The race by food-importing countries to secure farmland overseas to improve their food security risks creating a "neo-colonial' system, the United Nations' top agriculture official has cautioned.

The warning by Jacques Diouf, director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organisation, comes as countries from Saudi Arabia to China plan to lease vast tracts of land in Africa and Asia to grow crops and ship them back to their markets.

In what looks like the latest crisis to strike India's food bowl, migrant labourers, who earlier came in hordes to till Punjab's unending agricultural lands, have suddenly disappeared, forcing landlords to stop short of kidnapping them from railway stations and bus stops.

Labour pangs for farmers seem to be far from over. First it was the overall shortage of manual labour and now early rains are becoming a cause of worry for farmers. An early monsoon is good news for farmers, but the need to transplant paddy as soon as possible has only hiked labour expenses. A rough estimate says in the last couple of days alone, the labour expenses have gone up by 30 per cent. Beginning June 10, about 20 per cent of paddy cultivation in Punjab has been completed, says government data.

Amnesty International criticized poor working conditions and forced labour in Brazil's fast-growing sugar cane sector on Wednesday, as the government tries to promote the cane-based ethanol industry as a way to reduce poverty. The human rights group said Brazil's government has taken steps to improve working conditions in rural areas, but it has confirmed cases of forced labour throughout the country.

Policy interventions needed urgently are as follows:



The Union Minister for Panchayati Raj, Mani Shankar Aiyar, was recently in Nagpur to attend a conference. He volunteered to visit Koljhari, Bodhbadhan and Waiphad villages that witnessed many farmer suicides. At Waiphad, he met with a group of farmers and farm labourers who were eager to talk to him.

How caste prejudices and class interests brought about the demise of a panchayat administered well by Dalit leaders in Tamil Nadu.

A demonstration in front of the Collectorate in Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu against the January 8 arrests at Iruvappapuram.

Pesticides are responsible for hundreds of cases of poisoning in the developing world, where information and training on the potential negative health effects of these chemicals is often lacking. While the impact of the indiscriminate use of toxic