision 2020, says it will "totally eradicate poverty". It has obtained a World Bank loan to help to elaborate it.

Rural exodus

On farming, it foresees the consolidation of small farms into larger ones, increased mechanisation and the introduction of modern methods, and the use of genetically modified plants, so as to produce food for export.

Farmers fear Vision 2020's effects

The farmers say implementing Vision 2020 would mean 20 million people losing their land or their jobs in farming - a reduction by 2020 of the number of people on the land from 70% to 40%. A London newspaper, The Guardian, reported last July that it had obtained an internal DFID report on Vision 2020 which expressed "grave reservations".

The Guardian said: "While the report praises some of Vision 2020, it also complains of 'major failings' in the proposal and says the implications of many of the changes have not been thought through. "'There is nothing about providing alternative income for those displaced', it notes. It also remarks on the 'negative consequences on food security' for the poor if the state's programme of industrialisation is carried out."

Bleak prospects

The farmers who are in the UK to argue against Vision 2020 say the state government has not sought the views of the people who would be affected by it.

Three Indian groups were involved in challenging Vision 2020 ­ the Andhra Pradesh Coalition in Defence of Diversity, the University of Hyderabad, and the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan. The main UK participant was the International Institute for Environment and Development. The Deccan Development Society (DDS) is a rural development organisation working in Andhra Pradesh.

Clare Short: Helping to reduce poverty

Mr P V Satheesh of the DDS said: "Vision 2020 is an aid package for big farmers and corporations.

"We've reached a fork in the road for farming around the world, and the UK Government is about to send the people of Andhra Pradesh down the wrong track.

"Vision 2020 means huge farms, pesticides, mass mechanisation and GM crops, but it offers nothing but a loss of homes and livelihoods to most of the people who actually live and farm in the region."

Contrary aims

Dr Tom Wakeford, of the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, UK, spent six months in Andhra Pradesh working to encourage debate on farming policy choices. He told BBC News Online: "It's clear these people had never been asked how this development could best be designed to help the poorest people like themselves.

"They said: 'We want our basic food security', which is absolutely contrary to what Vision 2020 would achieve.

"Anything spent there by DFID has to include voices like theirs, or it'll just be about gizmos without addressing inequities."


5. The greatest folly of our age

Colin Tudge
New Statesman
Monday 15th April 2002

Clare Short believes that rural India needs more hi-tech. Wrong, wrong, wrong, argues Colin Tudge. The farmers themselves know better

Britain's government, urged by Clare Short, the Secretary of State for International Development, is preparing to give £65m to the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh to modernise its agriculture. This sounds like an admirable example of overseas aid because, we are told, it will "totally eradicate poverty". The money will be used to replace bullocks with tractors and combines, merge the farms, enlarge the fields, get stuck in with the fertiliser and the crops to match.

Norfolk in the sun. Isn't it grand? Isn't it good that such kindness may flourish still in this cynical world? Karl Marx dreamed that technology one day would lift the drudgery of labour from humanity's shoulders - and aren't we being taken one step nearer? There are detractors, who like to watch the ox-ploughs in the sunset; but they are rich, effete, self-indulgent "romantics", technophobic, elitist and despicable. Are they not?

No, is the answer: no, no, no, no, no. I have taken a serious interest in world agriculture these past 30 years and this is among the worst and most shocking pieces of reactionary nonsense I have heard in all that time - worse by far than the traditional targets of McDonald's and Coca-Cola which, we know, are merely businesses, obliged to make money. This gratuitous arrogance is dressed in the weeds of self-righteousness, of "we know better than you". Believe me, Clare, you don't. Listen to the Indian farmers themselves, 20 million of whom will lose their jobs. I am told you are not a bad person, but you are wrong about this at all levels: technically, politically, socially, economically, morally. If you think it is right to do this, it is because you have been duped.

I am sure Clare Short believes (for it is the current mantra) that humanity in general (six billion of us, rising to ten) and India in particular (about a billion, in a space that's not as vast as people seem to think) cannot possibly be fed without science and the hi-tech that emerges from it. True: but caveats are in order. Agricultural science did not seriously begin to make its mark until the late 1920s, when the world population was already two billion. We added another billion by the 1960s, but largely by cultivating yet more land. So farming based only on craft, with no formal science, evidently supported a world population of between two and three billions. We probably would not have got to six billion without science but, even so, all that science has really done - or all that really matters - is to give a couple of tweaks to the traditional craft.

The first and greatest tweak was a piece of pre-First World War industrial chemistry: the creation of artificial nitrogen (N) fertilisers by Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch. The second came with the classical genetics of the mid-20th century (with some "cytogenetics", too, but nothing so fancy as genetic engineering): the provision of dwarf (short-stemmed) varieties of wheat and rice that could take high doses of N without falling over. The increased yields gave us the Green Revolution. Wheat, rice and maize between them provide humanity with half our calories, with wheat and rice by far the most important. Increase them, and the job is largely done.

Artificial N, and the dwarf grains of the Green Revolution, were both technologies born of science and so, by definition, qualify as "hi-tech". But they are modest hi-tech: simple stuff by modern standards. Modern hi-tech could contribute more, including excellent vaccines, more pest-resistant crops, more subtly "integrated" (chemical-cum-biological) pest control. So let's go for it. Yet it's all bells and whistles compared to the extra N on the new varieties of wheat and rice. It is not true that hi-tech keeps the world afloat. The basis of the farming that has taken world numbers to six billion is, as it has been for the past 10,000 years, the craft that farmers themselves have evolved in their fields.

The second huge mistake - apparently common to all modern politics, commerce and much of academe - is that hi-tech (the technology that comes of science) must imply industrialisation: factories, big machines, big piles of potentially mobile cash known as capital. Again, this simply is not true. The main source of this deception is historical. Scientific research is expensive, and governments don't like to pay for it. In reality, science and capitalism have arisen in harness and harmony over the past 400 years to create a positive-feedback loop: capital provides the cash for the scientific research that produces the kinds of high technologies that will generate more cash, and so on. The loop has been reinforced since the 1970s, as Thatcheresque governments have urged scientists to get more and more of their funds from industry. It seems to follow that if poor societies need hi-tech (and they certainly can benefit from it in all kinds of ways: vaccines, for example, or satellites for schools in rural India), then they also need the big companies that alone can pay for it. Ergo, the logic goes, societies that need more hi-tech (as most do, if it is well chosen) must also industrialise.

But the huge snag is that the feedback loop can produce only the kinds of technology that generate more cash, and make the financing companies even stronger. The technology should be geared to humanity, and not the other way around; and the people to ask first (and last, and all the way along the line) are the farmers themselves, who actually do the work. Although Andhra Pradeshi farmers might benefit from more hi-tech, they don't have to accept the grand western industrial package that goes with it. It should not be beyond the wit of humanity to separate excellent science from the strategies of industry and modern commerce.

Then there's the broader issue - in some ways, the biggest of all: the pervasive notion that all the world's countries should be categorised as "developed", those that in some sense have arrived, or "developing", whose task and destiny it is to try to become more like us. This conceit is gross, and Short surely needs no lectures on it. I have been often to rural India, and it's poor, but it is not desperate; or not, at least, as Bombay is desperate - or Harlem or downtown Philadelphia. Andhra Pradesh's new hi-tech farming, linked to the global market, might indeed generate more accountable wealth than traditional systems do, but nobody with any knowledge of recent history or with eyes in their head can believe that this will necessarily improve well-being.

If you ask the Andhra Pradeshi farmers themselves if they want their farms and their society industrialised, they will say: "No, absolutely not." The millions who will lose their jobs will join the millions who already live on the streets and in the shanties of towns such as Calcutta. Short did not ask the farmers; but some of them came to London a fortnight ago to speak to her (presumably at their own expense). I also spoke to some of them and found again how very clued-up they are. Britain hasn't had a peasantry for several hundred years and doesn't understand what peasants are. In this country, the term is used in a derogatory way. But peasants can include the brightest people. Their sons and daughters get PhDs, given half a chance. How dare London politicians presume to transform their way of life without even asking them, with a knowledge-base of zero? But that is the way the world is run. Government de haute en bas - the antithesis of what democracy ought to mean - is still the seismic fault in human affairs that above all we must put right.

Of equal moment is what humanity should do with farming as a whole. Common sense and serious scholarship combine to tell us that agriculture is not, as the modern mantra has it, "a business like any other". It may or may not be good for other industries to corporatise and globalise, but it can be demonstrated in a hundred ways that this is not good for farming. Farming must march to a much more powerful drum, that of biology; and because it affects every aspect of all our lives, social concerns, too, must be paramount. It is not just a matter of making calories as cheaply as can be managed, with the smallest possible labour force, as is the way of conventional industry. No sensible person should believe that farming, with all its ramifications and its overwhelming importance, can safely be placed in the crude hands of commerce.

But that is what the modern industrialist, globalist zealots do believe, with all the quivering passion of religious fundamentalists; and that is what our present government subscribes to. World farming and our attitudes to it, the norms and the myths that have been built into it as the industrial revolution has unfolded, need rethinking from the bottom up. By all means build on the craft of farming with excellent science, though always guided by the farmers themselves. But to replace the legacy of 10,000 years and of a billion skilled and experienced people with the simple formula of cash and hi-tech - that is a lunacy that will eventually outweigh all the other follies of these most mischievous times.

Colin Tudge's In Mendel's Footnotes (Vintage) and The Variety of Life (Oxford University Press) are now in paperback


Other pieces:

The full report on the Prajateerpu (trans: "people's verdict") a citizens jury / scenario workshop available at:

Angel of Death
Britain's development secretary is helping to destroy the lives of 20 million people.
By George Monbiot, Guardian 2nd April 2002,4273,4385649,00.html

The locals know what aid they need
'In the West, leaving the land might sound like liberation, but to Anjamma it spells only destitution'
Natasha Walter, Independent, 21 March 2002

New Scientist, 18 March 2002

BBC Radio 4, Today Programme, Monday March 18, 2002.
Interview of P V Satheesh by James Naughtie

Press release, Monday March 18, 2002

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