( Biotech Wars) June 15, 2003
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Monsanto through the U.S. government, is trying desperately to reverse its failing fortunes by creating markets for its genetically engineered crops (GMOs) through coercion and corruption.
The E.U. has not yet cleared GM crops for commercial planting or GM food for imports. Brazil has had a ban on GM crops. And India has not cleared GM food crops and has stopped the spread of genetically engineered Bt. Cotton to Northern India after its dismal performance in Southern India in the first season of commercial planting in 2002.
E.U., Brazil and India are all under attack overtly and covertly, for not rushing into adopting genetically engineered crops without caution and ensuring biosafety.
The U.S. has threatened to initiate a dispute against the E.U. in the W.T.O. for not importing genetically modified foods. The U.S. trade representative, Mr. Zoellick was in Brazil at the end of May to force Brazil to remove the ban on GM crops. The U.S. Secretary of State tried to bully Southern African countries to the Earth Summit in Johannesburg to accept GM food and, but Zambia refused to be bullied. In India, the U.S. Embassy tried to pressurize the Ministry of Environment through the Prime Minister’s office to clear imports of GM corn, but a major mobilisation of women’s groups organized as the National Alliance of Women for Food Rights under the movement of Diverse Women for Diversity, was successful in sending back two ship loads of 10,000 tons of GM corn. Since then the Chairman of the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee which rejected GM crops and imports has been removed and the Agricultural Ministry has been changed.
Free people with free information are saying no to genetically engineered food for both ecological and health reasons. However, genetic engineering is being imposed on the world by a handful of global corporations with the backing of one powerful government.
Commercial crops produced through genetic engineering are not producing more food nor are they reducing the use of chemicals. While the hunger argument is the most frequently used argument to promote and push genetic engineering, GMOs have more to do with corporate hunger for profits than poor people’s hunger for food. As a news item in the international Herald Tribune of May 29, 2003 titled, “Biotech war recast as hunger issue” reported,
President George W. Bush is framing his attack on European resistance to genetically modified crops as part of a campaign against world hunger.
Bush and his aides are making an emotional plea, saying the administration’s stance is part of the fight against world hunger. In a speech last week be accused Europe of hindering the “great cause of ending hunger in Africa” with its ban genetically modified corps.” (IHT, May 29, 2003)
The technology of genetic engineering is not about overcoming food scarcity but about creating monopolies over food and seed, the first link in the chain and over life itself.
After having pressurized Lula’s government in Brazil to temporarily remove the ban on GMOs, Monsanto is now claiming royalties for genes in the Round up Resistance Soya crops, showing once again that profits through royalty collection are the real objective of spreading GM crops.
India has been forced to change its patent laws under TRIPS and the main beneficiary of the Second Amendment to India’s Patent Act of 1970 are biotech corporations like Monsanto, seeking patents on genetically engineered crops.
Patents also criminalise and make illegal the human work of life’s reproduction. When seeds are patented, farmers exercising their freedom and performing their duty of saving and exchanging seeds are treated as “intellectual property thieves”. This can reach absurd limits as in the case of Percy Schmieser whose canola field was polluted by Monsanto’s Round up Resistant Canola, and instead of Monsanto compensating Percy for pollution on the “polluter pays principle”, Monsanto sued him for $200,000 for theft of their genes. Monsanto uses detective agencies and police to track farmers and their crops. Patents imply police states.
Genetic engineering is not merely causing genetic pollution of biodiversity and creating bio-imperialism, monopolies over life itself. It is also causing knowledge pollution — by undermining independent science, and promoting pseudo science. It is leading to monopolies over knowledge and information.
The victimisation of Dr. Arpad Putzai who showed the health risks of GM potatoes and Dr. Ignacio Chapela who showed that corn had been contaminated in its centre of diversity in Mexico are examples of the intolerance of a corporate controlled scientific system for real science.
The fabrication of the data by Monsanto on Bt. Cotton India is an example of the promotion of an unnecessary, untested, hazardous technology through pseudo science. While yields of GM cotton fell by 80% and farmers had losses of nearly Rs. 6,000/acre. Monsanto used Martn Qaim (University of Bonn) and David Zilberman) University of California, Berkeley) to publish an article in Science to claim that yields of Bt. Cotton increased by 80%. Qaim and Zilberman published the paper on the basis of data provided by Monsanto from Monsanto’s trials not on the basis of the harvest from farmers fields in the first year of commercial planting.
The fabricated data that presents a failure of Bt. Cotton as a miracle hides the fact that non-target insects and diseases increased 250-300%, costs of seed were 300% more and quantity and quality of cotton was low. This is why on April 25, 2003, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) of the Government of India did not give clearance to Monsanto to sell Bt. Cotton seeds in Northern India.
The false claims of Monsanto were also proved with a total failure of Hybrid maize in the state of Bihar and a black listing of the company by the government.
In Rajasthan, Monsanto gave itself an award for miracle yields. While the brochures claimed 50-90 Q/acre, farmers harvested only 7 Q/acre, 90% lower than the promise. Farmers of the Udaipur district of Rajasthan have started a campaign to boycott Monsanto seeds.
Reports of these failures do not reach the international level because Monsanto controls the media with its public relations spin, just as it is attempting to control governments and science.
Our crops are being polluted, our food contaminated, our scientific research and regulatory agencies threatened and corrupted.
This is the context in which the Biotech Conference for Agriculture Ministers in Sacremento, California, hosted by Ann Vanneman, the U.S. Secretary for Agriculture is taking place. Ann Vanneman used to head Agracetus, a subsidiary of Monsanto. The Brazilian Agriculture Ministry is held captive by Monsanto. The removal of India’s Agriculture Minister, Ajit Singh, a few months before general elections is to ensure that the threat to peasant survival under corporate control of agriculture is not put high on the agenda and India’s Agriculture Ministry also comes under Monsanto/Cargill control. The first activity in which the new Agriculture Minister Rajnath Singh participated was a Global Seed Conference organised by the Biotech industry.
Sustainability and science are being sacrificed for a reckless experiment with our biodiversity and food systems which is pushing species and peasants to extinction. We need to re-imbed technology in ecology and ethics to ensure that the full ecological and social costs are taken into account.
What is at stake is the evolution of nature and survival of people, our food sovereignty and food freedom, integrity of creation and our food systems based on the evolutionary freedom of nature and democratic freedoms of farmers and consumers. The choice before us is bio-imperialism or bio-democracy. Will a few corporations have a dictatorship over our governments, our knowledge and information, our lives and all life on the planet or will we as members of the Earth family liberate ourselves and all species from the prison of patents and genetic engineering?
We need to reclaim our food freedom and food sovereignty.
Our movement in India seeks to defend our seed freedom (Bija Swaraj) and food freedom (Anna Swaraj) by defending our rights, and refusing to cooperate with immoral and unjust laws (Bija Satyagraha). We save and share our seeds, we boycott corporate seeds, we are creating patent free, chemical free, genetic engineering free zones of agriculture to ensure our agriculture is free of corporate monopolies and chemical and genetic pollution. Our bread is our freedom. Our freedom will ensure our bread. And each of us has a duty to exercise bread freedm (Anna Swaraj) — for the sake of the earth, for all species, for ourselves and the generations to come.