Skip to content

25

Secret government proceedings at the best of Power Mill lobbies are apparently acting to have the Handloom Reservation act set aside, ruining the lives of lakhs of handloom workers nationwide.

It is no secret that Mills have long hated the Handloom(Reservation of Articles for Production) Act of 1985. The act basically lists traditional textile items as reserved to be produced on handlooms alone (handlooms are defined as anything not a power loom). It appears that now the mills will succeed in getting rid of this Act, unless citizens intervene. The mandatory pro-lobby opinion forming article in MSM has quietly appeared, but there is little noise over it. Notice how it is a piece that argues against the Act out of the blue - absolutely nothing in the news to provoke a reassessment of the Act. Usually an indicator that there is something in the background that is coming up that the piece is preparing the readers for (or rather, setting up opinion).

The argument basically says that since the power looms are already violating the Handloom Reservation Act, it should be scrapped. It is an interesting argument that can probably be applied to the entire IPC.

Here's what's going on.

Quote from an email appeal for help by Marchalla Mohan Rao, President of the Handloom Weavers' Association of undivided Andhra Pradesh.

The Government of India is going to remove Hand Loom Reservation Act, which is giving some extent protection to the hand loom sector till now. Textile Department already Constitute a committee on this issue to analysis the implementation of reservation act and  possibilities of removable items of varieties of hand looms or to totally remove this act by putting in the Parliament for amendment. Committee meeting held  on 20th March,2015 in this regard in D C H Office Delhi, nobody telling about this issue, what is going on reservation act, they are maintaning the secrecy in the department.

In this context, we are all seeking  for your suggestions, how we can overcome from  this problem to protect the hand looms in india. In which way we can brought this issue before the government as well as civil society for their involvement for hand loom weavers movement.

So, please send your opinions and suggestions to over come from this problem and to protect the lakhs of hand loom weavers lively hood.

You can read more about the realities of weavers in Andhra.

Shyamsundari of Dastkar Andhra is more direct.

We had a two day deliberation in Delhi in the month of March regarding the importance of the Reservation Act in securing the interests of the handloom sector. I spoke to the Enforcement chief personally and to the two deputy directors. They agreed to come but failed to show up. The Secretary was given a direct invitation by one of the members of the Federation of Handloom organisations. Same was the case with the DCH. But there was no representation from the Handloom Department. And within a couple of weeks we hear from the enforcement officials(unofficially) that a move is on to repeal the Act. There seems to be a strong powerloom lobby behind the move and the Secretary Textiles seems to be playing an active role in the whole thing.

Livelihoods of weavers are already an issue. Third National Census of Handloom Units and Allied Activity Workers (2010) for Development Commissioner (Handlooms), ministry of textiles by the National Council of Applied Economic Research (India's oldest and independent think tank) tells us something about who these weavers are.

  • 87% of total household units (27.83 lakh) are located in rural areas.
  • Nearly 47% of handloom worker households are BPL and rest are non-BPL.
  • 29 lakh weavers constitute 76% of the adult workforce.
  • 9.38 lakh allied workers are 24% of the adult workforce.
  • Almost 67% weavers are engaged full time in weaving.
  • Almost 75% of handloom workers are women.
  • 60% of adult handloom workers have little or no schooling.

We are talking of some of the most vulnerable rural populations here. People who have no alternative employment. Three-fourth of them being women means that their loss of occupation and income is going to have a direct adverse influence on their children as well - a large part of income of women goes directly to the well being of their children. Lack of schooling means that the potential for already scarce jobs gets even lower. The one skill they do have will be rendered obsolete by mechanical alternatives that produce cheaper but employ far fewer people in a country where power is scarce and labour abundant.

The government's sabotage of rural employment schemes is only going to make this difficult. For a reference, textile mill workers rendered obsolete in 1993, are getting Rs 3000/- per month under Textiles Workers Rehabilitation Fund. They are not able to survive on these funds. Alternative employment for them itself is a problem without adding handloom workers to the mix. 15 lakh handloom households (53%) undertake handloom work exclusively for commercial purposes, while 4.38 lakh households (16%) produce for both domestic as well as commercial purposes.

Woman weaver at handloom from Walahjapet, Tamil Nadu
Woman weaver at her loom from Walahjapet, Tamil Nadu. Photo: Sweta Daga Source: ruralindiaonline.org

 

It is true that Mills already illegally produce and sell items reserved to be produced on handlooms. However, the law does protect the handloom workers, as action can be taken against the illegally produced goods. Also the illegally produced goods cannot undercut the prices of handloom produced goods. Without this protection, the market will be flooded with cheap textiles that the creators of handloom products cannot compete with. Yet, the soul of the traditional items will be altered forever.

"At present Crores of people are waiting for their jobs, every year more than 60,00,000 graduates/ post graduates/ technologists are coming out from the universities/ institutions. Why the government is not providing the employment to these youth, if there is any possibility." Marchala demands to know. "Another one important issue is if we alow the powerlooms in India; China, Bangladesh, Srilanka, Pakistan,Jermany,Korea, Thailand exporters are ready to dump their prodcuts in the Indian domestic market. It has not happened yet, because varieties are reserved for handlooms exclusively."

"Mechanization never creates employment, Our India has plenty of human resources. They should be employed by production activity. It is handlooms in rural India. No other industry except the service sector. Service sector also cannot provide employment regularly." It has been noted before by Ravinder Kumar that India had not added jobs in agriculture or manufacturing since 1995. Where is the rural person to seek employment?

"If we allow the powerlooms to produce the Silk/cotton Sarees and dress Materials, it will ruin the total handloom sector without any doubt. It will to the starvation among the weaving community and some parts of India it will lead to armed struggles, for example Jammu and Kashmir (where the official records require the government to adopt the Handloom Reservation Act or enact something similar, yet has not, resulting in the famed Pashmina being woven on power looms, damaging the livelihoods as well as traditional craft). Over 60% of India's weaver households reside in the North East and earn about Rs 300 per day. What happens of them and what will the impact of their disenfranchisement be on the regional unrest?"

Is this the future of our traditional arts at the hands of the government that appears to have interest in promoting both handlooms and traditions? Are we going to have exquisite silk saris produced by powerlooms that copy traditional designs and starve traditional weavers? What does a Ludhiana Power Looms pashmina shawl even mean?

Handloom sari at Walahjapet, Tamil Nadu
Handloom sari at Walahjapet, Tamil Nadu. Photo: Sweta Daga Source: ruralindiaonline.org

"On 29,80,000 hand looms more than 65,00,000 families of 1,20,00,000 people are depending for their livelihood. All these people will be abandoned by the state if powerlooms replace these creators of exquisite crafts like so much horse power labour mass producing identical designs.

The secrecy around the proceedings is ominous. This government has shown little inclination for accountability. It now depends on us to ask questions that require answers.

[tweetthis]Handlom fabric enthusiasts, please read this![/tweetthis]

Update: The Odisha government has opposed the bid of powerloom operators to get saris removed from the Handloom(Reservation of Articles for Production) Act of 1985.

March 2, 2015

Declaration of the Organic Farmers community of India at the 5th National Organic Farmers’ Convention, 2015, Chandigarh, India

The organic farming community of this country, represented in strength by over 2500 participants at this fifth National Organic Farming Convention, pledges to carry forward with renewed strength our endeavour to mainstream agro-ecological farming practices across the country. The gathering, comprising practicing farmers, including women, tribal and adivasi people, seed savers, ecologists, scientists, non-governmental and community organizations, is supported in this effort by the international organic farming community spread across 130 countries and represented by IFOAM, the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements.

We reiterate our conviction that agro-ecological farming practices are the only way forward for meeting the nutritional, livelihood, socio-cultural and spiritual needs of our people, including those of future generations. This conviction is strengthened by the experiences of our farmer friends in Punjab and Haryana who have paid a high price and sacrificed their environment and the health of their people. We pledge to stand by them in their journey to recovery and restoration.

We, the participants representing the organic farming community of India, declare:

  1. Organic farming practices CAN meet all the food and nutritional needs of our nation, and it is the only sustainable way to safeguard the food security of present and future generations. The growing number of organic farmers and rising demand for organic produce is evidence of its rapid spread.
  2. The IAASTD World Agriculture Report, authored by 400 international experts, including UN representatives, and endorsed by 58 nations, including India, recommends agro-ecological practices and small family farms, suitably adapted to local needs and conditions. It adds that GM crops are no solution to hunger, poverty, climate change as well as ecological, energy and economic challenges.
  3. We categorically reject Genetically Modified Organisms as an unnecessary technology with numerous potential hazards. It is also an example of bad science. We also object to open field trials of GM crops, since they pose a threat to our food, farming and environment, while blatantly disregarding recommendations of several Government, Parliament and Supreme Court appointed committees.
  4. We pledge to safeguard the integrity of our eco-systems and work towards the conservation, protection and re-generation of soil health, water resources, forests, biodiversity and seed sovereignty.
  5. Land, water and other natural resources must be prioritized for sustainably meeting basic needs and nutritional security. Land under food cultivation must not be allowed to be diverted for other purposes through forced land acquisition. Similarly, water resources for irrigation must be directed to essential food needs rather than water guzzling monocultures of sugarcane or other industrial non-priority uses.
  6. Forest habitats and traditional access rights of forest dependent communities must not be undermined, as uncultivated forest foods and medicinal plants have played a critical role in the lives of those residing in the country’s tribal forested regions.
  7. The current form of chemical agriculture is completely dependent on steadily depleting resources and leaves farmers vulnerable to foreign/corporate dependence. This must not and cannot continue.
  8. All agri-chemicals should be progressively phased out; and the money thus saved used to propagate and support ecologically safe food growing practices. Suitable budgetary allocations must be made for mainstreaming agro-ecological practices.
  9. The educational curriculum and calendar in rural India needs to be sensitive to local agricultural practices, needs and rhythms. A land-based pedagogy must become an integral part of education in rural India, with suitable adaptations for urban India.
  10. Agriculture departments and universities need to reorient their attention to agro-ecological systems and practices, including reviewing their curricula, evaluating hidden costs of technologies they recommend, and aligning research activity to the needs and challenges of the local community.
  11. The role of women, the mainstay of a self-reliant agricultural system in India, needs to be recognized, acknowledged and supported, in terms of land rights as well as support from the government.
  12. The Organic Farming Community appreciates the Haryana government’s efforts to revive indigenous breeds of cattle. Since this is crucial in facilitating self-reliant agriculture, we seek such policy initiatives from other state governments as well as the central government.
  13. The public distribution system must source food from the local/ bio-regional neighbourhood in which it is consumed. The convention suggests a grid of several localized markets as one of the ways forward.
  14. We demand better marketing support from government agencies so that the organic producers have assured demand and fair prices for their produce.
  15. Govt schemes such as MGNREGS, NRLM and SLRM should support agro-ecological practices as they supplement economic needs of farming families, landless labourers as well as people in distress.
  16. India has a great wealth of crop diversity with unique features like nutritional/medicinal qualities, drought tolerance, salinity tolerance, pest resistance, and flood tolerance. This diversity has been conserved and shared by farmers as an open source collective heritage belonging to all. The concept of private property rights over such traditional heritage is alien and unethical in this land.

The largest organic farming confluence in the world – over 2,500 participants from 22 states of India – gathered at the National Organic Convention in Chandigarh from Feb 28 to March 2, 2015. The flood of registrations had to be stopped a month in advance. Such zeal surely signals the growing recognition of agro-ecology as a burning imperative of our times, reflecting the Convention aim to ‘Mainstream Organic Farming!’

At the concluding session, Shri Prakash Singh Badal, Chief Minister of the frontline state of India’s ‘Green Revolution’, ironically hailed organic agriculture as “the need of the hour,” marking the full turn of a circle. He mourned the heavy burden of chemical poisons that the land, farmers and people of Punjab have had to bear, admitting sadly that “Mother Earth, Father Water, and Guru Air” have all been desecrated. Toxic pesticides have devastated the health of Punjab. “You people,” said Badal – addressing a packed auditorium of organic farmers, seed savers, ecologists, scientists and activists – “are the heroes of this new struggle to save the nation!”

The CM called for making Punjab the leading organic farming state of India, with diversification in place of present extensive monocultures. Announcing a 50% state subsidy for rearing indigenous cattle breeds, he also offered to provide retail/distribution shops and facilities for selling organic produce. Declaring the setting up of an Organic Farming Board, he promised panchayati land to set up a demonstration organic farm in every block of the State.

Earlier, at the Convention, Shri Manohar Lal Khattar, Chief Minister of Haryana, accompanied by his Agriculture Minister, pledged state support to turn at least 10% of its total cultivable land to organic farming. Smt Maneka Gandhi, Union Minister of Women and Child Welfare, rang out a grim warning against the highly dangerous neo-nicotinoid pesticides (used for treating Bt Cotton seeds) that were slaughtering the pollinating creatures like bees, an estimated 70% of which have already been wiped out. This would severely harm agriculture, unless banned, as in the European Union. “The owners of Bt cotton lied to us,” declared the Minister. “They told us that it doesn’t require pesticides… but now, we find that Bt cotton cannot grow without the most dangerous pesticides in the world.”

A few years ago, the beacon IAASTD World Agriculture Report bluntly stated: “Business as usual is not an option!” Prepared over 4 years by 400 international agricultural scientists/experts and 1,000 multi-disciplinary reviewers, this Report was endorsed by 58 nations, including India, as also representatives of FAO, World Bank, World Health Organization, UNEP, UNDP. Its recommendations stressed the urgency to adopt bio-diverse agro-ecological farming, and to support small family farms – to overcome the many serious problems confronting world agriculture. GM crops, it added, are not an answer to hunger, poverty and climate change, or to ecological, energy and economic challenges.

A riot of colours, costumes, cultures and cuisines greeted visitors at the ‘Nature and Kisan Mela’ and its ‘Organic Food Festival’ and ‘Biodiversity Festival’ that continued alongside the deliberations of the National Organic Convention. The Organic Food Festival, with ethnic organic fare from several Indian states, was a big hit. The Biodiversity Festival presented a dazzling display of over 2,000 distinct seed varieties of crops, brought by 270 seed conservator-farmers from all over India. Half a dozen new publications were released. Several book stalls, film screenings and cultural programmes of song, music and dance enhanced the charm of the memorable Organic Mela, dampened a bit midway by rain and wind.

The Convention was jointly organized by the Organic Farming Association of India (OFAI), Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA), and Kheti Virasat Mission, in collaboration with the local host organization, the National Institute of Technical Teachers Training and Research (NITTTR). The deliberations were bilingual, with communications in Hindi translated into English for the participants from the south, and vice versa. Parallel translations into other regional languages – for those who understood neither Hindi nor English – were self-organised by the various state delegations.

The National Organic Convention simultaneously hosted meetings of the Bharat Beej Swaraj Manch (India Seed Sovereignty Alliance). This pledged to regenerate and widely share the enormously rich diversity of traditional crops and crop varieties in India as a collective open-source heritage belonging to all, free of any private/corporate Intellectual Property Rights. The Alliance also sought to reclaim the many thousands of native crop varieties collected from farmers all over India by national and international germplasm banks. It was suggested that every farmer or family should adopt at least one crop variety for decentralized on-farm seed conservation and open-source propagation.

In sharp contrast, Mr Swapan Dutta, Dy Director General, ICAR, declared a few years ago in an interview to the Wall Street Journal, that India had over 4,00,000 varieties of plant germplasm (both cultivated and uncultivated). These included crops with unique features like nutritional/medicinal qualities, drought tolerance, flood tolerance, salinity tolerance, and pest resistance, all of which it was willing to offer corporates for a small share of profits!

GM crops were categorically rejected as an unnecessary technology with numerous potential hazards. The serious contamination risk by recently sanctioned open field trials of GM crops – disregarding the recommendations of several Government, Parliament and Supreme Court appointed Committees – was warned.

Also part of the National Organic Convention was a scientific conference organized by the Society of Agro-Ecology, and the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture. This saw scientists from prime research institutions discussing with farmers and farmer-scientists their observations and research on soil health, plant nutrition, plant protection, water management, and Iivestock development, especially indigenous breeds.

With so many outstanding farmers around, and multiple parallel sessions on offer, participants felt they could barely whet their appetite. But they carried back a collective energy and renewed confidence, knowing they had a growing fellow community of organic pilgrims and path-finders they could call upon when needed.

Missing the vibrant presence of veterans like Nammalwar, who passed away last year, and of ailing Bhaskar Save, who completed 93 years in January 2015, the 5th National Biennial Organic Convention paid tribute to these towering, dedicated stalwarts, noting that they have inspired innumerable others on the natural, organic path. Tribute was also paid to Sir Albert Howard, considered ‘the father of sustainable agriculture’ in the west, who confessed more than a century ago that he learnt it all from humble peasants in India.

In 2016, the international community will return to draw fresh inspiration from India. It was announced that the ‘International Organic Farming Convention’ organized by the ‘International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements’ (IFOAM) will be held that year in India.

The final 16 point declaration from the convention pledged to safeguard and regenerate our soil, water, forests, biodiversity and seed sovereignty; and to work towards mainstreaming ecological farming in the country as “the only way forward for meeting the nutritional, livelihood, socio-cultural and spiritual needs of our people, including those of future generations.”

The Convention further declared that land under food cultivation must not be diverted for other purposes through forced land acquisition.

PM Narendra Modi called for the North-eastern and hilly states to become an organic hub. But ‘achhe din’ (good organic days) must include all of India! What we need to ‘Make in India’ is an agro-ecological paradise that gratifies all basic biological, aesthetic and spiritual needs, not a global factory for a growing array of resource-hogging and pollution-spewing, non-essential industrial and consumerist goods.

The overarching eco-spiritual tradition of this land is the unity of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam – the earth is one family in one home. Mother Earth, the only known cosmic body with a living biosphere, must not now become a spew-chamber of chemical-industrial toxins, her inner vitals vandalized for short-sighted economic growth. The organic community is waking to the enormous challenges ahead.

Related reading: Declaration of the Organic Farmers community of India at the 5th National Organic Farmers’ Convention, 2015, Chandigarh, India

Guest post by Bharat Mansata

On one hand, we have glowing reports of the growth in agriculture, particularly horticulture.

Horticultural vs foodgrain production in India from 2002 to 2014
Horticultural vs foodgrain production in India from 2002 to 2014. Source: Ministry of Agriculture, FY 2014 figures are provisional.

On the other, we have "Rural wage growth lowest in 10 years, signals farm distress, falling inflation".

Annual rural wage growth from September 2007 to November 2014
Annual rural wage growth from September 2007 to November 2014

To me, this indicates that farmers are doing more for less. Add to this the drastic disinterest in schemes like NREGA, reduced legal restrictions for land grabs for large projects and the undermining of the right to refuse, India seems headed for widespread rural devastation in coming years. Even where work is done, 70% of MNREGA payments have not been made this year.

I hope I am wrong.

One way to remove poverty is to improve the lives of the poor. Another way to remove poverty is to exploit the poor into extinction. Successive Indian governments seem headed for the latter. Each outdoing the previous.

3

The Narendra Modi government has allowed 21 new varieties of GMO crops for field trials in India. This decision was made based on the recommendations of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC). This is the new GEAC. The old GEAC had the first item listed under "Main functions" on its page as "To permit the use of GMOs and products thereof for commercial applications." This one has "approval of activities involving large-scale use of hazardous living microorganisms and recombinants..." and they are making decisions that will impact our food, here. This is rather like the world's nuclear "watchdog" being created to promote nuclear power.

It is rather strange that a body implies evaluation, but is actually created to proliferate. This GEAC rejected 1 application out of 28 it received. In a world where more and more countries are banning GM crops, India naturally is fertile grounds for yet another reject of the West, where opposition to genetically modified food is increasing. And of course, it helps that if anything can be centralized and made money out of, Indias political cartels will have takers.

In a country where farmers quit farming as a full time profession at a rate that amounts to 2000 less farmers each day over a decade and over a quarter of the country is below an insanely low poverty line, replacing seeds collected from harvests to seed next years crops with expensive genetically modified varieties that need to be purchased each year alone is an economic nightmare, even if GM crops were safe, which I'm going to show below that they are not. It is no coincidence that there are very few suicides among rice and wheat farmers in comparison with cotton farmers whose lives have been devastated by BtCotton.

First, raising some quality concerns. GM crops are not reversible. They introduce new traits into the ecology of the fields where millions of lifeforms live in a symbiosis. The impact of changed traits of crops on other life forms including essential microorganisms in the soil to beneficial insects and contamination of adjacent fields or wild plants is impossible to determine when there are no long term tests of any sort including direct impact on humans. The assumption that it is safe is naive at best and unleashes irreversible changes which cannot be erased with an "oops. Sorry, we thought..." in the future if uncontrolled hybrids emerge.

Additionally, when GM seeds like these - that are resistant to specific poisons are grown in a region, the adaptations of pests to survive result in pests of the region becoming more and more resistant to pesticides and requiring greater applications of chemicals to control crops (including on the GM crops). This has happened in India. In Modi's own Gujarat. India approved Bt Cotton in 2002. In 2010, it failed pest tests in Gujarat. By 2013, the five year decline in cotton production was being blamed on everything from lack of innovation to climate change by GM apologists in media. Anything but GMO. By 2014, Modi who was CM in Gujarat when above failure happened is Prime Minister and opening more crops like wheat, rice and maize for GM field trials.

And guess what Monsanto did? It blamed the farmers for not following the "fine print" like planting refuge areas. A refuge area is basically a strip of ordinary cotton planted around the main crop of BtCotton. Guess why? Because when pests susceptible to the Bt gene die, the ones that survive are those that are resistant to it. So the idea is that they will breed with the pests from the normal cotton and thus lose some of their resistance. And if this doesn't happen (and tough to imagine how that would work effectively given that species breed to become stronger and survive and most of the field is Bt allowing most pests to find their Bt resistant dates on hand, without going to the other crops), it is apparently the farmer's fault. In other words, GM is not responsible...

Of course, that isn't what they had said when promoting BtCotton.

It [traditional methods of farming] has been a complete failure, because you have to modify infrastructure, you have to re-educate them as to how to modify their farming practices themselves. But with biotech, the technology is in a seed. All you have to do is give them the seed.

Because of course the guy with the powerpoint presentation understands agriculture better than the guy who doesn't even understand English and is too dumb to read instructions.

While there is little evidence of safety on various issues, the evidence that GM crops are not safe is mounting.

About a year and a half ago, a farmer in Oregon, USA found some wheat growing in an empty field. He tried to kill it with a herbicide. IT DIDN'T die. Astonished, the farmer sent the wheat to the Oregon state University for testing and it was found that it was genetically modified wheat containing Monsanto's a Roundup resistant CP4/maize EPSPS gene. The USDA confirms this. When this happened, there was no GM wheat approved for use anywhere in the world. Field trials had ended in 2005 on the wheat that was not expected to be viable for more than 2 years. Do the math.

Chief Technology Officer at Monsanto, Robb Fraley tried damage control "It seems likely to be a random, isolated occurrence more consistent with the accidental or purposeful mixing of a small amount of seed during the planting, harvesting or during the fallow cycle in an individual field." However, that doesn't solve the problem that wheat had turned into what basically amounted to a weed. Japan, South Korea and Taiwan postponed wheat imports from the region to avoid the contamination.

This basically shows that GMO food crops are not a choice as advertized. Seeds propagate, and the best intentioned organic farmer may still end up with GM contaminants.

Speaking of GM maize, in Hesse, Germany, many cows in a slaughterhouse died when they were fed Syngenta’s genetically engineered maize cow food. The remaining cattle were slaughtered on the decision of the authorities to... you guessed it... prevent spread of contamination. Syngenta withdrew the "protein" (not one of the better associations with this word) after being charged for covering up livestock deaths including those on the farm of a tenacious farmer who participated in trials and his cattle developed diseases and five cattle died. Syngenta paid him forty thousand euros basically as hush up money and other cover ups, including in tests. In India, maize is not cattle feed, but consumed by humans for the most part. Remember your "makki roti and sarson saag"? Now Modi sarkar has allowed field trials on GM maize in India.

A research paper published by Dr. Judy Carman last year showed marked increase in abdominal inflammation and on an average a 25% heavier uterus among female pigs fed GM feed. In 2009, American Academy Of Environmental Medicine called for Immediate Moratorium on Genetically Modified Foods stating a whole list of health risks related with GM food.

Citing several animal studies, the AAEM concludes "there is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects" and that "GM foods pose a serious health risk in the areas of toxicology, allergy and immune function, reproductive health, and metabolic, physiologic and genetic health."

I could go on listing studies that have clearly shown the danger, but then what is my voice in the face of an all party (including BJP MPs) Parliamentary Standing Committee that overcame attempts of the state government to prevent them interviewing farmers and recommended against GM in its report?