MONSANTO, QUIT INDIA!
NO CORPORATE CONTROL OF INDIAN AGRICULTURE!
Call for a Nation-wide DAY OF ACTION on Aug. 9, 2011 (Quit India Day) &
KISAN SWARAJ WEEK, Aug. 9TH to Aug. 15TH 2011
Have you heard of this agri-business company called Monsanto? Monsanto is an American company, which has become the world’s largest seed company by employing many devious strategies and tactics. Its annual gross profit is around 22,500 crores of rupees - which is more than the GDP of at least 48 countries! You can imagine the power of this corporation. Monsanto is notorious across the world for a variety of misdeeds and crimes – polluting natural resources, killing and maiming humans with its products, bribing officials for approvals, falsifying safety reports to show the most dangerous chemicals like dioxin as safe, colluding with regulators through revolving doors between the company and government, false advertising etc.
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 and IPRs, using hybrids and Genetically Modified seeds, to prevent competition and force farmers return to the company perpetually for seeds. Even on its most friendly turf USA, Monsanto is now facing an anti-trust investigation.
Monsanto’s Misdeeds and Growing Threat in India
A few indications about the dangers of Monsanto and the extent of its control:
· Mahyco-Monsanto used its Bt cotton seed monopoly to set exorbitant prices. The A.P. government had to use the MRTP Commission, Essential Commodities Act and then a special Act to finally push its price from Rs.1800 per packet to Rs.750.
· Monsanto actually sued A.P. and Gujarat state governments that they have no right to control seed prices – with Congress leader Abhishek Singhvi as its lawyer! How can individual farmers protect themselves from its legal machine?
· Monsanto entered into licensing agreements with most seed companies so that out of 225 lakh acres of GM cotton, 210 lakh acres is planted with its Bollgaard. During 2002-2006, Monsanto earned Rs.1600 crores just in the form of royalties.
· Monsanto is on the Board of US-India Knowledge Initiative in Agriculture, under which bio-safety regime for GM crops was sought to be weakened; repeating its US strategy where its lawyers practically wrote the policies on GM seeds and patents.
· Monsanto entered into hushed-up agreements with several states (Rajasthan, Orissa, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, J&K) under which the states spend hundreds of crores of public funds every year to purchase Hybrid Maize seeds from Monsanto and distributing them free of cost to farmers, creating a ready market.
· Monsanto is pushing the sales of its herbicide glyphosate which is known to cause reproductive problems. Approval for its herbicide-tolerant GM crops would skyrocket the use of this hazardous chemical in our fields.
· Recently, gross violations were exposed in its GM maize field trials in Karnataka.
Oppose Corporate Control of our Food & Agriculture
We have all seen corruption and crony capitalism being exposed in various sectors from telecom to Commonwealth games. Similar scams are being unearthed in the way agriculture and food regulations are being manipulated – from the hushed-up PPP contracts with Monsanto to the formation of “expert panels” on GM crop approval with scientists who are being funded by industry projects. In the Seeds Bill, despite strong demands from farmer unions & state governments, and recommendations from Parliamentary Standing Committee, the Union Agri. Minister refused to include control of seed prices or royalties – clearly obeying the seed industry.
Indian agriculture is seen as a prime multi-billion dollar market by multinational and national agri-business corporations. It is outrageous but not surprising that MNCs are included as Board members in the Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture between the Indian and US governments. Those MNCs are Monsanto, Archer-Daniels Midland and Walmart – covering the whole chain from seed to food production and processing to marketing, reflecting the corporate strategy of controlling the entire value chain.
We don’t need to guess where this drive towards corporatization will take us – we only need to look at American agriculture. Small and medium farmers in the US were pushed out decades ago and only 1% of the people in the US are engaged in agriculture. The objective shifted from supporting the interests of farming households to the “Food Industry”. The company lawyers became policy-makers and passed laws prohibiting farmers from saving seeds, and citizens from criticizing the food industry. Big supermarket chains purchase only from large factory farms of thousands of acres; even a 50-acre farmer cannot sell his produce to the supermarket.
“Learning” from the “American model”, the Indian policymakers are already talking about reducing the farming population in India from 60% to 10%. Where will the rest go? What will happen to our rural and urban economies? Meanwhile, large tracts of land are being amassed by a few companies. It is not just the farmers who should worry; as consumers, our access to safe, diverse, nutritious food is at risk.
JOIN THE STRUGGLE NOW!
If we as a nation want to protect our food sovereignty, if we want to retain control on what we grow and what we eat, this is the time for us to act decisively. Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA) is calling all like-minded organizations, alliances and individuals to come together in these joint actions:
· Nation-wide Day of Action on Aug. 9th with the slogan “Monsanto Quit India!”
· Kisan Swaraj Week (Aug 9th-15th) demanding secure livelihoods & sustainable agriculture for the farming community, and opposing corporate domination
For more resources: Visit http://www.kisanswaraj.in
Nation-wide campaign contacts:
Put out in Public Interest by Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture (www.kisanswaraj.in)