Russia offers to cooperate with India on farm negotiations at WTO

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New Delhi, June 4 (UNI)Russia is ready to side with India in the farm negotiations at the WTO on the premise that it would support the developing countries' demand for self-designation of Special Products for ensuring food and livelihood security, said Mr Valeriya Popotsev, the Counsellor (Agriculture) in the Russian Embassy here.

He, however, complimented India for taking a tough stand at the WTO in the interest of the farmers of the developing world. ''It would be disastrous for the developing countries to unilaterally open their domestic markets under pressures from the developed countries,'' he said.

Mr Popotsev was speaking at a seminar yesterday jointly organised by the Bharatiya Krishak Samaj and the Russian Centre of Science and Culture in Delhi to mark the 165th birth anniversary of the famous Russian agri scientist Kliment A Timiryasev.

He expressed happiness at the good wheat harvest that enabled India to do away with imports. He was critical of the EU and the US for their bio-fuel programme and said diversion of food crops area to bio-fuel caused a phenomenal rise in food prices, hurting the poor people the world over.

The Counsellor said Russia's unique collection of seeds was available to anyone in India and could be used to develop local seeds.

Chairing the seminar, Bharatiya Krishak Samaj president Dr Krishan Bir Chaudhary said India-Russia friendship was time tested and Russia's cooperation with India in agriculture was without any conditions unlike the US-India Knowledge Initiative in Agriculture which was laced with US proposal for its companies to have an upper hand in the execution of the deal. It had also proposed to promote genetically modified (GM) crops in India in a big way.

''GM crops are known for their health and environmental hazards.

If we promote GM crops at the instance of the US, we would be inviting disaster. At the same time, US recently temporarily suspended import of Indian rice seeking clarification whether it was genetically contaminated,'' said Dr Chaudhary.

Former horticulture commissioner Dr KL Chadha emphasised the need for micro-irrigation, precision farming and boosting horticulture growth rate which would push the farm growth rate to over 4 per cent.

Professor and chair of the Haryana Institute of Public Administration, Dr J George expressed concern over the weakening of government institutions and social structure and the neglect of fundamental research in agriculture which had left the small and marginal farmers in the lurch. He blamed inadequate distribution, concentration of food in the hands of the few and bio-fuel factor at the global level responsible for the current food crisis.

''The developed countries should protect their farmers. And India should not have relaxed its quality norms on wheat imports under pressure from the US and on the contrary, the US and other developed countries imposed stringent norms to prevent food exports from the developing world,'' he said.

Arun Shrivastava, senior management consultant, raised concerns over decline of nutrition in conventionally grown food and threats posed by genetically engineered foods. ''Russians seed bank is as much threatened as India's farmer-saved seeds, he added.

The Congress leader and former MP, Harikesh Bahadur hoped that the increased bilateral cooperation would boost food production in both the countries.

UNI JSS PK BD1936

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