#Monsanto digs its heels in Pakistan


Monsanto's Involvement With Agent Orange - 40 Years After the Vietnam Conflict

Coming from a politician or bureaucrat, it wouldn’t have been surprising.
But it was unexpected from the Vice Chancellor of Faisalabad University of
Agriculture when he claimed that GMOs would “bring about a new green
revolution based on biotechnology, precision agriculture and climate
change.” As if the first Green Revolution wasn’t bad enough! If it was for
citizens’ benefit, why wasn’t Dr Iqrar Ahmad Khan addressing sustainable
farmers and concerned citizens, instead of briefing diplomats from 24
countries? That fit more into loaded trade and investment talks, not a
country’s delicate agricultural security.

Dr Khan offers no evidence based on local research whatsoever to prove that
GMOs are “a great and safe invention that would enhance crop productivity”.
He seems oblivious of the fact that even GM seed-producing corporations
don’t make that claim.

“Where is the independent data which shows that GM Corn would increase
average yield?” demands Ijaz Ahmed Rao, professional farmer, graduated from
Australia, “Data from USDA clearly shows that despite GM technologies
(Insect-resistant (Bt), Herbicide-tolerant, Stacked gene varieties), yields
in USA have not increased since 1987!”

Rao sounds an alarm the government must note – that Pakistan’s corn exports
to Europe and elsewhere would be seriously affected as they import non-GM
corn and corn products from Pakistan at premium rates and on bases of
certification. Far from boosting Pakistan’s output and earnings, Bt corn
would be the ideal weapon to destroy our exports to Europe which recently
banned Monsanto and other GMOs, with ongoing plans to wipe them out
completely.

Similarly, sans evidence, Dr Khan claims that Bt (GM) cotton increased
productivity while pesticide-application was reduced in Pakistan. Strange
indeed, when in the rest of the world – including USA, the heaviest GM user
– it rapidly lost resistance to pests and required increasing amounts of
pesticides, now multiplied several-fold.

He disregards India’s terrible 15-year experience with Monsanto’s Bt cotton
that, with Monsanto’s overpriced products and unfair practices, led to over
300,000 suicides since 1995, making India the world’s farmers’ suicide
centre. Should we be joining their ranks?

Indeed, Dr Khan ignores Monsanto’s long and ignominious history around the
world – originally a chemical corporation that co-supplied 19 million
gallons of herbicide to defoliate Vietnam’s forests and crops on 4.5
million acres over 11 years, killing or maiming 400,000, causing half a
million deformed children born, helpless and dependant for life, and two
million cancer cases. After diverse other ventures, Monsanto got into GM
seeds which are ‘successful’ only if Monsanto’s accompanying poisonous
chemicals are heavily sprayed.

While appearing to promote Monsanto’s planned launch of ‘Herbicide
Resistance Corn’, Dr Khan was blind to the dangerous ground he was treading
on. Chemically-grown food crops have already lost nutritive value and led
to malnutrition, in both South countries and USA.

Because it wasn’t reported here, the VC probably doesn’t know that on May
25, over two million participants in 436 cities across 52 countries,
protested against Monsanto, demanding it gets out from everywhere. This,
apart from the long-standing, ongoing “Millions against Monsanto” campaign
that informs and brings together concerned citizens and activists globally.

Or that the Carnival of Corn in Mexico City coincided with and joined the
global protest. Mexico was the cradle of corn boasting thousands of corn
varieties; it needed no more, let alone GM corn, from outside. But their
own president sold his country out to Monsanto and other GM corporations,
just as Bush and Obama did the same to their people. In country after
country, it was not the merit of the product but officials that succumbed
to tempting lures.

And last week Japan and South Korea cancelled huge contracts for US wheat
when it was revealed Monsanto’s unapproved GM seeds had contaminated vast
farmlands in USA.

Monsanto dug in its heels in Pakistan over a decade ago since Musharraf’s
time. The General probably didn’t understand agriculture which may have
made it easy to sway him. His regime unilaterally sanctioned corporate
farming, which is increasingly pursued with GM seeds. The timing was
significant.

When Musharraf’s rule ended, the PPP government dealt an unexpected shock
when Mr. Gilani’s very first speech as prime minister ended with the
incongruous announcement – having nothing to do with his political
statements – that they had decided to let Monsanto in. Clearly, political
changes did not undo special interests. Since then, ceaseless crises in
Pakistan have kept attention diverted from Monsanto activities in Pakistan.

Dr Khan should remember the ‘Precautionary Principle’ – unless he’s
excluded ecology from agriculture – and investigate the extent of unchecked
contamination in Pakistan. GM monoculture threatens to wipe out what’s left
of our biodiversity without which even GM can’t continue, will further
chemical-drench and kill our deteriorating farmlands, while he risks being
remembered among the short-sighted responsible for near-extinction of
species.

*
http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2013/06/12/comment/columns/genetically-modified-threats/

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