By Sharat Karekatt:
In the last three years over 3 thousand farmers committed suicide in India. Farmers are the breeders of life, backbone of an agrarian economy like India. And their deaths, not due to natural causes but suicides as a result of crumbling debts, are indeed a cause of concern. Of course famines and pestilence had been part of Indian farmers’ predicament since forever, the recent troubles however can be attributed to something much more modern and far more sinister – Genetically Modified Crops.
Corporations have entered Indian markets selling Genetically Modified Crops promising Green Revolution, increase in production, progress, empowerment, sharing, conservation, elimination of hunger, rainbows and unicorns and what not. But the truth is far from it…they have failed to control pests and weeds and have instead created totally resistant superpests and superweeds, they have damaged the soil, destroyed traditional forms of farming and have trapped poor farmers in debt while pretending to work for their welfare. Instead of being a saviour, they have in fact become bringers of death.
Genetically Modified Organisms or GMO are living organisms whose DNA has been manipulated in laboratories through genetic engineering. According to pro-GMO communities, some benefits of genetic engineering in agriculture are increased crop yields, reduced costs for food or drug production, reduced need for pesticides, enhanced nutrient composition and food quality, resistance to pests and disease, greater food security, and medical benefits to the world’s growing population. All so beautiful.
Now, one of the main crops in India is cotton. Cotton is a crop susceptible to various kinds of pests. BT Cotton is a Genetically Modified Cotton which was introduced by a company called Monsanto promising better yield and increased resistance to pests.
When India deregulated its seed sector encouraged by World Bank in order to escape grinding poverty that was afflicting the nation, India unknowingly also allowed some dark forces inside as well. Evilest of them all, Monsanto saw the opportunity, swooped in and bought all cotton seed companies it could and created agreements with the rest. Within a few years, all the seeds our farmers could lay hands on were Monsanto’s. Common resource became intellectual property.
They came to the farmer guaranteeing riches, sustainability, empowerment via increased production. Enchanted by the promises of future riches, farmers borrowed money and bought these crops, paying 1000 times more than what they pay for traditional ones. More production, less use of insecticides, sure why not? By aggressive lobbying, BT Cotton became main source of seed farmers could use. These buggers presently controls 95% of the market.
Now, it would have been all great if they delivered what they promised. But BT Cotton did not resist main pests such as bollworm, in fact had high tolerance to many secondary pests like Whiteflies, which weren’t much of a problem earlier. They became a growing menace forcing farmers to use increased insecticides. Which again, these companies themselves provided. Double income!
Cotton which could be grown with a mixture of food crops had to be grown as a monoculture. Soil was badly affected, traditional cotton crops cannot be grown here.
Thirdly, Bt Cotton requires large amount of water which the officials of this organization ‘forgot’ to mention to the farmers in one of the driest regions in India, who solely rely on monsoons. The probability of crop failure is now really high.
Then, they implemented something called Gene Use Restriction Technology, in which seeds produced by the crops will not grow. Viable offspring would not grow. Farmers have been reusing seeds from earlier crops to plant future crops for generations, that option was crashed. They have to buy seeds every time.
Apart from this, because farmers were using its intellectual property, they had to pay royalties on their crops to Monsanto.
Monsanto seems to be very much inspired by Henry Kissinger’s words –“Control oil and you control nation, control food and you control the World.”
They smuggled controlled substances into Indian Market flouting Indian laws, conducted large scale field trials in various locations without permission from concerned bodies and without waiting for the trial results they already introduced their good-for-nothing-shit into the market. They also went on to collect royalties on their seeds from poor farmers sending them into debt even when Indian laws do not permit seed patents. Their first BT failed, then they released BT II which they claimed to be superior. But again data suggests that instead of reduced pesticides, the usage has been increasing every year along with all the other above mentioned problems.
These are the problems that this company is causing in India. They are a pest worldwide. No wonder this organization were ranked the most evil company in a global survey in 2013.
In the past 20 years, 3 lakh farmers have committed suicide. Majority of them are cotton farmers. And they have been driven to take these drastic steps due to financial crisis exacerbated by BT Cotton. 3 Lakh lives directly ruined by Monsanto.
Genetic Engineering has not been able to keep their promises, instead they have become a tool for ownership. Monsanto does not care if their science is inferior and the crop they invented is destroying the environment, if their seeds are becoming pest tolerant instead of pest resistant. They care only that the crop is theirs and the cash should flow. They have destroyed alternatives and they have made everything that remains, theirs.
GM Lobbyist and politicians would argue that GM crops have been a great boon for Indian agriculture and economy. In a bid to promote GM crops, traditional varieties were banned from some government seed banks. They play the world hunger card to promote GMO. But presently, that is not the case we are observing with companies promoting GMOs.
This article is not against Genetically Modified Crops, I believe GMO can be a good tool against many problems if used correctly. I am against the fraudulent and deceptive methods taken by corporations such as Monsanto, their secret propaganda and their deliberate techniques in acquiring monopoly over food. If you are a humanist, you should advocate for rights of people to choose, whereas it is obvious that this company’s strategy is totally against any rights, any freedom of choice.
There should be satisfying amounts of tests carried out, its results published and reviewed by scientific community before it is labelled to be fit for use. Clearly this has not been the case. Monsanto’s subversion of democratic legal processes, apathetic attitude towards the plight of farmers is really disgusting. There is no satisfying evidence that GMO is the answer to world hunger. In fact quite the contrary it has been leading factor of farmer debt and suicide and as a result contributing to hunger.
So, what is our solution?
A report by USC Canada’s 2012 Primer on the Global Food Crisis claims “The world food crisis is not a scarcity problem; it’s an access and distribution problem, fundamentally linked to the way our food is produced. Simply put, our global food system is unfair and no longer works. It needs a dramatic transformation. How we grow our food matters.”
The present government riding on mantra of development wants to bring another green revolution by investing more on GMO. Hopefully they be scientific in their approach and allow GMO after properly testing and reviewing. And hopefully they keep the companies like Monsanto out of the picture.