Writing

Monsanto in India and what it is doing to farmers

For thousands of years, Indian farmers have used ingenious methods, handed down from generation to generation, to outsmart nature’s obstacles. They created salt-resistant seeds for seasons for when the oceans flood the country’s farmland. They developed cold-resistant seeds for years when it’s too cold to grow regular crops. And they did it all naturally, using nothing but Mother Nature’s help. This all changed when Monsanto arrived in India. Monsanto Company is a publicly traded American multinational agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology corporation. It is a leading producer of genetically engineered (GE) seed. Monsanto's GM cotton seed was the subject of NGO agitation because of its higher cost. Indian farmers cross GM varieties with local varieties using plant breeding to yield better strains, an illegal practice termed "seed piracy.” Indian farmers often commit suicide due to the burden and stress caused by their dependence on Monsanto products.

    “Producing more, conserving more, improving farmers lives.” These are the promises Monsanto India’s website makes, alongside pictures of smiling, prosperous farmers from the state of Maharashtra. Control over seed is the first link in the food chain because seed is the source of life. When a corporation controls seed, it controls life, especially the life of farmers.

Navdanya, an Indian-based non-governmental organization which promotes biodiversity conservation, biodiversity, organic farming and the rights of farmers, said: “Contrary to what Monsanto proclaims, GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) have led to a decline in yields and an increase in pesticide use, soil deterioration and farmer indebtedness and suicides. In India, most of the 284,000 farmers' suicides are in the cotton belt —Monsanto controls 95 percent of the cotton seeds.” In 2009, Monsanto scientists initially discovered that insects had developed resistance to the BT Cotton planted in Gujarat and when studies were completed, Monsanto communicated this to the Indian government and its customers, stating that "resistance is natural and expected, so measures to delay resistance are important.” The company advised farmers to switch to its second generation of Bt cotton which had two resistance genes instead of one. This was a business strategy to phase out single gene events and promote double genes in order to fetch higher prices. High prices for seed and the need for more fertilizer were among the factors that put the farmers so deep in debt that many committed suicide.  As superpests spread, farmers will be forced to turn to Monsanto for seed supply--and will then be trapped in Monsanto's patent monopoly. Monsanto is not only causing destruction on our natural environment but also deliberately killing a large group of people, especially farmers. "In a just world, Monsanto should be tried for ecocide and genocide," says NGO (Navdanya).    

    Here in the suicide belt of India, the cost of the genetically modified future is murderously high. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations tells us that more than 70 percent of food comes from small farms and small farmers.  Only 10 percent of the GMO corn and soya grown by Monsanto is eaten directly; the other 90 percent goes to feed cows and animals. And yet on the World’s food day, Monsanto is giving itself the World Food Prize. Through patents on seed, Monsanto has become the “Life Lord” of our planet. Patents on seed are illegitimate because putting a toxic gene into a plant cell is not “creating” or “inventing” a plant. These are seeds of deception — the deception that Monsanto is the creator of seeds and life; the deception that while Monsanto sues farmers and traps them in debt, it pretends to be working for farmers’ welfare, and the deception that GMOs feed the world.

     "I took inspiration from Gandhi's spinning wheel. Because when our entire economy was controlled by the British," she said, "Gandhi pulled out a spinning wheel and said, if we have to have freedom, we have to have economic freedom. I realized I had to find a spinning wheel forour times. And the seed is the spinning wheel for our time." She established the concept that the seed is a common heritage and that it can't be the monopoly of an industry. BT cotton requires more water than hybrid cotton. The scan rainfall and drought situations are not favorable for the genetically modified seeds.  Each year the farmer must return to the agriculture station and negotiate another loan for another crop.  A key feature of this arrangement, Shiva insists, "will be a public-private partnership where the private sector can help identify research areas that have the potential for rapid commercialization, with a view to develop new and commercially viable technologies for agricultural advancement in both countries." By storing and sharing seed, teaching farmers traditional farming techniques, and ensuring that patents can't be made on the produce, Shiva hopes to make things a little easier for India's small farmers.

    The children were inconsolable. Mute with shock and fighting back tears, they huddled beside their mother as friends and neighbors prepared their father's body for cremation on a blazing bonfire built on the cracked, barren fields near their home. But the debt does not die with her husband. Unless she can find a way of paying it off, she will not be able to afford the children's schooling. They will lose their land, joining the hordes seen begging in their thousands by the roadside throughout this vast, chaotic country. Monsanto uses many thousands of children in its labor force in India, and the reason is simple: they can pay them less and work them more —up to 13 hours a day.  People who cannot even read are forced to try to work with seed and chemicals whose application requires literacy.

    Although Monsanto is dominating the Indian farmers now, a ray of hope still seems to exist: in 2003, the World Trade Organization forced India to revise its patent laws to allow for corporate ownership of entire plant and animal species. But India hesitated. The country refused to allow patents on animals, but left the door open for corporate ownership of plants. This patent was very crucial for Monsanto. Although, currently Monsanto sells only one variety of seeds (hybrid maize seeds) in India, had this patent been awarded, Monsanto could have enjoyed exclusive patent rights for all the seeds sold in India that used this technology. If the activists and farmers in India continue to stand up and raise their voice against the unjust, Monsanto will surely stop. 

    Monsanto has claimed more than 1500 climate resilient patents, and are hoping to use the climate crisis to make even bigger profits. What Indian farmers should know is that Monsanto is also a company which has sued and jailed farmers for the "crime" of saving and using seeds that have been purchased by the farmers from the company, to protect its patents. Can you imagine farmers not being allowed the right to save seed from their own crop, when it is farmers who have bred thousands of crop varieties over the centuries?  'No food shall be grown that we don't own' that is Monsanto's reported objective. This diabolical ambition comes from realizing that growing food is obviously a perpetual business as long as humankind exists. Monsanto seeks to own that food through patents, using hybrids and Genetically Modified seeds, to prevent competition and force farmers to return to the company perpetually for seeds. Even on its most friendly turf USA, Monsanto is now facing an anti-trust investigation.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

 “India says NO to GMO, stops Monsanto cold” . Whiteoutpress.com. July 10, 2013.

"Monsanto should be Tried for Ecocide, Genocide.” Says NGO.” New Delhi : Indo Asian News         Service English, October 16, 2013. 

Nafeez Ahmed. “  United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Hilal Elver, advo        cates for agroecology (traditional farming). Is this a new initiative?” Yes! Magazine. Oc        tober 10, 2014.

P Rajendra. ”The Seed is the Spinning Wheel for our Time.” United States, New York : India         Abroad Publications, 2010.

Scott, Barbara Bamberger. "India Divided: Diversity and Democracy Under Attack.” India :         Crises Press INC. , 2005.

  Sophie McAdam, “ Monsanto wins prestigious World Food Prize,” True Activist, October 9,         2013.

The purpose of this public installation project was to create a piece of urban camouflage that will visually integrate with the chosen site.  

GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) have led to a decline in yields and an increase in pesticide use, soil deterioration and farmer indebtedness and suicides. In India, most of the 284,000 farmers' suicides are in the cotton belt —
Monsanto controls 95 percent of the cotton seeds.

Monsanto has claimed more than 1500 climate resilient patents, and are hoping to use the climate crisis to make even bigger profits. What the world should know is that Monsanto is also a company which has sued and jailed farmers for the "crime" of saving and using seeds that have been purchased by the farmers from the company, to protect its patents. Can you imagine farmers not being allowed the right to save seed from their own crop, when it is farmers who have bred thousands of crop varieties over the centuries?