Monsanto Bullies Small Farmers Over Planting Harvested GMO Seeds


by Puck Lo, CorpWatch Blog
March 26th, 2013

“Seed Giants vs. U.S. Farmers.” New report by Center for Food Safety.

Does Monsanto own all future generations of genetically modified seeds that it sells? The Missouri-based agribusiness giant wants farmers to pay a royalty to plant any seed that descended from a patented original. The legal decision has ramifications for other patented “inventions” that reproduce themselves like strands of DNA.

The U.S. Supreme Court appeared to side with Monsanto in oral arguments heard this past February in a lawsuit that the world’s largest seed company has brought against Vernon Hugh Bowman, a 75 year old farmer in Indiana, who grows corn, soybeans and wheat on a small farm of 600 acres (242 hectares).

The impending court decision, which will probably come this June, has sparked alarm among consumer advocates.

“Judges don’t understand agriculture,” says Bill Freese, science policy analyst for the Center for Food Safety, a Washington DC based watchdog group. “The Monsantos of the world have everyone convinced through a massive misinformation campaigns that biotech crops are essential to feed the world, and patents are necessary for biotech crops. So there’s this patina of virtuous innovation when in fact what biotechnology is really used for primarily is to develop pesticide-promoting crops.”

The crop in question is Roundup Ready soybeans, which are genetically-altered to be resistant to glyphosate, the main chemical in Roundup, a pesticide also manufactured by Monsanto.

Bowman first fought back when Monsanto sued him in 2007 for patent infringement. At the time, Bowman was a regular Monsanto customer. Like the 275,000 other U.S. farmers who buy “Roundup Ready” seeds, Bowman bought his seeds from Monsanto and signed a contract stating that he would not save Roundup seeds to replant. He didn’t.

But from 1999 to 2007, in addition to his usual order of Roundup Ready soybeans for seed, Bowman purchased commodity-grade soybeans, called “commodity grain,” from a local grain elevator where farmers like himself sell their crops. Typically, commodity grain is used for animal feed. Bowman, however, decided to use the commodity grain – a mix comprising of many different varieties of soybeans including some Roundup Ready seeds – to plant a second, lower yield soybean harvest later in the season.

What I wanted was a cheap source of seed,” Bowman told National Public Radio, a U.S. network.

Roundup Ready was first marketed in 1996, and it was a hit with farmers in the U.S., the largest producer of genetically modified food in the world. These days, more than 90 percent of U.S.-grown soybeans are Roundup Ready, Monsanto said in court documents. As a result, organic farmers say, it’s getting harder to find diverse strains of traditional, heirloom soybeans.

Therefore, it’s no surprise that some of the soybeans Bowman took home from the grain elevator contained Monsanto’s patented soybeans. For eight years, Bowman planted the commodity-grade soybeans for his second harvest, sprayed Roundup on them, harvested the plants that grew and kept the seeds they produced to plant later. It’s these “third generation” seeds that are at the heart of the Supreme Court case now.

Bowman saw nothing wrong with what he was doing. “All through history we have always been allowed to go to an elevator and buy commodity grain and plant it,” he told the New York Times.

Not any more, if companies like Monsanto who control most of the global commercial seed market, have their way. The big seed companies use a strategy to attack seed savers that consists of three stages: “investigations; coerced settlements; and, if that fails, litigation,” says the Center for Food Safety.

To date, in the U.S., Monsanto has sued 410 farmers and 56 small farm businesses for alleged seed patent violation. Monsanto has won every single case. The company was awarded nearly $24 million from just 72 of those judgments, the Center for Food Safety found.

Additionally, Freese estimates that as many as 4,500 small farmers who could not afford legal representation have been forced to accept out-of-court settlements. He estimates, based on Monsanto’s documents, that those farmers paid Monsanto between $85 and $160 million in out-of-court settlements.

“As early as 2003, Monsanto had a department of 75 employees with a budget of $10 million for the sole purpose of pursuing farmers for patent infringement,” the Center for Food Safety stated in a new report, “Seed Giants vs. U.S. Farmers.” “Agrichemical companies earn billions of dollars each year, and farmers cannot possibly compete against such resources.”

“Patents are necessary to ensure that we are paid for our products and for all the investments we put into developing these products,” the company states on its website in its defense. “Monsanto invests more than $2.6 million per day in research and development that ultimately benefits farmers and consumers. Without the protection of patents, this would not be possible.”

The Center for Food Safety wants federal, state and local governments to work together to regulate the biotechnology industry, using a law passed by the U.S. Congress in 1970 as a guideline. The 42 year old Plant Variety Protection Act allowed intellectual property laws to be applied to new and distinct plants.

But it had an exemption for farmers to save seeds of such plants and replant them so long as they do not resell the seed. Plant breeders are also allowed to use protected seed for further breeding work. The law was designed to protect one seed company – say Monsanto – from another – like DuPont. This law did not view farmers as competitors to companies.

In 2001, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that non-hybrid plants could be patented. The final decision was written by Justice Clarence Thomas, who incidentally  worked as an attorney for Monsanto in the 1970s. Since then, courts have tended to side with seed companies suing for patent infringement.

“This (Plant Variety Protection Act) has been largely sidelined now by the patent system,” says Freese. “Now companies with patents have this inordinate control over seeds, and they can criminalize seed saving.

Bowman spent $31,000 of his own money on legal fees before a law firm agreed to defend him for free. If Monsanto wins the case against him, he’ll have to pay almost $85,000 to the corporation, which made $7 billion in profits in fiscal year 2012.

Bowman’s legal argument rests on a 150-year old Supreme Court common law known as the “patent exhaustion doctrine.” His lawyer, Mark P. Walters, argued that Monsanto’s patent did not apply to seeds descended from Roundup Ready soybeans that were then sold to a grain elevator and mixed with other soybeans.

Monsanto contended that Bowman, by growing and saving seeds from the commodity soybeans he bought from the grain elevator, was making “copies” of the original, patented Monsanto product.

Two lower courts agreed with Monsanto. In 2009, district court in Indiana awarded the company more than $84,000. The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which specializes in patent law, upheld the decision in 2011.

In October 2012, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, despite objections made by the Obama administration, which said the judges should let the previous rulings stand. The U.S. government filed a friend of the court brief in support of Monsanto, stating that “the Court’s decision could also affect the enforcement of patents for man-made cell lines, DNA molecules, some nanotechnologies and other technologies that involve self-replicating features.”

Not surprisingly, the Biotechnology Industry Organization, the Business Software Alliance, Intellectual Property Owners Association and other industry and research groups also filed friend of the court briefs on Monsanto’s side.

On February 19, Supreme Court justices heard both sides of the case.

“Without the ability to limit reproduction of soybeans containing this patented trait, Monsanto could not have commercialized its invention, and never would have produced what is, by now, the most popular agricultural technology in America,” Monsanto’s lawyer and former U.S. solicitor general, Seth P. Waxman, told the court.

Waxman was allowed to talk uninterrupted at length, “which is usually a sign of impending victory,” the New York Times reported.

In contrast, the justices fired a volley of skeptical questions at Bowman’s attorney, Mark P. Walters. When Walters argued that Monsanto’s patent didn’t apply to subsequent generations of seeds after the initial sale, Antonin Scalia, another judge, interrupted him.

“Why in the world would anybody spend any money to try to improve the seed if, as soon as they sold the first one, anybody could grow more and have as many of those seeds as they want?” Scalia asked.

Later, Walters argued that Bowman was “making use” of the commodity grain that he bought on the open market when he planted it, not making a copy of an original Monsanto seed. He was rebuked by Stephen Breyer, another of the judges.

“You can feed it to animals, you can feed it to your family, make tofu turkeys,” Breyer interjected. “But… you can’t pick up those seeds that you’ve just bought and throw them in a child’s face. You can’t do that because there’s a law that says you can’t do it. Now, there’s another law that says you cannot make copies of a patented invention.”

“If the concept is the sale of a parent plant exhausts the patentholder’s rights… we would have to go all the way back to the very first Roundup Ready plant that was created,” said Melissa Arbus Sherry, the lawyer representing the Obama administration. “Every single Roundup Ready seed in existence today is the progeny of that one parent plant and… that would eviscerate patent protections. There would be no incentive to invest, not just in Roundup Ready soybeans or not even agricultural technology.”

Walters believes there is still a possibility that the Supreme Court could reverse the decision or send the case back to the lower courts for retrial. He said three of the justices appeared to sympathize with the idea that a farmer ought to be able to sell, plant or grow new seeds from ones he buys on the open market.

“There are many interests: biotech, seed companies, large and small farmers. They’re not aligned,” Walters told CorpWatch. “Small farmers are not very well organized. They’re not a strong voice in Congress. Right now one company with a particular stake is trying to make a case based on a set of particular facts.”

Both Walters and Freese agree that in today’s political climate, it would be an uphill battle to pass legislation that would regulate the powerful biotech industry. Last year, Monsanto, other agribusiness and food companies spent more than $45 million to defeat a proposition in California that would have required labels on some genetically modified foods sold at stores.

Meanwhile, Bowman has to drive out of the state of Illinois – to Ohio –  in order to find cheap, non-GMO commodity soybeans he can plant without the threat of a patent infringement suit. Every time, he does this, he passes numerous grain elevators, all of which brim with soybeans.

 

Gujarat and the Politics of Vendetta – Haren Pandya and Narendra Modi


Haren Pandya was killed on March 26, 2003. But his political career started to die
slowly after Narendra Modi took charge as Gujarat chief minister on October 7, 2001.

Ajay Umat , TOI, takes you through the last few months of Pandya’s political life

DROPPED FROM TEAM MODI
Modi did not include Pandya, who was earlier the minister of state for home, when he formed his first cabinet. Later, when he expanded the cabinet, Haren was given the revenue portfolio largely due to pressure from the Sangh Parivar and Sanjay Joshi, the BJP general secretary at the time.
ELLISBRIDGE BURNT BRIDGES COMPLETELY
Modi wanted to contest election from Pandya’s Ellisbridge constituency. But Pandya refused to oblige Modi. The CM was so upset that when he saw Pandya in a meeting organized by the then party president in Gujarat, Rajendrasinh Rana, at the Circuit House, he left announcing that he cannot attend a meeting or a function where Pandya was present. Pandya had to leave the venue and both did not see eye to eye from that day.
GODHRA FANNED HATRED 
After the Godhra carnage, it was reported that Pandya, during a cabinet meeting, opposed the idea of bringing dead bodies of victims to Ahmedabad. He reportedly reasoned that it could lead to more tension but was asked to shut up by some ministers.
FAMILY CONTINUED TO FIGHT
Pandya’s father Vitthalbhai contested parliamentary polls as an independent against L K Advani in 2004. He lost but the old man sent out a message: the fight for justice would continue. Similarly, Pandya’s wife Jagruti contested assembly elections from Ellisbridge on Keshubhai Patel’s GPP ticket. She too lost.
BJP LEADERSHIP CRITICIZED
Controversy followed the murder. The Modi government faced severe criticism from within the Sangh Parivar and Pandya’s supporters for sidelining the leader. Questions were also raised about not providing him proper security despite threats to his life. Pandya’s death procession was one of the biggest in the history of Gujarat. Some BJP leaders say that upset by the popularity of the slain leader, Modi decided to hold a meeting of BJP legislature party on the day when Pandya’s family organized his ‘besna’. “There was a feeling that Modi did this to prevent leaders from going for the condolence meeting,” says a BJP leader.
STATUE POLITICS
Pandya’s wife Jagruti had to run from pillar to post for getting permission for a statue of her slain husband installed. After the BJP-run state government refused to help, finally the Congress, which was in power in Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation passed a resolution and allowed a statue in the Ellisbridge area. Eventually, Advani and Modi unveiled the statue.
TRIBUNAL
TROUBLES
On June 7, 2002, the then state IB chief R B Sreekumar was asked by Modi’s principal secretary P K Mishra to find out which minister had met an independent citizen’s tribunal that included former Supreme Court Chief Justice V R Krishna Iyer. Mishra told Sreekumar that Haren Pandya, the then revenue minister, was suspected to be the one involved. Sreekumar was asked to obtain call data records of Pandya’s cellphone. Pandya reportedly told the tribunal that the post-Godhra massacres were orchestrated by Modi. Eventually Pandya resigned from the cabinet.
ELIMINATED, POLITICALLY SPEAKING
In December 2002, Modi did not give a ticket to Pandya despite tremendous pressure from all quarters, including the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Modi got himself admitted to Civil Hospital in Gandhinagar, complaining of chest pain. Pandya could not contest the election.
SIDELINED IN THE PARTY
Having prevented Pandya from contesting assembly polls, the party leadership ensured that he was not given any important assignment in the party or the government. Senior leaders like L K Advani and Arun Jaitley tried to intervene but in vain. Finally, the Sangh Parivar prevailed and it was decided that in the first week of April Pandya would be given responsibility as party’s national secretary in New Delhi. However, as luck would have it, a week before the likely announcement, Pandya was murdered after a morning walk in the Law Garden area in Ahmedabad.

 

The Reality behind Gujarat Model and Narendra Modi #mustshare


By Pravada Meethal, Facebook

Did you know ?

• Wages
The wage rates of casual and regular workers of both men and women workers in rural and urban areas are very low compared to other States. As per the latest National Sample Survey Office statistics, the daily wage rates of casual men and women workers in rural areas are lower than the corresponding rates in India, with the State ranking 14th (Rs.69) and ninth (Rs.56) in men’s and women’s wage rates respectively among the major 20 States. In the case of urban casual workers’ daily wages, the State ranked seventh (Rs.109) and 14th (Rs.56) for male and female wage rates. In the case of regular rural workers also the State ranked 17th (Rs.152) and ninth (Rs.108) in the male and female wage rates respectively. The corresponding ranks for urban areas are 18th (Rs.205) and 13th (Rs.182) respectively among the major 20 States in India. According to NSSO 2011 figures about 98 per cent of the women workers and about 89 per cent of the male workers in the State are engaged in informal work .

• Nutrition
The NFHS-3 tells us that 47 per cent of children below the age of three in the State were underweight. That figure was 45 per cent in NFHS-2. That’s about twice the average for sub-Saharan Africa. It is also marginally higher than the nationwide average of 46 per cent. The percentage of Gujarat’s children who are ‘wasted’ also went up from 16 to 17 per cent between the two NFHS surveys
According to statistics from a report of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, “Children in India, 2012—A Statistical Appraisal”, between 40 and 50 per cent of children in Gujarat are underweight, which bursts one more myth in Gujarat’s story of growth. Other States in this low weight category are Meghalaya, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh and Odisha. Human Development Report 2011 said around half of Gujarat’s children were malnourished.

• Gujarat is the 7th worst state in adult men having a body mass index of less than 18.5.

Infant mortality :
Infant mortality is high in Gujarat, which ranks 11th countrywide in the rate of decline of infant mortality. According to “Children in India, 2012”, the infant mortality rate in Gujarat was still high, with 44 fatalities of infants per 1,000 live births.
In its 2012 State-wise report, the United Nation’s Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said, “Almost every second child in Gujarat under the age of five years is undernourished and three out of four are anaemic. Infant and maternal mortality rates have reduced very slowly in the last decade…. One mother in three in Gujarat struggles with acute under-nutrition….”

• child marriage :
Gujarat ranks fourth in reported cases of child marriage.

• School dropout rate : United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) statistics show that Gujarat ranks 18th when it comes to success in keeping children in schools. 59% school drop out

• The school life expectancy of children in Kerala (which ranks first) is 11.33 years, while that of children in Gujarat is 8.79 years.

• percentage of reduction of poverty :
Statistics of the NSSO show that the percentage of reduction of poverty between 2004 and 2010 was the lowest in Gujarat, at 8.6 per cent.

• Water:
According to Census 2011, 43 per cent of the rural households in Gujarat get water supply on their premises and 16.7 per cent get treated water from a common tap

• Toilets:
The data show that 67 per cent of rural households in the State have no access to toilets and members of more than 65 per cent of the households defecate in the open, very often polluting common water sources. Waste collection and disposal are matters practically unheard of. The State ranks 10th in the use of latrines

• Comprehensive Environmental Pollution Index (CEPI):
Anything over 70 on this index is considered to have crossed critical levels, that is, the pollution exceeds the capacity of the environment to handle it and it becomes a dangerous health hazard. According to statistics from the Central Pollution Control Board, Ankleshwar and Vapi in Gujarat top the list of 88 severely polluted industrial areas in India. Ankleshwar has a CEPI rating of 88.50 while Vapi’s is 88.09. Of the 88 areas, eight are in Gujarat

• Employment growth:
NSSO data show that in Gujarat , growth in employment has dropped to almost zero in the past 12 years

Human Development Index :
Gujarat (0.519) stands 11th in Human Development Index among the states in India. Where Kerala(0.790) stands first.

• Sex ratio :
Gujarat (918) stands 24th . where kerala(1084) stands first.

• Vaccination coverage :
In Gujarat percentage of children between 12-23 months of age who received all recommended vaccines is 45 % . that is in 19th among the states in India.

• Gujarat stands 12th in literacy among the states in india

• In Gujarat 28.2% man and 32.3 % women are underweight .

• In Gujarat percentage of children delivered in hospital is only 55%

REFERENCES
“Socio-Economic Review, Gujarat State, 2011-12”
National Sample Survey Organisation (NSSO)
• Census 2011
• Planning commission
• Children in india 2012 – a statistical appraisal – ministry of statistics and program implementation
• 2012 State-wise report, the United Nation’s Children’s Fund (UNICEF)
• United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) statistics
• statistics from the Central Pollution Control Board
• National Family Health Survey
http://censusindia.gov.in/2011census/hlo/hlo_highlights.html , http://www.pratirodh.com/pdf/human_development_report2011.pdf , http://mospi.nic.in/Mospi_New/site/home.aspx , http://www.ifpri.org/sites/default/files/publications/ghi11.pdf , https://nrhm-mis.nic.in/PublicPeriodicReports.aspx , http://mospi.gov.in/national_data_bank/table_20nov12_labour/table_20nov12_labour.htm ,http://iri.org.in/related_readings/India%20Corruption%20Study%202005.pdf ,

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Indian_states_and_territories_by_Human_Development_Index

 

No Humans In Narendra Modi’s “Development”


 Narandra Modi's Vibrant Gujarat Story: Propaganda vs Fact #mustread

By Mukul Dube

27 March, 2013
Countercurrents.org

Narendra Modi of the RSS is an ambitious man who seems to want to become the prime minister of the country. His propaganda machine never speaks of the violence in 2002 in the state he ruled and rules, but it constantly plugs his hand in its development. I do not propose here to question the claims of development that he makes or which are made for him. Better qualified people have done that and have shown that these claims are based on sleight of hand or on outright lies. I shall only look at the meaning of this development business in Modi’s lexicon.

Modi’s own web site, at http://www.narendramodi.in/media-detail/?gid=11636 declares, “Development alone is the solutions [sic] to all problems: Shri Modi delivers inspiring address at SRCC!” Apparently the man said, “We are not pitching our tent on a single pillar. Our development model is based on 3 aspects — development of agriculture, industry and services sector. We want all 3 sectors to grow where each supports the other so that state economy is never in trouble.” This is typical of his populist demagoguery. A seemingly rational enumeration slips magically sideways and becomes a conclusion.

Here is a better one: “In 2001-02 when I became CM, 23 lakh bales of cotton was produced, today it stands at 1 crore 23 lakh bales. Our next step should be value addition. So we are working on that. We got a new Textile Policy. We have a 5F formula — from Farm to Fibre to Fabric to Fashion to Foreign. Till we do not take integrated approach then nothing will happen.” The reasoning is as devious as the grammar is slippery. The man jumps about like a grasshopper, dispensing wisdom probably obtained from his advertising consultants and speech writers: “We have to adopt ‘Zero Defect Mantra’ and other is packaging. We need to study consumer psyche and then work on manufacturing sector.” Such specimens as Modi cannot be pinned down. It is an established tactic of the Hindutva Brigade to change tack constantly, particularly when in trouble.

In http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/dec/28/india-fantasy-gujarat-modi-hindus Dibyesh Anand writes that “development is not an abstract practice immune from identity. Economic reforms are being used in parts of India to depoliticise development and crack down on the marginalised. For instance, tribal peoples and those from lower castes are the biggest victims of forced eviction by the state for its development projects. Impressive economic figures from Gujarat belie the fact that on the human development index the state remains far behind.”

It was not an accident that economists, the very people who measured development in arid figures, began in the 1980s to look at human beings not as statistics but as the central concern of development. “Human development” has been so described by two of the people responsible for the new approach:

“People often value achievements that do not show up at all, or not immediately, in income or growth figures: greater access to knowledge, better nutrition and health services, more secure livelihoods, security against crime and physical violence, satisfying leisure hours, political and cultural freedoms and sense of participation in community activities. The objective of development is to create an enabling environment for people to enjoy long, healthy and creative lives.” Mahbub ul Haq, quoted in http://hdr.undp.org/en/humandev/.

“Human development, as an approach, is concerned with what I take to be the basic development idea: namely, advancing the richness of human life, rather than the richness of the economy in which human beings live, which is only a part of it.” Amartya Sen, same source.

Unlike the old idea of development, from which only the capitalists and the affluent benefit, human development explicitly is concerned with what all social classes get, including the poor and those who are customarily forgotten, the religious minorities and the tribals. On the other hand Modi, the glorious Hercules of Development, starves the Muslims of Gujarat and denies them housing, health care and education. Hardly surprising, because he belongs to the tribe which wants free and secular India to become the monarchical Hindu Rashtra which they believe to have existed in an earlier age.

Mukul Dube is a writer, photographer and editor who lives in Delhi. He can be reached at uthappam@gmail.com

 

NEWS FLASH- 1000s Arrested in Kalpakkam anti-nuke protests: Tamil Nadu


LATEST UPDATE

BY  nityanand jayaraman


Kalpakkam Protests; Kalpakkam Arrests

G. Sundar Rajan, a friend and co-activist, is currently travelling to Singaperumal Koil in Kanchipuram District to meet Abdul Samad — one of the organisers of the resistance to the expansion of nuclear capacity in Kalpakkam nuclear park. Samad is one of nearly 2000 people who have been detained in about six different locations for organising a hunger strike and blockade of the Kalpakkam nuclear complex. Villagers living in the areas surrounding the Madras Atomic Power Station are protesting against the expansion of the nuclear complex, and have said that they will not tolerate the addition of any new facilities in Kalpakkam. A 500 MW prototype fast breeder reactor has been under construction for nearly a decade, and villagers have said that this plant must be abandoned. They have also condemned the dumping of radioactive waste within the premises. Additionally, they have demanded that the entire share of electricity produced at the MAPS complex should be distributed to nearby villages. They pointed out that it is vulgar that the local villages suffer 10 hour shortages while Kalpakkam township, more than 10 kilometres away enjoys 24-hour electricity.

 

 

#India- Monsanto and the Seeds of Suicide


By Vandana Shiva, The Asian Age

27 March 13

 

Monsanto‘s talk of ‘technology’ tries to hide its real objectives of control over seed where genetic engineering is a means to control seed

 

hese are the promises Monsanto India’s website makes, alongside pictures of smiling, prosperous farmers from the state of Maharashtra. This is a desperate attempt by Monsanto and its PR machinery to delink the epidemic of farmers’ suicides in India from the company’s growing control over cotton seed supply – 95 per cent of India’s cotton seed is now controlled by Monsanto.

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.

Monsanto’s concentrated control over the seed sector in India as well as across the world is very worrying. This is what connects farmers’ suicides in India to Monsanto vs Percy Schmeiser in Canada, to Monsanto vs Bowman in the US, and to farmers in Brazil suing Monsanto for $2.2 billion for unfair collection of royalty.

Through patents on seed, Monsanto has become the “Life Lord” of our planet, collecting rents for life’s renewal from farmers, the original breeders.

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. GMOs are failing to control pests and weeds, and have instead led to the emergence of superpests and superweeds.

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. 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. Fifth, 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).

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 GMO Bt cotton illegally and announced that it would be selling the seeds commercially the following year. India has rules for regulating GMOs since 1989, under the Environment Protection Act. It is mandatory to get approval from the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee under the ministry of environment for GMO trials. The Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology sued Monsanto in the Supreme Court of India and Monsanto could not start the commercial sales of its Bt cotton seeds until 2002.

And, after the damning report of India’s parliamentary committee on Bt crops in August 2012, the panel of technical experts appointed by the Supreme Court recommended a 10-year moratorium on field trials of all GM food and termination of all ongoing trials of transgenic crops.

But it had changed Indian agriculture already.

Monsanto’s 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 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.

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.”

The highest acreage of Bt cotton is in Maharashtra and this is also where the highest farmer suicides are. Suicides increased after Bt cotton was introduced – Monsanto’s royalty extraction, and the high costs of seed and chemicals have created a debt trap. According to Government of India data, nearly 75 per cent rural debt is due to purchase inputs. As Monsanto’s profits grow, farmers’ debt grows. It is in this systemic sense that Monsanto’s seeds are seeds of suicide.

The ultimate seeds of suicide is Monsanto’s patented technology to create sterile seeds. (Called “Terminator technology” by the media, sterile seed technology is a type of Gene Use Restriction Technology, GRUT, in which seed produced by a crop will not grow – crops will not produce viable offspring seeds or will produce viable seeds with specific genes switched off.) The Convention on Biological Diversity has banned its use, otherwise Monsanto would be collecting even higher profits from seed.

Monsanto’s talk of “technology” tries to hide its real objectives of ownership and control over seed where genetic engineering is just a means to control seed and the food system through patents and intellectual property rights.

A Monsanto representative admitted that they were “the patient’s diagnostician, and physician all in one” in writing the patents on life-forms, from micro-organisms to plants, in the TRIPS’ agreement of WTO. Stopping farmers from saving seeds and exercising their seed sovereignty was the main objective. Monsanto 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 we challenged 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.

 

IMMEDIATE RELEASE- Eclipsing Women’s Rights: Sexual Harassment at Sun TV # Vaw


PRESS STATEMENT: 28 March 2013

NWMI demands immediate reinstatement of Woman Journalist

The Network of Women in Media, India, an independent forum of media
professionals across the country condemns the continued victimisation of a
complainant of sexual harassment, and demands her immediate reinstatement.
We also demand an independent inquiry into the case and the setting up -as
required by law- of formal mechanisms to redress sexual harassment at the
Chennai-based Sun TV.

The Background
S. Akila joined Sun TV Chennai in December 2011 as a news anchor/news
producer. Ever since she joined, V. Raja, the Chief Editor and Vetrivendhan,
the Reporters’ Co-ordinator indicated that the confirmation of her job and
subsequent pay rise depended on the ‘compromises’ she was willing to make.
This was apparently not the first time they had made such demands, but due
to the hostile and intimidating atmosphere at the office, few women had been
able to resist. As a result of her refusal to concede to their demands of
sexual favours in return for job security and pay hikes, her confirmation
remained pending even after completing the six-month probationary period.

Meanwhile, in November 2012, Ms Akila’s Diwali bonus was withheld. When she
raised the issue with Mr Raja, he asked her to get in touch with him over
the phone after reaching home. Upon phoning him, he told her that she had
been confirmed and that she should “take care of him” for the favour. Ms
Akila terminated the call, but managed to record the conversation.

When Mr Raja realised that she was not coming around, he kept harassing her
in different ways, including verbally abusing her in front of her
colleagues. On January 21st, he summoned her to his cabin and threatened her
with dire consequences if she went public with a complaint of harassment.
Soon thereafter, in contravention of the norm of assigning shifts, he put
her on morning shifts for several weeks, which required her to leave her
residence at 3.30 am in order to be at office at 5 am, since the office did
not arrange for morning pick-up. Questioning the unusual assigning of a
continuous morning shift, she confronted Mr Raja on February 26th. He
informed her that she was continuously on the gruelling morning shift
because she was not “adjusting” to him. After serving the morning shift for
another few weeks while struggling with domestic responsibilities, things
became unbearable. Ms Akila then approached the police on March 19th and
filed a complaint of sexual harassment. On the same day, Mr Raja was
arrested under Section 4 of the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Harassment of
Women Act. Two days later, Mr Vetrivendhan was also arrested on the same
charges.

Continued Harassment
However, the arrest of the harassers was only a continuation of the
nightmare. Soon after Mr. Raja’s arrest, Ms Akila received an anonymous
phone call by someone threatening to kill her. In a move to isolate her at
the workplace, her friend Mr Kannan who was aware of the harassment and was
supportive of her, was suspended on grounds of a complaint filed by
colleagues who refused to work with him or Ms Akila. When Ms Akila reported
to the office on March 25th, she was not assigned any work. As per schedule,
she was to anchor the 12.00 noon news bulletin, but she was not allowed to
go on air. In a complete travesty of justice, on March 26th, Mr Raja who was
by then out on bail, joined work, and the next day, Ms Akila was handed a
suspension order. Thus, a woman who resisted sexual harassment and stood up
to demands for sexual favours has been further victimised.

It must be noted that there is no redressal mechanism at Sun TV for
complaints of sexual harassment. This is in contempt of the Guidelines
issued in 1997 by the Honourable Supreme Court in the Vishakha case, which
places an obligation on every establishment in the country to ensure the
rights of women workers by creating a conducive workplace free from sexual
harassment. These principles of gender equity and labour rights are also
enshrined in the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention,
Prohibition and Redressal) Bill, 2012 which was passed by both houses of
Parliament and is only awaiting the President’s assent.

Our demands:
1) Immediate reinstatement of S. Akila
2) Payment of damages for mental trauma
3) Immediate suspension of V. Raja pending an independent inquiry as
well as the police investigation into the case
4) Independent inquiry into the case, by a team that includes
independent, third-party lawyers, journalists and women’s rights activists
5) As a longer-term measure, setting up of an Internal Complaints
Committee as per the Vishaka Guidelines.
6) Establishment of Complaints Committees in all media houses as per
the Vishakha Guidelines and the new law once it comes into force.
Signed:
The Network of Women in Media, Working Council

1. Ammu Joseph, Bangalore
2. Kalpana Sharma, Mumbai
3. Laxmi Murthy, Bangalore
4. Rajashri Dasgupta, Kolkata
5. Sandhya Taksale, Pune
6. Sameera Khan, Mumbai
7. Ranjita Biswas, Kolkata
8. Malti Mehta, Ahmedabad
9. K.A. Beena, Thiruvananthapuram
10. Sonal Kellogg, Delhi
11. Parul Sharma, Delhi
12. Padmalatha Ravi, Bangalore
13. Melanie Priya Kumar, Bangalore
14. Chitra Ahanthem, Imphal
15. Manjira Mojumdar, Kolkata
16. Sharmila Joshi, Mumbai

17. Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Mumbai

 

 

BREAKING NEWS- Anti-Sterlite Protestors Arrested en Mass in Thoothukudi


 

 

Update 12 noon:MARCH 28, 2013 

Reported by Nityanand Jayaraman

Speaking on phone from Chandra Mahal (a wedding hall) where more than 200 people are detained by the police, Fatima Babu — one of several organisers of the protest — said that the rally demanding Sterlite Copper’s closure was massively attended. At the time of her arrest at around 1145 a.m., at least 7 bus loads of people had been removed from the roads and taken to various locations for detention. The arrests were continuing as more and more people were joining the procession. According to Fatima Babu, by the time of her arrest, nearly 5000 people had gathered. Shops in Thoothukudi, including all vegetable markets, jewellery stores, provision and small stores, have downed their shutters responding to the call join to the strike demanding Sterlite’s closure. Lorry, autorickshaw, taxi and van drivers too stayed away from the roads in solidarity.”I cannot estimate the number of people that are part of the strike, because there are people as far as I can see, and more are coming,” said Maharajan, a party worker with Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK). MDMK’s leader is one of the political figures who gave a call for the rally demanding closure of the copper smelter. The strike has representation from the Conch Coolie (Divers) Association, Anna Bus Stand Autorickshaw Drivers Welfare Association, All India Drivers Welfare Association, Tamilnadu Merchants Federation (led by Vellaiyan), and Anna Bus Stand Taxi drivers Association.

 

Denial of abortion is “torture,” says United Nations report #Vaw #reproductiverights


Special Rapporteur on torture Juan E. Méndez. UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

report recently presented to the United Nations (PDF link) says that a denial of abortion can be considered torture, in line with actual methods of female torture such as female genital mutilation.

ultrasoundThe report by Juan E. Méndez, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment, is cited as a report “on certain forms of abuses in health-care settings that may cross a threshold of mistreatment that is tantamount to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

Méndez, a visiting professor at American University’s law school, makes some bold statements in Section B, entitled “Reproductive rights violations.” His assertions show just how far the quest for abortion has come in the world – to a point where the torture of a baby ripped from the womb and sucked away and thrown into a medical incinerator is considered a human right that spares someone else from torture.

Section 46 of his report notes:

International and regional human rights bodies have begun to recognize that abuse and mistreatment of women seeking reproductive health services can cause tremendous and lasting physical and emotional suffering, inflicted on the basis of gender.  Examples of such violations include abusive treatment and humiliation in institutional settings;   involuntary sterilization; denial of legally available health services  such as abortion and post-abortion care; forced abortions and sterilizations; female genital mutilation[.]

To compare involuntary sterilization and female genital mutilation – permanent methods of actual torture – with the denial of a “right” to take another life is tragic. In fact, it doesn’t actually line up with the U.N.’s own statements.

The U.N.’s Committee against Torture defines torture in its Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and it actually reads more like a pro-life statement in its language:

Considering that, in accordance with the principles proclaimed in the Charter of the United Nations, recognition of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

Recognizing that those rights derive from the inherent dignity of the human person …

The U.N. then goes on to define what torture is:

Article 1

1. For the purposes of this Convention, the term “torture” means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.

Clearly the U.N.’s version of torture doesn’t seem to allow for the killing of a baby in utero, but Méndez does. Though many current exceptions to abortion laws note that “mental suffering” is justification for that exception and include it as a health reason to have an abortion, the comparison of who suffers more, a woman who carries a baby to term and gives the baby up for adoption or the one who lives forever with the reality of choosing to kill her baby, cannot adequately be evaluated by one man making a report to the United Nations.

While it would be wrong to assume that a woman carrying a child she is not prepared to raise would not be painful, it is also wrong to call it torture. Torture would be punishing her for the pregnancy or forcing her to raise a child she isn’t prepared to raise. However, the real torture is inflicted on the baby in her womb, who will be sucked out and discarded if that abortion happens.

Méndez goes on to note that:

For many rape survivors, access to a safe abortion procedure is made virtually impossible by a maze of administrative hurdles, and by official negligence and obstruction. In the landmark decision of K.N.L.H. v. Peru, the Human Rights Committee deemed the denial of a therapeutic abortion a violation of the individual’s right to be free from ill- treatment. In the case of P. and S. v. Poland, ECHR stated that “the general stigma attached to abortion and to sexual violence …, caus[ed] much distress and suffering, both physically and mentally.”

It’s unquestionable that a rape survivor who gets pregnant (notably, this is about 1% of all rape victims, so not a majority of those seeking abortions, though a valid minority) needs great care. The tragedy inflicted on her must be handled well, but the torture has come from the rapist, not from the denial of taking another life. Our torment should never allow us the right to kill another. A culture that seeks to nurture and care for victims of torture needs to put its focus on caring for the victim, giving resources, and providing many other solutions that will help heal the tragedy by giving a woman lasting comfort to the effect that she has helped to redeem a tragedy, not to create another.

Méndez is insistent that denial of abortion is torture, though, for all cases. He says in section 50:

The Committee against Torture has repeatedly expressed concerns about restrictions on access to abortion and about absolute bans on abortion as violating the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment. On numerous occasions United Nations bodies have expressed concern about the denial of or conditional access to post-abortion care. often for the impermissible purposes of punishment or to elicit confession.  The Human Rights Committee explicitly stated that breaches of article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights include forced abortion, as well as denial of access to safe abortions to women who have become pregnant as a result of rape and raised concerns about obstacles to abortion where it is legal.

Here forced abortions are presented as on par with denial of abortion. But the fact is, they are not. A forced abortion takes a life, and the denial of abortion saves one. A forced abortion can never be undone. A woman is subjected to the horror of having her body violated (possibly a second time, if she was a victim of rape), and knowing life has been taken from her. Denying someone a right to have a life taken is not torture; it’s a basic human right for the unborn life.

By all accounts, Méndez would consider the North Dakota legislature torturers for deciding that life begins at conception. He would consider Kansas and Arkansas as inflicting torture for passing laws that protect life. However, denying abortion isn’t torture, because the motive isn’t torment; the motive isn’t to make someone suffer, but to prevent the suffering of the baby destroyed and of the mother, who will have to live with it.

The extra tragedy in this culture of death is that we have walked forward into the past, where we justify death as a merciful thing, when truly it brings destruction. Méndez has stretched the definitions to a point that distorts them and, in the process, manages to reduce the true suffering of victims of such horrific crimes as female genital mutilation to the level of carrying a living baby to term. Protecting life can never be equated with killing it.

 

 

PRESS RELEASE- National Green Tribunal constitutes Fact Finding committee for diversion of forest land to nuclear projects


National Green Tribunal constitutes Fact Finding Committee to determine ecological and environmental consequences of massive diversion of ‘Amrit Mahal Kaval’ (forest) land to Defense, Nuclear and Industrial Projects in Chitradurga, Karnataka

In a significant direction, the South Zone Bench of the National Green Tribunal comprising of Justice Mr. M. Chockalingam (Judicial Member) and Prof. Dr. R. Nagendran (Expert Member) set up a two member committee of experts to visit Challakere Taluk in Chitradurga District of Karnataka and study the ecological and environmental consequences of diversion of 10,000 acres of ‘Amrit Mahal Kaval’ (traditional pasture grassland ecosystems and District Forests) for a variety of Defense, Nuclear, Industrial and Infrastructure projects. The expert members named by the Tribunal are Dr. S. Ravichandra Reddy, Retd. Professor of Ecology, Bangalore University and Dr. K. V. Anantharaman, Deputy Director, Scientist “C” (Retd.), Central Silk Board, Bangalore.

 

The decision to constitute the expert team was taken on 21st March 2013 based on applications filed by Leo F. Saldanha and Environment Support Group before the Tribunal during February 2013. The Applicants have consistently pointed out that the Karnataka Government comprehensively violated various forest, biodiversity and environmental protection laws while diverting about 10,000 acres of ‘Amrit Mahal Kaval’ for defense, industrial and infrastructure development projects. All this has also been done, without any Statutory Public Hearings and in total secrecy, thus comprehensively violating the Principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent that forms a major basis of various environmental and human rights protection laws. Further, it has been vehemently contended that this diversion is in absolute contradiction to various policies of the Central Government that seek to protect grasslands and livelihoods of pastoralists.

 

The Applications contended that all these gross illegalities have been committed despite the widely known fact that these ecologically sensitive grassland ecosystems serve as a special and critical habitat to a variety of flora and fauna; large herds of the highly threatened antelope species such as the Black Buck (Antilope cervicapra) graze these grasslands, and the ecosystem is a typical habitat for critically endangered birds such as Great Indian Bustard (Ardeotis nigriceps, only 250 individuals known to survive in all of South Asia) and Lesser Florican (Sypheotides indicus). These grasslands ecosystems have for centuries supported the rearing of drought tolerant locally bred variety of Amrit Mahal Cattle, besides providing a wide range of livelihoods opportunities for communities in about 60 directly impacted villages located around the Kaval. It is in consideration of all these values that the Karnataka Government had designated such Kaval land as District Forests per the Karnataka Forest Rules, 1969 and their protection was made sacrosanct by directions of the Karnataka High Court in 2002 and subsequent orders of the State.

 

The Challakere Kaval land ranges over 12,000 acres, and constitute the last remaining large contiguous semi-arid grassland in Karnataka. The State which boasted at the time of independence of possessing about 4,00,000 acres of ‘Kaval’ grasslands, is now, per the Forest Department submissions to the Supreme Court, left with only about 45,000 acres of such habitat. Producing incontrovertible evidence before the Tribunal, the Applicants demonstrated that the beneficiaries of the illegal transfer of such ecologically precious grassland/forest land include Defense Research Development Organisation (for drone testing and development), Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (uranium enrichment facility), Indian Institute of Science (Synchroton), Indian Space Research Organisation (satellite centre), Sagitaur Pvt. Ltd. (Solar Farm), Karnataka Housing Board (township), and Karnataka Small Scale Industries Association and Karnataka Udyog Mitra (for a range of private industrial and ancillary units related to the defense sector) – all of which are projects with significant or massive environmental and social impacts. All of these proponents have been provided such ecologically precious land at a pittance of a cost: Rs. 30-35,000/acre.

 

The Applicants have also produced evidence that despite statutory notices of violation of environmental laws from Karnataka State Pollution Control Board, issued about two years ago, none of the project proponents have complied with any of the mandatory environmental and forest clearance norms and standards. Instead, a variety of project activities have commenced including the building of a 30 kms long high wall by DRDO in comprehensive violation of the Environment Impact Assessment Notification 2006 which categorically bars commencement of any project activity until environmental and forest clearances have been granted. Such developments have blocked local pastoralists’ access to their pasture land and to lakes and streams which are critical drinking water sources for cattle. This is particularly worrying given the long periods of drought affecting the region causing extensive distress to impacted families. Besides, the massive wall has seriously constrained the movement of the highly endangered Black Buck, and could potentially isolate the population, thus weakening its genetic vitality. In addition, DRDO is on record to have conducted various bombing sorties in the grasslands, none of which appear to have been with any consent from civil and military authorities.

 

The Applications filed in February 2013 have prayed for interim relief of stay on ongoing illegal activities and for allowing access to grazing pastures for local pastoralists. In consideration of this aspect the Tribunal has repeatedly sought the response of the Karnataka Government and Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests, including even directing Karnataka’s Principal Secretary for the Environment Department to appear in person on 13th March 2013. Yet, no response has been forthcoming. Taking this situation into account, the 21st March order observes that “(i)n the considered opinion of the Tribunal, the counter of the respondents have to be taken into consideration before deciding the question whether to grant an order of interim relief or not and hence, (the case hearing) has got to be adjourned granting time till 15.04.2013 to file their counter. It is made clear that if the counter is not filed by any of the respondents, it will be taken that they have no counter to offer.”

 

The Applications and related documents are accessible on the ESG website at: www.esgindia.org and a copy of the 21st March 2013 order of the Tribunal is enclosed.

 

Leo F. Saldanha

Applicant in 6/2013 as Party in Person

leo@esgindia.org

Bhargavi S. Rao

Coordinator (Education)

bhargavi@esgindia.org

Arthur Pereira

Trustee representing ESG in Application 12/2013

arthurjpereira@gmail.com

Environment Support Group

An overview of the allocation of lands and the purpose for which Challakere’s ‘Amrit Mahal Kaval’ lands are diverted

Sl. No.

Organisation

Village Name

Sy. No.

Extent of land in acres

Purpose

A

B

C

D

E

F

1

Defence Research Development Organisation

Varavu Kaval and Khudapura

343, 47

4000 and 290 respectively (total 4290)

Advanced R&D complex, a 3.5 km runway and test centre for long-endurance ( 48-72 hours) UAVs and UCAVs

2

Indian Institute of Science

Khudapura

47

1500

Synchrotron, Energy Research Centre and Advanced Aerospace Research Centre

3

Bhabha Atomic Research Centre

Ullarti Kaval and Khudapura

1, 47

1410 and 400 respectively (toatel 1810)

Special Material Enrichment Facility (Uranium)

4

Indian Space Research Organisation

Ullarti Kaval and Khudapura

1, 47

473 and 100 respectively (total 573)

Spacecraft Technologies

5

Karnataka Small Scale Industries Development Corporation

Ullarti Kaval and Khudapura

1, 47

250 and 50 respectively (total 300)

Various industrial ancillary units

6

Sagitaur Ventures India Pvt. Ltd.

Khudapura

N.A.

1250

Integrated Solar Park Development along with Grid Connected 25 MW Solar PV Power Project

7

Karnataka Housing Board

Khudapura

47

50

Developing Housing Layout and sale of constructed villas

Total

9323 confirmed

 

-- 
Environmental, Social Justice and Governance Initiatives
Environment Support Group - Trust
1572, 36th Cross, Ring Road
Banashankari II Stage
Bangalore 560070. INDIA
Tel: 91-80-26713559~61
Voice/Fax: 91-80-26713316
Web: www.esgindia.org
Email: esg@esgindia.org

 

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