We must be free from Monsanto

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We must get free from Monsanto like we got our freedom from the British

Vandana Shiva calls for seed freedom at the One Earth, One Humanity One Future festival in Oxford.


Protesters show different kinds of brinjal or aubergine or eggplant in 2010 in Bangalore, India. Creative Commons Licence

In September 2016 I will be in England for the ‘One Earth One Humanity One Future’ festival in Oxford. This will celebrate 50 years of the UK’s environmental magazine, Resurgence.

This ‘Resurgence 50’ festival will bring together leaders from the world’s social justice and environmental movements. They will talk about ideas for a more equal and sustainable world. A world that would be fairer and more sustainable without the big biotech company, Monsanto and its GMO crops.

At the same time in India we are celebrating 70 years of our Independence, and in August 2016 we also celebrated the anniversary of the Quit India movement of 1942. That was also the year of the Great Bengal famine which killed 2 million Indians. This was because of the big taxes collected by the British. Then it was clear that we must be free again because people were starving under British rule.

Today there is a similar problem with seeds. Monsanto makes big illegal profits from our farmers. The farmers owe a lot of money which they cannot pay back and many are near to suicide.

We cannot have Seed Sovereignty with Monsanto’s bad technology and wrong ideas. Monsanto’s is saying it will take away its seeds if it cannot patent them. But Indian law does not allow a patent on seeds, and does not approve Monsanto’s Roundup Ready crops.

The Technical Expert Committee advises the Supreme Court in the GMO case. It has clearly said that there should be no trials of herbicide resistant crops in India because India is a land of small farms and rich biodiversity. Herbicide resistant crops like Monsanto’s Roundup Ready cotton would mean spraying the herbicide, which would kill all other crops in the field except the plant genetically made to resist Roundup. This would destroy biodiversity and it would take nutrition from poor people and make India’s food problem worse.

Monsanto does not think about farming systems, biodiversity, seeds, farmer’s rights and national laws. But Monsanto tells three lies to cover up its failures

First, Monsanto says that the Government is trying to give compulsory licences for Bt cotton seed. This is wrong because when there are no patents on seeds, there can be no compulsory licensing.

Second, Monsanto says their GMO Bt seeds have increased cotton production by controlling pests. This too is wrong.

Monsanto designed Bt cotton to control bollworm. But bollworm is now resistant to Bt cotton. New pests like Whitefly have killed the cotton crop in Punjab. The Bt cotton area has dropped by 27 per cent because Bt cotton could not control pests.

There was also less cotton seed sown in Maharashtra and Telangana. The national cotton area has dropped by 8 per cent.

Third, Monsanto says that the Roundup Ready crop would help to stop the bollworm resistance that has come in Bollard II. This is also wrong.

What Monsanto is saying is scientifically wrong. If pest resistance is the problem, spraying Roundup won’t stop it. Herbicides are supposed to kill weeds, not pests. And Monsanto’s Roundup Ready crops are not killing weeds. They have made weeds resistant to Roundup, just like bollworm has become a pest resistant to Bt.

But Monsanto also says that seeds have a short life. But true seeds can be used again and again. We have had our seeds for10,000 years. True seeds don’t have a short life like Monsanto’s GMO seeds. And as our three decades of work in Navdanya shows, true, living seeds have more nutrition, grow more food and resist pests and diseases and climate change. Monsanto forces farmers to buy seed every year to collect more money. And it also owns the patent for the seeds which make dead seeds. The UN Convention on Biodiversity has stopped this technology from making money.

Seed freedom is our right. To defend our seed sovereignty and food sovereignty, we must force Monsanto to leave India, like we forced the British to leave 70 years ago.

The Government controls seed prices, and makes it clear that India’s patent law does not apply to seeds and plants. Monsanto is trying to threaten the government by saying it is withdrawing a new GMO Bt cotton seed Bollgard II Roundup Ready Flex which contains 2 Bt toxin genes and a gene for resistance to Monsanto’s herbicide.

Roundup Ready crops are resistant to Roundup, so Monsanto can sell more Roundup as well as collect money from seeds it would like to patent. We cannot have a company which does not understand biodiversity or what a seed is. It only knows how to make money from farmers and to control our seeds by trying illegally to patent seed.

Vandana Shiva is a scholar, environmental activist and anti-globalization author.

NOW READ THE ORIGINAL: https://www.newint.org/features/web-exclusive/2016/09/08/reclaim-our-freedom-from-monsanto-like-we-did-the-british/ (This article has been simplified so the words, text structure and quotes may have changed).