Protest- Millions march against Monsanto and GM crops


Organisers celebrate huge global turnout and say they will continue until Monsanto and other GM manufacturers listen

Anti-GM protester

Protesters make their point to Monsanto in Los Angeles, California, May 25, 2013. Photograph: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

Organisers say that two million people marched in protest against seed giant Monsanto in hundreds of rallies across the US and in more than 50 other countries on Saturday.

“March Against Monsanto” protesters say they wanted to call attention to the dangers posed by genetically modified food and the food giants that produce it. Founder and organiser Tami Canal said protests were held in 436 cities across 52 countries.

Genetically modified plants are grown from seeds that are engineered to resist insecticides and herbicides, add nutritional benefits, or otherwise improve crop yields and increase the global food supply. Most corn, soybean and cotton crops grown in the United States today have been genetically modified. But some say genetically modified organisms can lead to serious health conditions and harm the environment.

The use of GMOs has been a growing issue of contention in recent years, with health advocates pushing for mandatory labelling of genetically modified products even though the federal government and many scientists say the technology is safe.

The “March Against Monsanto” movement began just a few months ago, when Canal created a Facebook page on 28 February calling for a rally against the company’s practices. “If I had gotten 3,000 people to join me, I would have considered that a success,” she said Saturday. Instead, she said, two million responded to her message.

Together with Seattle blogger and activist Emilie Rensink and Nick Bernabe of Anti-Media.org, Canal worked with A Revolt.org digital anarchy to promote international awareness of the event. She called the turnout “incredible” and credited social media for being a vehicle for furthering opportunities for activism.

Despite the size of the gatherings, Canal said she was grateful that the marches were uniformly peaceful and that no arrests had been reported.

“It was empowering and inspiring to see so many people, from different walks of life, put aside their differences and come together today,” she said. The group plans to harness the success of the event to continue its anti-GMO cause.

“We will continue until Monsanto complies with consumer demand. They are poisoning our children, poisoning our planet,” she said. “If we don’t act, who’s going to?”

Monsanto, based in St Louis, said on Saturday that it respects people’s rights to express their opinions, but maintained that its seeds improve agriculture by helping farmers produce more from their land while conserving resources such as water and energy.

The US Food and Drug Administration does not require genetically modified foods to carry a label, but organic food companies and some consumer groups have intensified their push for labels, arguing that the modified seeds are floating from field to field and contaminating traditional crops. The groups have been bolstered by a growing network of consumers who are wary of processed and modified foods.

The Senate this week overwhelmingly rejected a bill that would allow states to require the labelling of genetically modified foods.

The Biotechnology Industry Organisation, a lobbying group that represents Monsanto, DuPont & Co and other makers of genetically modified seeds, has said that it supports voluntary labelling for people who seek out such products. But it says that mandatory labelling would only mislead or confuse consumers into thinking products weren’t safe, even though the FDA has said there is no difference between GMO and organic, non-GMO foods.

However, state legislatures in Vermont and Connecticut moved ahead this month with votes to make food companies declare genetically modified ingredients on their packages. And supermarket retailer Whole Foods Markets Inc has said that all products in its North American stores containing genetically modified ingredients will be labeled as such by 2018.

Whole Foods says there is growing demand for products that don’t use GMOs, with sales of products with a “Non-GMO” verification label spiking between 15% and 30%.

 

#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.

 

Corporate Push for GMO Food Puts Independent Science in Jeopardy


by Vandana Shiva, Asian Age Dec 7.2012

Science is considered science when it is independent, when it has integrity and when it speaks the truth about its search. It was the integrity, independence and sovereignty of science that drew me and propelled me to study physics.(Photo: rodale.com)

Today, independent science is threatened with extinction. While this is true in every field, it is the field of food and agriculture that I am most concerned about.

At the heart of the food and agriculture debate are genetically modified organisms, also referred to as GMOs. The agrochemical industry’s new avatar is as the GMO industry. According to the industry, GMOs are necessary to remove hunger and are safe.

But evidence from all independent scientists has established that GMOs do not contribute to food security. The UN-sponsored International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) report — written by 400 scientists after a research of three to four years — concluded that there is no evidence that GMOs increase food security. The Union of Concerned scientists concluded in its report, “A Failure to Yield”, that in the US, genetic engineering had not increased the yield. “The GMO Emperor Has No Clothes” — a Global Citizens’ report on the state of GMOs based on field research across the world — also found that genetic engineering has not increased yields. Yet, the propaganda continues that GMOs are the only solution to hunger because GMOs increase yields.

The Supreme Court of India appointed an independent Technical Expert Committee (TEC) to advise it on issues of biosafety. The committee has some of India’s most eminent scientists, including Dr Imran Siddiqui, director of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, and Dr P.S. Ramakrishnan, India’s leading biodiversity expert and professor emeritus at the Jawaharlal Nehru University.

One would have expected the government to accept the recommendations of this eminent panel and to throw its weight behind the integrity and independence of science.

The most effective road to reducing hunger and malnutrition is to intensify land use in terms of biodiversity and ecological processes of renewal of soil fertility. Biodiverse ecological farms increase food and nutrition output per acre.

Instead, the government is throwing its weight behind the industry and its fraudulent claims. The Centre has joined the industry in opposing the expert committee’s report recommending moratorium on open field trial of GM crops for 10 years. Responding to a direct query from a bench presided over by Justice Swatanter Kumar and Justice S.J. Mukhopadaya, Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati, appearing for the Centre, said that the Centre does not accept the recommendations of the TEC. With the industry also filing objections to the report, the court directed the expert committee to give a final report after considering objections by various parties.

Stressing on the need to introduce GM crops, the Centre has said it would not be able to meet the first millennium development goal (MDG) of cutting the number of hungry people by half without such technologies. A moratorium of 10 years would take the country 20 years back in scientific research, it added.

These are fallacious arguments. Only two per cent of the GMO soy in the US is eaten by humans. The rest is used as biofuel to run cars and as animal feed. More GMOs do not mean more food.

The most effective road to reducing hunger and malnutrition is to intensify land use in terms of biodiversity and ecological processes of renewal of soil fertility. Biodiverse ecological farms increase food and nutrition output per acre.

The real scientific need for India and the world is to do research on agroecology, on how biodiversity and agro-ecosystems can produce more food while using lesser resources.

In the chemical industrial paradigm, seed and soil are empty containers to add toxic chemicals and genes to, and water is limitless. Industrial agriculture is destroying the natural capital on which food security depends.

All independent research on safety indicates that GMOs have serious biosafety issues. This is why we have a UN biosafety protocol.

The industrial agriculture and GMO paradigm has no understanding of the millions of soil organisms that produce soil fertility, the thousands of crop species that feed us, the amazing work of pollinators like bees and butterflies. And because ecological interactions that produce food are a black hole in the GMO paradigm, the impact of the release of GMOs in the environment is also a black hole. Independent science is vital to fill the gaps in knowledge about the ecology of food production and the ecology of biosafety. This is the knowledge gap that the TEC and independent scientists everywhere are trying to fill.

All independent research on safety indicates that GMOs have serious biosafety issues. This is why we have a UN biosafety protocol.

Beginning with Hungarian-born biochemist and nutritionist Dr Arpad Putzai and continuing with French scientist Dr Seralini, industry and its lobbyists assault every independent scientist whose research shows that GMOs have risks. Dr Putzai’s research, commissioned by the UK government, showed that rats fed with GMO potatoes had shrunken brains, enlarged pancreas and damaged immunity. Dr Putzai was hounded out of his lab and a gag order was put on him.

The publication of a paper in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology “Long Term Toxicity of a Roundup Herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant GM Maize” by Dr Seralini et al (2012) has generated intense debate on the safety or otherwise of Monsanto’s GM maize NK603.

The European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER) welcomes Dr Seralini’s study. I joined 120 scientists to sign a letter —Seralini and Science: An Open Letter — supporting Dr Seralini’s study.

Independent science is vital to fill the gaps in knowledge about the ecology of food production and the ecology of biosafety.

Russia and Kazakhstan have since halted imports of NK603 maize and, more recently, the Kenyan Cabinet has issued a directive to stop the import of GM foods due to inadequate research done on GMOs and lack of scientific evidence to prove the safety of the food.

This precautionary approach is what India’s Supreme Court-appointed TEC is calling for.

Citizens of California had put up Proposition 37 in the recent elections for something as simple as the “Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food” by having a label on GMO foods. This is recognised as a citizen’s right in Europe and now in India. But the California vote was defeated by industry spending — big food industry players are paying big bucks to battle California’s GMO labelling initiative. According to reports, they are spending as much as $1 million a day on false and misleading advertising.

If citizens don’t have the right to know and scientists don’t have the freedom to speak the truth, we are creating societies that are dangerous — both in terms of loss of democratic freedom and in terms of risking biosafety.

Independent scientists, along with the bees and biodiversity of our plants and seeds, could well become a species threatened with extinction if we do not stop the GMO drone.

 

Defeat Monsanto — Vote YES on Prop 37 #mustshare


15th October 2012

By Jack Adam Weber

Contributing Writer for Wake Up World

On November 6th this year all of us that despise GMOs and Monsanto will be waiting with bated breath for the outcome of one single proposition that, if passed, could topple the GMO empire in the United States and trickle down to other countries around the world.

Proposition 37, the California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act,

is a citizen generated ballot initiative for mandatory labeling of GMO products in California. If Proposition 37 is voted in, it will:

 

a) Require labeling on raw or processed food offered for sale to consumers if the food is made from plants or animals with genetic material changed in specified ways.

b) Prohibit labeling or advertising such food as “natural.”

c) Exempt from this requirement foods that are “certified organic; unintentionally produced with genetically engineered material; made from animals fed or injected with genetically engineered material but not genetically engineered themselves; processed with or containing only small amounts of genetically engineered ingredients; administered for treatment of medical conditions; sold for immediate consumption such as in a restaurant; or alcoholic beverages.”

Friends, this is the moment we have been waiting for. This is our most promising opportunity to achieve what we have all been working so hard for, for so long. If we don’t win this, we may never have the chance again.

According to the Organic Consumers Association, we are currently ahead 3 to 1 in California on this vote (passing Prop 37). But we can’t rest easy. Monsanto and other biotech companies know how big this is. Recent statistics show they have already contributed some 37 million dollars to television ads full of misinformation and lies as a last-ditch effort to defeat Proposition 37. They have succeeded with these tactics in the past in other states.

We cannot let them win this time.

Many states have tried to adopt GMO labeling legislation in the past and failed because the legislation was not citizen generated and government officials cowered under threats of a lawsuit by Monsanto. The most recent was Vermont. California is the eighth largest economy in the world, if it were considered a country. Passing this legislation will set a precedent for GMO labeling in other states. Many experts say that if Prop 37 passes in California, GMO labeling might as well be a national law. This is what we want.

Believe it or not, many Americans still don’t even know what a GMO is.

When foods are labeled as GMO, even Monsanto admits it is equivalent to putting a skull and crossbones on it. Sales will plummet; the good word on bad GMOs will spread like wildfire. This is what we want, and now is our chance to deliver the fatal blow to the GMO horror machine.

90% of Americans want GMO labeling. Why don’t we have it? You know the answer—power, greed, money, lies, and corruption at the expense of our health. Let’s all do our part now to make sure the majority of Californians know what’s up. We don’t want Monsanto and friends to have any chance at winning. Here is what you can do; please do this today so that we have as much time as possible for the word to spread:

1. Send an email to everyone you know in California and tell them to vote YES ON PROP 37.

2. Post this on your FB page, along with this link to this article:

  • California friends, please vote YES on Prop 37 this November for the mandatory labeling of GMOs in our food.
  • Please tell all your California email and Facebook contacts to vote “YES on Prop 37.

3) Please join GEM (GMO Eradication Movement).

It is safe to say that the future of food, our own health, and the health of our planet hinges on this vote, now less than one month away. If we don’t win this, we will have lost a crucial chance, and perhaps our last good chance for a while. If we do win this, we will have the biggest party ever!

Please do your part, today. WE need YOU.

Video: Right to Know: Vote Yes on Prop 37… Funny Short Ad!!!

Previous articles by Jack Adam Weber

About the Author

Jack Adam Weber is a licensed acupuncturist, master herbalist, author, organic farmer, celebrated poet, and activist for Earth-centered spirituality. He integrates poetry, ancient wisdom, holistic medicine, and depth psychology into passionate presentations for personal fulfillment as a path to planetary transformation. His books, artwork, and provocative poems can be found at his website PoeticHealing.com. Jack can be reached at Jack@PoeticHealing.com or on Facebook

 

 

Monsanto’s Deep Roots In Washington


seedling.jpg

By Russ Choma

 
It’s planting season, which brings to mind one of the most ubiquitous names in agribusiness: Monsanto

Love it or hate it — and there are plenty of people on either side — the company controls much of the agricultural market, and also sells products for the suburban yard such as the weed-killer Roundup. Roundup is the core of Monsanto’s agricultural breakthrough: The company produces genetically modified seeds that are resistant to the herbicide, making it easy for farmers to spray whole fields of soy or corn and kill only the weeds. Food production made easy.
On the flip side, environmentalists and organic food fans maintain there are too many unknowns and potential dangers involved with genetic modification. Monsanto, which last year had revenues of $11.8 billion, has become their bogeyman.

But such efforts as grassroots petitions and proposed legislation to require at least the labeling of genetically modified food have thus far withered on the vine next to Monsanto’s deeply rooted Washington presence, which has proved resistant to most lines of attack.

According to OpenSecrets.org data, in the first three months of this year, Monsanto spent$1.4 million lobbying Washington — and spent about $6.3 million total last year, more than any other agribusiness firm except the tobacco company Altria.

Monsanto’s interests in Washington are diverse. It lobbied bills ranging from the American Research and Competitiveness Act of 2011, which would extend tax credits for companies doing research, to several bills that would change the way the Department of Homeland Security handles security at chemical facilities — chemicals being a big part of Monsanto’s product portfolio.

And just as important as Monsanto’s legislative agenda for 2011 and 2012 is its regulatory one: the company’s lobbying reports list the departments and agencies it visited to talk to federal bureaucrats and appointees as they wrote rules to implement and enforce Congress’ handiwork. That explains why Monsanto reports having lobbied the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration, theEnvironmental Protection Agency and many other executive branch offices.

The FDA currently is the target of a petition signed by more than 1 million people, according to a sponsor known as Just Label It, asking the agency to require that genetically engineered food be labeled as such. The petition, sponsored by a coalition of environmental and food groups, is an attempt by activists to make an end-run around Monsanto’s Washington operation — a necessity because their lobbying dollars pale in comparison to the cash spent by Monsanto and others in the industry. For instance, one of the coalition members, the Environmental Working Group, has spent just $82,000 on lobbying this year — or about 5 percent of Monsanto’s total.

“The power of Monsanto, whether in the halls of Washington, or in farm country, should not be ignored,” said Environmental Working Group spokesman Alex Formuzis. “Monsanto comes armed with some of the deepest pockets and a bench of influential lobbyists, which makes the coalition’s efforts over GMO labeling on behalf of consumers a very tough fight indeed.”

Another upcoming matter of great interest to Monsanto: the new farm bill, an omnibus piece of legislation that sets the nation’s agricultural policy and deals with nearly every aspect of the country’s farming and food industries. The current bill expires in 2013; when it went through Congress, Monsanto filed more lobbying reports on it than any other organization. The process of piecing together a new proposal is already well under way.

The company’s access to members of Congress who are likely to be key in shaping the final legislation may be eased by the contributions of its very active PAC, the Monsanto Citizenship Fund. Already this cycle it has spent $383,000. The biggest recipient of that money so far is Rep. Frank D. Lucas (R-Okla.) who has received $20,000 from Monsanto’s PAC — $10,000 for his campaign committee and $10,000 for his leadership PAC. Lucas happens to be the chairman of the House Agriculture Committee — no farm-related legislation is passed without his say-so.

Monsanto has hedged its investment with the agriculture committee, though — it also gave $13,500 to Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), the top-ranking Democrat on the committee. So far this election cycle, Monsanto’s PAC has given $77,500 to 17 members of the House agriculture committee, or their leadership PACs.

Read original Post here

The Seed Emergency: The Threat to Food and Democracy


Vandana Shiva

Patenting seeds has led to a farming and food crisis – and huge profits for US biotechnology corporations.

The seed is the first link in the food chain – and seed sovereignty is the foundation of food sovereignty. If farmers do not have their own seeds or access to open pollinated varieties that they can save, improve and exchange, they have no seed sovereignty – and consequently no food sovereignty.

The deepening agrarian and food crisis has its roots in changes in the seed supply system, and the erosion of seed diversity and seed sovereignty.

Seed sovereignty includes the farmer’s rights to save, breed and exchange seeds, to have access to diverse open source seeds which can be saved – and which are not patented, genetically modified, owned or controlled by emerging seed giants. It is based on reclaiming seeds and biodiversity as commons and public good.

The past twenty years have seen a very rapid erosion of seed diversity and seed sovereignty, and the concentration of the control over seeds by a very small number of giant corporations. In 1995, when the UN organised the Plant Genetic Resources Conference in Leipzig, it was reported that 75 per cent of all agricultural biodiversity had disappeared because of the introduction of “modern” varieties, which are always cultivated as monocultures. Since then, the erosion has accelerated.

The introduction of the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights Agreement of the World Trade Organisation has accelerated the spread of genetically engineered seeds – which can be patented – and for which royalties can be collected. Navdanya was started in response to the introduction of these patents on seeds in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade – a forerunner to the WTO – about which a Monsanto representative later stated: “In drafting these agreements, we were the patient, diagnostician [and] physician all in one.” Corporations defined a problem – and for them the problem was farmers saving seeds. They offered a solution, and the solution was to make it illegal for farmers to save seed – by introducing patents and intellectual property rights [PDF] on those very seeds. As a result, acreage under GM corn, soya, canola, cotton has increased dramatically.

Threats to seed sovereignty

Besides displacing and destroying diversity, patented GMO seeds are also undermining seed sovereignty. Across the world, new seed laws are being introduced which enforce compulsory registration of seeds, thus making it impossible for small farmers to grow their own diversity, and forcing them into dependency on giant seed corporations. Corporations are also patenting climate resilient seeds evolved by farmers – thus robbing farmers of using their own seeds and knowledge for climate adaptation.

Another threat to seed sovereignty is genetic contamination. India has lost its cotton seeds because of contamination from Bt Cotton – a strain engineered to contain the pesticide Bacillus thuringiensis bacterium. Canada has lost its canola seed because of contamination from Roundup Ready canola. And Mexico has lost its corn due to contamination from Bt Cotton.

After contamination, biotech seed corporations sue farmers with patent infringement cases, as happened in the case of Percy Schmeiser. That is why more than 80 groups came together and filed a case to prevent Monsanto from suing farmers whose seed had been contaminated.

As a farmer’s seed supply is eroded, and farmers become dependent on patented GMO seed, the result is debt. India, the home of cotton, has lost its cotton seed diversity and cotton seed sovereignty. Some 95 per cent of the country’s cotton seed is now controlled by Monsanto – and the debt trap created by being forced to buy seed every year – with royalty payments – has pushed hundreds of thousands of farmers to suicide; of the 250,000 farmer suicides, the majority are in the cotton belt.

Seeding control

Even as the disappearance of biodiversity and seed sovereignty creates a major crisis for agriculture and food security, corporations are pushing governments to use public money to destroy the public seed supply and replace it with unreliable non-renewable, patented seed – which must be bought each and every year.

In Europe, the 1994 regulation for protection of plant varieties forces farmers to make a “compulsory voluntary contribution” to seed companies. The terms themselves are contradictory. What is compulsory cannot be voluntary.

In France, a law was passed in November 2011, which makes royalty payments compulsory. As Agriculture Minister Bruna Le Marie stated: “Seeds can be longer be royalty free, as is currently the case.” Of the 5,000 or so cultivated plant varieties, 600 are protected by certificate in France, and these account for 99 per cent of the varieties grown by farmers.

The “compulsory voluntary contribution”, in other words a royalty, is justified on grounds that “a fee is paid to certificate holders [seed companies] to sustain funding of research and efforts to improve genetic resources”.

Monsanto pirates biodiversity and genetic resources from farming communities, as it did in the case of a wheat biopiracy case fought by Navdanya with Greenpeace, and climate resilient crops and brinjal (also known as aubergine or eggplant) varieties for Bt Brinjal. As Monsanto states, “it draws from a collection of germ-plasm that is unparalleled in history” and “mines the diversity in this genetic library to develop elite seeds faster than ever before”.

In effect, what is taking place is the enclosure of the genetic commons of our biodiversity and the intellectual commons of public breeding by farming communities and public institutions. And the GMO seeds Monsanto is offering are failing. This is not “improvement” of genetic resources, but degradation. This is not innovation but piracy.

For example, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) – being pushed by the Gates Foundation – is a major assault on Africa’s seed sovereignty.

Agribusiness

The 2009 US Global Food Security Act [PDF] also called the Lugar-Casey Act [PDF], “A bill to authorise appropriations for fiscal years 2010 through 2014 to provide assistance to foreign countries to promote food security, to stimulate rural economies, and to improve emergency response to food crisis, to amend the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 and for other purposes”.

The amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act would “include research on bio-technological advances appropriate to local ecological conditions, including genetically modified technology”. The $ 7.7bn that goes with the bill would go to benefit Monsanto to push GM seeds.

An article in Forbes, titled “Why Uncle Sam Supports Franken Foods”, shows how agribusiness is the only sector in which US has a positive trade balance. Hence the push for GMOs – because they bring royalties to the US. However, royalties for Monsanto are based on debt, suicidal farmers and the disappearance of biodiversity worldwide.

Under the US Global Food Security Act, Nepal signed an agreement with USAID and Monsanto. This led to massive protests across the country. India was forced to allow patents on seeds through the first dispute brought by the US against India in the WTO. Since 2004, India has also been trying to introduce a Seed Act which would require farmers to register their own seeds and take licenses. This in effect would force farmers from using their indigenous seed varieties. By creating a Seed Satyagraha – a non-cooperation movement in Gandhi’s footsteps, handing over hundreds of thousands of signatures to the prime minister, and working with parliament – we have so far prevented the Seed Law from being introduced.

India has signed a US-India Knowledge Initiative in Agriculture, with Monsanto on the Board. Individual states are also being pressured to sign agreements with Monsanto. One example is the Monsanto-Rajasthan Memorandum of Understanding, under which Monsanto would get intellectual property rights to all genetic resources, and to carry out research on indigenous seeds. It took a campaign by Navdanya and a “Monsanto Quit India” Bija Yatra [“seed pilgrimage”] to force the government of Rajasthan to cancel the MOU.

This asymmetric pressure of Monsanto on the US government, and the joint pressure of both on the governments across the world, is a major threat to the future of seeds, the future of food and the future of democracy.
TRANSCEND Member Prof. Vandana Shiva is a physicist, ecofeminist, 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. She is executive director of the Navdanya Trust

Source: TRANSCEND Media Service, Sunday, February 12, 2012

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