Soaring seed prices in India have resulted in many farmers being mired in debt and turning to suicide [Reuters]
|Monsanto and its PR men are trying desperately to delink the epidemic of farmers suicides in India from its growing control over the cotton seed supply. For us it is the control over seed, the first link in the food chain, the source of life which is our biggest concern. When a corporation controls seed, it controls life. Including the life of our farmers.
The trends of Monsanto’s concentrated control on the seed sector in India or across the world is the central issue. This is what connects the farmer suicides in India, to Monsanto v Percy Schmeiser in Canada, orMonsanto v Bowman in the US, to farmers in Brazil suing Monsanto for $2.2 billion for unfair collection of royalty. Through patents on seeds, Monsanto has become the “Life Lord” on the planet, collecting rents from life’s renewal and from farmers, the original breeders. Patents on seed are illegitimate because putting a toxic gene into a plant cell is not the “creation” or invention of the plant. They are seeds of deception – the deception of Monsanto being the creator of seeds and life, the deception that while it sues farmers and traps them in debt, it is working for farmers’ welfare and ”improving farmers lives” - the deception that GMOs feed the world. GMOs are failing to control pests and weeds, and have instead led to the emergence of super pests and super weeds [PDF].
In 1995 , Monsanto introduced its Bt technology in India through a joint venture with the Indian company Mahyco.
In 1997-98, Monsanto started open field trials of its propriety GMO Bt cotton illegally, and had announced it would be selling the seeds commercially the following year.
India has had rules for regulating GMOs since 1989 under the Environment Protection Act. Under these rules, it is mandatory to get approval from the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee under the Ministry of Environment for GMO trials.
When we found out that Monsanto had not applied for approval, the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology sued Monsanto in the Supreme Court of India. As a result, Monsanto could not start commercial sales of its Bt cotton seeds until 2002. But it had started to change Indian agriculture before that.
‘Seeds of suicide’
The entry of Monsanto in the Indian seed sector was made possible with a 1988 Seed Policy imposed by the World Bank, requiring the government of India to deregulate the seed sector.
Five things changed with Monsanto’s entry. First, Indian companies were locked into joint ventures and licensing arrangements, and concentration over the seed sector increased. In the case of cotton, Monsanto now controls 95 percent of the cotton seed market through its GMOs. Second, seed which had been the farmers’ common resource became the “intellectual property” of Monsanto, for which it started collecting royalties thus raising the costs of seed. Third, open-pollinated cotton seeds were displaced by hybrids, including GMO hybrids. A renewable resource became a non-renewable patented commodity. Fourth, cotton which had earlier been grown as a mixture with food crops now had to be grown as a monoculture, with higher vulnerability to pests, disease, drought and crop failure. Finally, Monsanto started to subvert India’s regulatory processes, and in fact started to use public resources to push its non-renewable hybrids and GMOs through so-called public private partnerships (PPP).
The creation of seed monopolies, the destruction of alternatives, the collection of superprofits in the form of royalties, and the increasing vulnerability of monocultures has created a context for debt, suicides, and agrarian distress.
I have always been critical of reductionism. I look at systems, and at contextual causation. It is this system that Monsanto has created of seed monopoly, crop monocultures and a context of debt, dependency and distress – which is driving the farmers’ suicide epidemic in India. This systemic control has been intensified with Bt cotton. That is why most suicides are in the cotton belt. The highest acreage of Bt cotton is Maharashtra, and this is also where the highest farm suicides are. According to P Sainath, who has covered farmer suicides extensively: “The total number of farmers who have taken their own lives in Maharashtra since 1995 is closing in on 54,000. Of these, 33,752 have occurred in nine years since 2003, at an annual average of 3,750. The figure for 1995-2002 was 20,066 at an average of 2,508.” Suicides have increased after Bt cotton was introduced. The price of seed jumped 8,000 percent; Monsanto’s royalty extraction and the high costs of purchased seed and chemicals have created a debt trap.
According to data from the Indian government, nearly 75 percent rural debt is due to purchased inputs. Farmers’ debt grows as Monsanto profits grow. It is in this systemic sense that Monsanto’s seeds are those of suicide. An internal advisory by the agricultural ministry of India in January 2012 had this to say to the cotton growing states in India: “Cotton farmers are in a deep crisis since shifting to Bt cotton. The spate of farmer suicides in 2011-12 has been particularly severe among Bt cotton farmers.”
Moreover, after the damning report of the parliamentary committee on Bt crops, the panel of technical experts appointed by the supreme court has recommended a 10-year moratorium on field trials of all GM food and termination of all ongoing trials of transgenic crops.
And the ultimate seeds of suicide are Monsanto’s patented Terminator Tecnology that create sterile seed. The Convention on Biological Diversity has banned its use, otherwise Monsanto would be collecting even higher profits from it.
“Monsanto is an agricultural company. We apply innovation and technology to help farmers around the world produce more while conserving more.”
“Produce more. Conserve more. Improving farmers’ lives.”
This is the announcement on Monsanto India’s website. All the pictures are of smiling prosperous farmers from the state of Maharashtra. However, we see that the reality on the ground is completely different. Farmers are in debt and in deep distress, and have become dependent on Monsanto’s seed monopoly. Most of the farmers who have committed suicide in India did so due to being trapped in debt and are in the cotton belt – which has become a suicide belt now: The highest suicides are in Maharashtra. Monsanto’s talk of “technology” tries to hide its real objectives of ownership, where genetic engineering is just a means to control seeds and the food system through patents and intellectual property rights.
A Monsanto representative admitted that they were “the patient, diagnostician, and physician all in one” in writing the patents on life sections in the TRIPS agreement of WTO. Stopping farmers from saving seeds and exercising their seed sovereignty was the objective. Monsanto has gone very far down the road of destroying biodiversity and seed sovereignty. It is now extending its patents to conventionally-bred seed – as in the case of broccoli and capsicum, or the low-gluten wheat it had pirated from India, which wechallenged as a biopiracy case in the European Patent Office.
That is why we have started Fibres of Freedom in the heart of Monsanto’s Bt cotton/suicide belt in Vidharba. We have created community seed banks with indigenous seeds and helped farmers go organic. No GMO seeds, no debt, no suicides. We save and share seeds of life and freedom – diverse, open-pollinated, GMO-free, patent-free seeds.
Dr Vandana Shiva is a physicist, eco-feminist, philosopher, activist, and author of more than 20 books and 500 papers. She is the founder of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, and has campaigned for biodiversity, conservation and farmers’ rights – winning the Right Livelihood Award (Alternative Nobel Prize) in 1993.
PUNE: India’s Rs 8,000-crore seed sector is bracing for a hit because farmers shun cotton this summer after expanding the acreage for two consecutive years. Cotton prices have hovered around the minimum support price for most of the current season, putting farmers in distress.
BT cotton’s loss in the battle for acres has enormous corporate interest because it rakes in a third of the seed industry’s revenues. The seed industry has seen maximum private equity interest in the last three years compared to the rest of the farm input value chain. Initial trends show a decline in cotton acreage. According to the Haryana agriculture department, sowing in the state has been completed on 3.45 lakh ha area till May 25 this year as compared to 4.50 lakh ha sown by the same date last year, which is a decline of more than 23%.
Last year, cotton acreage in Haryana was at 6.03 lakh ha. This year, the state government expects the crop to be sown on 5.50 lakh ha, a fall of close to 9%. ”As against our requirement of about 32 lakh packets, the availability of Bt cotton seeds is at 44 lakh packets,” said BS Duggal, joint secretary, Punjab agriculture department.
In Maharashtra, the second-largest cotton producer, acreage is expected to fall by 1.15 lakh ha from 41.25 lakh ha last year to 40 lakh ha this year. ”As against our requirement of 1.60 crore packets, the availability of seeds is at 2.10 crore packets,” said SS Adsool, director-agriculture (inputs and quality control), Maharashtra government.
Top seed companies have confirmed the possibility of a fall in cotton acreage and its pressure on their margins. Companies selling non-branded seeds have to bear losses. “There are early indications of a reduction in cotton acreage. But by the end of the season, the acreage may even remain at the last year’s level,” said Ram Kaundinya, managing director, Advanta India.
The availability of seeds at four crore packets is more than the demand of about 3.7 crore packets. “As against the sale of about 70-75 lakh packets of Bt cotton seeds last year in north India, we expect a sale of only about 60 lakh packets this year,” said MG Shembekar of Nagpur-based Ankur Seeds.
“Barring a top few brands, which are selling Bt seeds for a premium, there is a price war amongst seed companies. As a result, quality material is available to farmers at competitive rates,” said Shembekar. Sushil Karwa, managing director of Pune-based Krishidhan Seeds, confirmed a cut in prices.
“It is mandatory for seed companies to sell seeds at the MRP fixed by the government. This means quality seeds as well as the poor ones have to be sold at the same price. The government should allow companies to price their seeds as per their market value,” he added.
Necessity drives the search for alternatives
Faced with a unique economic crisis, Cuba’s national agriculture system was near
collapse, threatening the country’s food security. But working together with
groups of farmers, a team of young plant breeders is turning things around. And
by working together both the farmers and the breeders are learning valuable
lessons that could prove to be valuable to the agriculture systems of other
countries in the region.
NEW DELHI – Blessed with one of the world’s most diverse seed gene banks, India’s premier state-run agriculture research institute is seeking to collaborate with multinational seed corporations to develop high-yielding, durable seeds — both for profit and to improve the nation’s poor crop yields, a senior official at the institute said.
The Indian Council of Agriculture Research would offer its partners its massive seed gene bank in exchange for expertise and a share of the profits, ICAR deputy director general Swapan K. Datta said.
ICAR has already sought the government’s approval for such tie-ups, which would enable it to tap into an international seed market worth $200 billion annually, Mr. Datta said late Thursday.
Datta said such collaboration is crucial to developing higher-yielding seeds for Indian farmers.
“We know that we are rich in germplasm [seed genes]. But we also need the next generation of genetics,” he said. “We have to do it.”
ICAR hopes to collaborate on the development of a variety of high-yielding, climate-tolerant seeds that could be used in India and elsewhere.
It is likely to attract plenty of potential suitors. ICAR could offer around 400,000 varieties of native germplasm, many of which could be used to develop crops that could withstand adverse conditions such as those created by global warming, Mr. Datta said.
Despite its abundant resources, India has captured only around 2% of the global seed market due to lack of expertise and marketing. Efforts to introduce genetically modified crops have largely met with resistance from social groups.
“We have crops that are being grown and adapted very naturally to different geographies. So we have drought-tolerant rice, terminal-heat tolerant wheat and salinity-tolerant crop varieties,” he said.
Mr. Datta said collaborating with multinationals could be hugely profitable, but the bigger benefit might be offering modern technology to Indian farmers to help them meet the challenge of feeding the nation’s ever-growing population.
“We really wouldn’t mind taking a small share of the profits. What would be more important is if we could use such collaborations to bring high-yielding seeds to our farmers at 50% of the cost,” Mr. Datta said.
Boosting the farm productivity is critical because India has little scope for expanding the area under cultivation. Though the nation currently enjoys surpluses in grain staples such as rice and wheat, it must import oilseeds and pulses.
On the other hand, the scope for increasing productivity is immense. For example, Canada’s productivity of pulses exceeds India’s by more than two-and-a-half times.
Write to Biman Mukherji at email@example.com
When meta-physician, Deepak Chopra and food champion and ecologist, Vandana Shiva met before a live audience at his Love in Action series atDeepakHomeBase,
they had a good laugh over the Bullshit Award. Yes, that’s right. Monsanto gave a Bullshit Award to Shiva. To Shiva, whom Forbes Magazine called one of the seven most powerful women on earth, that was an unintended compliment. To get the joke, it helps to recognize the value of cow dung (the Indian down-on-the-farm name for bullshit.)
Cow dung is the original recyclable material. It helps fertilize the fields that grow the grass, which the cows, that produce the dung, feed upon. Their grazing helps our dehydrating planet retain moisture in the earth, contributing to global water supplies. Cow dung use cuts down on the excess nitrogen produced by chemical fertilizers, which contribute to climate change. In a pinch cow dung can be burned for fuel (lowering fossil fuel use) or to help build or insulate a home (lowering fuel use and providing low cost shelter.) As an added gift, those grazing cows produce the butter, milk, yogurt, and cheese that people eat as well.
By surveying the versatile ecology of cow dung, even urban dwellers, like me, can see the earthy pragmatism embedded in the Indian worship of cows (and indeed all life) as sacred. That’s why Chopra and Shiva laughed at the would-be insult.
But before anyone rushes in to take for themselves alone the newly perceived value of cow dung, let’s recognize it as just one part of a teaming, living ecology that supports human life by helping to:
- Feed more people
- Promote self-sufficiency
- Create more jobs
- Harvest more energy
- Maintain the earth’s climate and ecological balance
Time has tested and proven the value of cow dung, and the natural cycle to which it belongs. Acting in ways that attune with nature’s processes and cycles is not about having the right to label a product “natural.” It is about following nature as the supreme guide to creating and maintaining life. Otherwise, we risk undermining and destroying the baseline conditions for life, the two Indian scientists maintain. (Shiva originally trained as a physicist.) In different ways, they express the utter urgency to make the right choices now.
As opposed to the life proliferating activities of cow dung, GMO seeds are “terminator seeds designed to be sterile, in a deliberate creation of food scarcity for profits,” says Shiva, who has worked with and defended the rights of farmers to store seeds for three decades.
Whether or not GMOs hold up to the Monsanto claim of feeding more people, (a claim that Shiva disputes, countering that 80 percent of food is grown on small farms, rather than mass industrial ones) Monsanto defines success very differently than Shiva does.
Rather than seek to promoting life through promoting food cultivation, Monsanto acts to:
- Obtain the exclusive intellectual property rights to the earth’s seeds
- Modify seeds genetically with pesticides and herbicides
- Build planned obsolescence into traditional crops
- Sue farmers who maintain the centuries old ecological cycle by collecting seeds from each new crop
In the U.S., where long time industry executives hold powerful positions in key governmental regulatory agencies, the USDA and FDA are pursuing pro-GMO policies. But how well have those worked in India? There, Vandana Shiva reports that they have resulted in the suicide of a quarter of a million Indian farmers. When in the aftermath of being forced into industrial agriculture, Indian farmers lost their independence, livelihoods, food, and farms, they committed suicide, she says, by drinking what remained: the chemical pesticides produced by industrial giants.
The technological science so highly prized in our civilization has another side.
“Yes, it has given us important tools,” Chopra acknowledges, before he goes on to enumerate the ugly side of “fragmented science,” such as global warming, ecological destruction, mechanized death, nuclear weapons, GMOs, and pesticides. “Together they are risking our extinction as a species,” he says.
Beyond the specific health impacts Chopra enumerates, including “cancer, hormonal disorders, weight gain, allergies, and propensity to infections,” lies a more pervasive problem. “What is happening in our body is also happening in the body of Mother Earth. Because many of the chemicals and processes were originally developed for military aims, their purpose is destructive.” Using them in life proliferating activities, like food farming, amounts to “declaring war on the land,” Chopra points out.
Vandana Shiva tallies the impacts of technological science on the living systems on which humans depend.
“Pollinators are disappearing. We have a migration of birds, a loss of planetary water, changing weather patterns. We have created a war on life.”
Sanjeeb Mukherjee / New Delhi October 19, 2011, 7:17 IST
To ensure easy availability of high-quality certified seeds at reasonable price to farmers, the agriculture ministry’s long-pending proposal for a national mission on seeds is expected to be implemented in the 12th Five Year Plan that starts from April 2012.
The Planning Commission has given “in principle” approval for the mission, which will cost around Rs 3,773.40 crore — and will run for a period of five years.
A final decision will have to be taken by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, a senior agricultural ministry official said on Tuesday.
Officials said work on a national mission on seeds had started a few years ago. “It is likely to be operationalised soon. It will strive to improve private sector participation in the development and distribution of seeds in the country,” a source told Business Standard.
At present, private sector contributes 40 per cent of the total seed supply in the country estimated to be around 350 lakh quintals every year.
Lack of high-quality certified seeds both for cereals and also for fruits and vegetables along with their poor replacement ratio have been one of the main drawbacks of Indian agriculture.
Demands have kept rising, though there has been progress to continued efforts to improve research and development of newer and better varieties of seeds. As per government estimates in the 2010-11 crop marketing year, the country’s seed availability exceeded demand by around 23.21 lakh quintals, while in the current crop marketing year supplies were more than the demand by an equal amount.
The National Seed Plan framed in 2005 had assessed that India would need an overall 258 lakh quintals of seeds annually in the next five years.
However, that assessment was surpassed in 2009-10, 2010-11 and 2011-2012 itself because of higher area coverage under cereals, grains, fruits and vegetables.
At present, the government is also working on a new seeds bill that it had introduced in Parliament in this July, but is reworking after several MPs proposed amendments. “The revised seed bill will be sent to the Cabinet for approval,” an official said.
The linkage between agriculture and environment is well understood. But not everything that is sold as good for agriculture is good for the environment! As more new untested agricultural technologies hit the market, risks for the environment rise too.
New varieties of crops, high-yielding only if grown with agricultural chemicals and abundant water, clearly have environmental implications. Similarly, potentially hazardous genetically engineered (GE) seeds may trigger irretrievable genetic change in agro ecological systems. Yet an environmental principle could well show the way forward for agriculture – that of recycling.
Recycle means to cause to repeat a cycle. In industry it is the process by which used materials are processed into new products to prevent waste of potentially useful materials, reduce consumption of fresh raw materials, cut down energy usage, minimise air and water pollution and lower green house gas emissions. Environmentalists have long been rallying for a more organised way to do this. Likewise, small farmers too are asking for their space to recycle. In small farm agriculture, the saving of seeds and re-using them in the next season is a time-honoured tradition. This recycling of seeds is what is under threat today.
Recycling seeds is direct competition for seed companies. ‘Reduce, resuse, recycle’ seeds clearly comes in the way of their business. Sure the seed, food and fuel industry is looking at agricultural waste and byproducts from farming. But that is purely to develop its carbon portfolios for profits.
Agro fuels so produced are yet to tip the energy balance in their favour. Meanwhile, large populations of farmers in agrarian societies like India and other parts of the world are the untapped market the seed industry is yet to totally conquer.
However, no better than in the (informal) seed sector would recycling the biological material produce a fresh supply of the same planting material. This is not guaranteed by company seeds. To assure themselves of a market, what the seed companies sell in the market are either increasingly hybrid or GE products. Hybrid seeds are the obvious choice of industry since the farmers need to buy the seeds every season. Likewise, GE seeds containing technologies that make the seed sterile, make it impossible for farmers to recycle their seeds. The practice of seed-saving is thus rendered redundant by such seed technologies.
Gap in policy
The country’s seed policies are precisely encouraging such technologies, rather than facilitating farmers to save their own seed. The ministry of agriculture (MoA) has a plan to increase the Seed Replacement Rate (SRR). As explained by MoA, seed replacement rate is the percentage of area sown out of total area of crop planted in the season by using certified/quality seeds other than the farm-saved seed. In the official view the farmers’ reliance on farm saved seeds is seen as something that needs to be corrected. There is an obvious gap in law and policy for the promotion of farmers’ seeds.
The proposed Seed Bill is about putting in place marketing rules for certified seeds of ‘quality.’ Even in the India’s National Seeds Policy 2002 the enhancement of SRR is one of the thrust areas. The intent is to replace the use of farm-saved seeds. The country’s National Seed Plan expressly aims at ensuring the SRR at 25 per cent for self-pollinated crops, 35 per cent for cross-pollinating crops and 100 per cent for hybrids. To be able to meet the demand of seed as per projections of this plan, several quintals of seeds have to be produced and the distributed to farmers across the rural landscape.
The key players envisaged in seed production are the seed industry. The government is also fostering public-private partnerships with state agricultural universities and the State Farms Corporation of India (SFCI). Seed production is the main activity at SFCI farms. Yet the reality is that the National Seed Corporation and the State Seed Corporations are not able to supply the quality and quantity of seeds that farmers need.
Interestingly, both the public and private seed sector actively prospect for farmers’ varieties as a base to build new seed products on. That explains the official emphasis on ex situ conservation and the storing away of traditional varieties in centralised collections. And there seems to a one-way traffic in terms of seed and planting materials being collected by state agencies, be it agricultural universities, research institutes, gene banks or the plant authority. The seeds that come out of these institutions are not re-usable by farmers. But the dichotomy of the situation is that farmers’ seed is considered inferior as against ‘quality’ seed mass manufactured by industry.
There is worldwide concern about the environmental impacts of achieving global food production targets. Yet growing more with less is what small farm agriculture allows. It provides a ready-made low-carbon solution for mitigating global climate change. At the centre of the many small diverse adaptive decentralised food production models are local seeds. Recycling these will also help to keep farmers as the original producers of seeds. So yes the world needs to recycle, but most of all it needs to let farmers’ recycle their own seeds.
(The writer specialises in agriculture and biodiversity issues)
Published on Deccan Chronicle (http://www.deccanchronicle.com)
There is an intense scramble for the earth’s resources and ownership of nature. Big oil, big pharma, big food, big seed companies are joining hands to appropriate biodiversity and biomass — the living carbon, thereby extending the age of fossil fuels and dead carbon. Corporations view the 75 per cent biomass used by nature and local communities as “wasted”. They would like to appropriate the living wealth of the planet for making biofuels, chemicals and plastics. This will dispossess the poor of the very sources of their lives and livelihoods. The instruments for this new dispossession are technological tools of genetic engineering, synthetic biology and intellectual property rights (IPRs). A patent is supposed to be granted to an invention. But patents and IPRs are being used to own seeds, life forms and traditional knowledge. Piracy of traditional knowledge is not an invention; it is theft — we call it biopiracy. Patents are at the heart of Monsanto’s seed monopoly.
After the WTO’s Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights agreement was signed in 1994, a representative of the world’s biggest seed corporation said that Monsanto had been the “patient, diagnostician and physician” in drafting the agreement which forced countries to introduce patents on life and seeds. Monsanto, which began with genetically modified organisms (GMOs), is now patenting non-GM crops. On May 21, 2003, Monsanto was assigned a patent on the Indian variety of wheat, Nap Hal, by the European Patent Office (EPO), Munich, under the simple title “plants”. On January 27, 2004, Research Foundation for Science Technology and Ecology, along with Greenpeace and Bharat Krishak Samaj, filed a petition at EPO, challenging the patent rights given to Monsanto. The patent was revoked in October 2004. This was the third consecutive victory on the IPR front after neem and basmati, and it once again established that patents on biodiversity, indigenous knowledge and resources are based on biopiracy.
Monsanto has used nine local brinjal (eggplant) varieties to develop its Bt. brinjal. Since the Biological Diversity Act of India, 2002, requires approval for accessing indigenous biodiversity, the Karnataka Biodiversity Board complained to the National Biodiversity Authority (NBA). According to the minutes of the NBA’s meeting on June 20, 2011, “NBA may proceed legally against Mahyco/Monsanto, and all others concerned to take the issue to its logical conclusion.” Monsanto is also accessing native onion varieties to develop its proprietary hybrids. The company is going to pay `10 lakh to the Indian Institute of Horticulture Research for 25 gms each of Male Sterile (A line) and Maintener (B line) of MS 48 and MS 65 as a one-time licence fee. Is this a just price?
In May 2011, Monsanto got a patent on conventionally-bred melons from the EPO. Monsanto has used the natural resistance in Indian melons to certain plant viruses such as the “yellow stunting disorder virus”. Using conventional breeding, this resistance was introduced into other melons. While this is biopiracy of a trait evolved by Indian farmers, Monsanto has patented the plant, all parts of the plant (including the seed) and the melon fruit as its “invention”. There is an urgent need to ban all patents on life and living organisms, including biodiversity, genes and cell lines. The coalition “No Patents on Seeds” has started a campaign to exclude breeding material, plants and animals, and foods derived thereof from patentability. Industrial globalised agriculture is heavily implicated in climate change. It contributes to the three major greenhouse gases — carbon dioxide from the use of fossil fuels, nitrogen oxide from the use of chemical fertilisers and methane from factory farming. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the global atmospheric concentration of N2O, largely as a result of the use of chemical fertilisers in agriculture, increased from about 270 parts per billion to 319 parts per billion in 2005. Industrial agriculture is also more vulnerable to climate change, which is intensifying droughts and floods. Monocultures lead to more frequent crop failure when rainfall does not come in time, or is too much or too little. Chemically fertilised soils have no capacity to withstand a drought.
Genetic engineering is embedded in the industrial model of agriculture based on fossil fuels. It is falsely being offered as a magic bullet for dealing with climate change. Monsanto claims that GMOs are a cure for both, food insecurity and climate change, and has been putting out the following advertisement across the world: “9 billion people to feed. A changing climate Now what? Producing more Conserving more Improving farmers lives That’s sustainable agriculture And that’s what Monsanto is all about.” All the claims this advertisement makes are false. Monsanto claims its GMO Bt. cotton gives 1,500 kg/acre, while the average is 300-400 kg/acre. The claim to increased yield is false because yield, like climate resilience, is a multi-genetic trait. Introducing toxins into a plant through herbicide resistance or Bt. toxin increases the “yield” of toxins, not of food or nutrition. Climate resilient traits are not “inventions” of corporations. They have been evolved by nature and farmers. Farmers in India have been breeding crops for millennia to come up with crops that are resistant to climate extremes. Using farmers’ varieties as “genetic material”, the biotechnology industry is playing genetic roulette — gambling on which gene complexes are responsible for which trait.
Breeding is being replaced by gambling, innovation is giving way to biopiracy, and science is being substituted by propaganda and resource-grab. Over the past 20 years, we at Navdanya, India’s biodiversity and organic farming movement, have realised that biodiverse, local, organic systems produce more food and higher farm incomes while reducing water use and risks of crop failure due to climate change. Turning the living wealth of the planet into the property of corporations through patents is a recipe for deepening the poverty and ecological crisis. Biodiversity is the basis of life; it is our living commons. We are a part of nature, not her masters and owners. IPRs on life forms, living resources and living processes are an ethical, ecological and economic perversion. We need to recognise the sovereignty of diverse knowledge systems, including traditional knowledge. And we need to reclaim our biological and intellectual commons for ecological sustainability and economic justice. Dr Vandana Shiva is the executive director of the Navdanya Trust
In Andhra Pradesh crop season used to start with Eruvaka….as it is called, farmers used to celebrate the onset of crop season and prepare their land. Days have changed. Monsoon don’t set as usual so…it starts with praying for a raingod… marrying frogs…carrying water to god…etc…in today’s world frogs are more dependable than the Meteorological department.
Then, by April end the farmers have to stand in queues for the seed of cotton, groundnut or paddy. the queues would be longer…in Ananthapur the queues for Groundnut seed would 4-5 km long and farmers have to stand for 2-3 days the queues. In nights…some leave chappals, bricks to mark their seat…government never told them that they can as well reuse the seed as groundnut is highly self pollinated crop and flowers do not even open leaving no chance for contamination…the state seed corporation and department of agriculture which were paid to serve the farmers needs now buy seed from the market and distribute.
with Bt cotton coming in Queues grew longer and spread to other districts as well. This year we could see such queues in all parts of the states. The seed prices are increasing but no seed is available.
In the meantime the queues for agriculture credit begins. The farmers have to stand in Queues for crop loans (if they own a land) or before private money lender.
Then comes the fertiliser queues. Scientists and Governments have made farmers intoxicated for fertilisers. We are all told that we cannot grow crops with fertilisers…the fetiliser use is increasing and the production of fertilisers is not able to meet the growing demand. The government gives fetiliser subsidies which is also increasing the fertiliser cues. in 2009 it reached 1.20 lakh crores which is 15 % in Indian Budget 2 % more than Defence Budget. between 2004 and 2009 the fertiliser subsidy increased by more than 650 %
If every thing goes well farmers have to again stand in queues for selling their produce. many times they may have to sleep in the market yards to sell their produce. last few years there is no increase in the prices and procurement has also stopped.
After all these what they get would be less than what they spend.
This is the price are paying for ‘our’ self suffiency….farmers lost their self sufficiency…after 64 years of independence is this what we want?
Is this the Swaraj? when do we get Kisan Swaraj?