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BUSINESS & SEEDS: Annul pact with Monstanto, demand farmers’ groups in Rajasthan (India)



                                  PART 1


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TITLE:   ANNUL PACT WITH MONSTANTO, DEMAND FARMERS? GROUPS

SOURCE:  The Hindu, India

AUTHOR:  

URL:     http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-newdelhi/article1151787.ece

DATE:    03.02.2011

SUMMARY: "Farmer groups here on Wednesday called upon an expert committee appointed by the Rajasthan Government to recommend annulment of a controversial agreement signed with the US-based multinational biotechnology company Monstanto in July last year for assistance in agricultural research and promotion of genetically modified seeds on the pretext of supply of hybrid seeds to farmers in the State. [...] The three groups pointed out that Monsanto has had a controversial history in India forcing the farmers into a ?mounting debt trap? after their failed trials of the GM seeds, which led to the poor crop yields, increased need for pesticides and the compulsion to use seeds sold by the multinational giant at very high prices."

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ANNUL PACT WITH MONSTANTO, DEMAND FARMERS? GROUPS

Farmer groups here on Wednesday called upon an expert committee appointed by the Rajasthan Government to recommend annulment of a controversial agreement signed with the US-based multinational biotechnology company Monstanto in July last year for assistance in agricultural research and promotion of genetically modified (GM) seeds on the pretext of supply of hybrid seeds to farmers in the State.

The committee, comprising agricultural economists and biotechnology experts, was appointed here recently for examining various provisions of the agreement following a public outcry. The State Government has asked the panel to submit its report by February 15.

Kisan Seva Samiti Mahasangh, Sajha Manch and the Centre for Community Economics and Development Consultants? Society said in a joint statement here that if Monsanto was allowed to enter the State, conditions ?similar to those in the Vidarbha region? would gradually emerge here, creating enormous difficulties for farmers and putting the entire agriculture sector to a great risk.

The three groups pointed out that Monsanto has had a controversial history in India forcing the farmers into a ?mounting debt trap? after their failed trials of the GM seeds, which led to the poor crop yields, increased need for pesticides and the compulsion to use seeds sold by the multinational giant at very high prices. Monsanto provides technology in 90 per cent of the world?s genetically engineered seeds.

Track record

?The agreement signed between Monsanto and the Rajasthan Government in a clandestine manner in July 2010 will destroy agriculture in the desert State and obliterate economic security of farmers. What is the justification for handing over farm research and extension services to Monsanto, which is known for promoting its GM seed technology in poor countries?? asked KSSM secretary Bhagwan S. Dadhich.

The statement regretted that State Agriculture Minister Harjiram Burdak had failed to take into account the track record of Monsanto in States such as Maharashtra and Gujarat where the transition to using the pest-resistant seeds and the necessary herbicides had had ?disastrous consequences?. Thousands of farmers across the country have committed suicide due to mounting debt after the use of GM seeds.

Ashok Mathur of Sajha Manch said the Rajasthan Government?s ?unwarranted haste? in signing the agreement was inexplicable even as the multinational company?s controversial activities and seed commercialisation practices were making headlines.

The groups took exception to the agreement giving unfettered rights of research, production and distribution of seeds to Monsanto and making it obligatory for agricultural universities and research centres in the State to provide their resources and infrastructure to the company. ?Yet another paradox is that Monsanto would charge the government departments for developing seeds and techniques.?

Alok Vyas of the Centre for Community Economics said the agreement would pave the way for ?monopolistic practices? by Monsanto, which would promote its hybrid seeds irrespective of the fact that they consume more water and are not suitable for Rajasthan: ?In the absence of any provision for a regulating agency, the farmers would not be compensated for the loss of crops and damage to productivity of their land.?

The statement demanded that the expert committee look into all aspects of the contentious pact and draw the State Government?s attention to its ?long-term destructive fallout?, while recommending its immediate termination.



                                  PART 2

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TITLE:   SEEDY DEALS

SOURCE:  Deccan Chronicle, India

AUTHOR:  Vandana Shiva

URL:     http://www.deccanchronicle.com/dc-comment/seedy-deals-425

DATE:    02.02.2011

SUMMARY: "India is planning to replace the rules under the Environment Protection Act with a Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (Brai) Act. This will give genetically-modified organisms fast-track approvals and throw its critics into jail. The recently-appointed minister of science and technology, Ashwini Kumar, has announced that the Government of India is planning to introduce four bills in the upcoming Budget session ? Brai Bill, DNA Profiling Bill, Regional Centre for Biotechnology Bill and the Public Funded R&D Bill."

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SEEDY DEALS

Dr Vandana Shiva is the executive director of the Navdanya Trust

India is planning to replace the rules under the Environment Protection Act with a Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (Brai) Act. This will give genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) fast-track approvals and throw its critics into jail. The recently-appointed minister of science and technology, Ashwini Kumar, has announced that the Government of India is planning to introduce four bills in the upcoming Budget session ? Brai Bill, DNA Profiling Bill, Regional Centre for Biotechnology Bill and the Public Funded R&D (Protection and Utilisation of Public Funded Intellectual Property) Bill. The Prime Minister?s Office has already written to various state governments suggesting partnerships with corporations in the seed sector. This rush to push genetically-modified and patented seeds ignores evidence that GMOs will not be able to provide food security. Genetically-engineered seeds are patented. Patents allow companies to collect royalties. This increases the price of seed
 . Patents also force the farmer to buy seed every year. This pushes up the price of seed and traps farmers in debt. Debt has already pushed 2,50,000 Indian farmers to suicide in the last 15 years. Citizens as consumers also pay a very high price. They are forced to eat food with toxic genes. Biodiversity is replaced with uniformity; Taste and quality are replaced with hazards; And freedom to choose is replaced with force feeding.

A serious issue related to GMOs is conflict of interest. In fact, WikiLeaks recently released a communication where the US ambassador in Paris, Craig Stapleton, a close friend and business partner of then President George Bush, is urging the White House to launch a military-style trade war against GM sceptics in Europe. ?Country team Paris recommends that we calibrate a target retaliation list that causes some pain across the European Union since this is a collective responsibility, but that also focuses in part on the worst culprits?, he wrote. America?s science and technology adviser Nina Fedoroff was sent to India in February 2010 to try and prevent the moratorium on Bt brinjal. At the Biotechnology Industry Organisation?s annual convention in May 2010, Jose Fernandez, assistant secretary for the Bureau of Economic, Energy and Business Affairs, US, told several hundred attendees from around the world that the US state department will aggressively confront critics of agricu
 ltural biotechnology as the United States seeks to mitigate the effects of climate change.

The US-based multinational seed giant Monsanto which has signed memorandums of understanding (MoUs) with six states, controls 95 per cent of all GM seeds sold in India.

In India, the same scientists who promote GMOs sit on regulatory bodies. When the environment minister asked six academies of science to provide their scientific inputs for the Bt brinjal moratorium, what they submitted was propaganda material lifted verbatim from industry literature. The situation is worse in the US where the biotechnology industry literally runs all government agencies. That is why the US government tried to sue Europe in World Trade Organisation (WTO) for the GMO bans in some countries. The WTO GMO campaign was started by Navdanya with a large coalition of groups worldwide. Navdanya had to organise a massive global campaign and submitted 60 million signatures to WTO at the Hong Kong ministerial to prevent the removal of the bans.

GMOs continue to be promoted as the only solution to hunger and food security. However, the tools of genetic engineering are merely tools of transferring genes across species boundaries. They are not tools of breeding. The breeding is still done through conventional methods. The yield of a crop is determined by conventional technologies, not by genetic engineering. Yield is a multi-genetic trait, and genetic engineering cannot deal with complex traits. The report ?Failure to Yield? of the Union of Concerned Scientists ? a non-profit science advocacy group based in the US ? shows that in no crop has genetic engineering contributed to yield increase. The yield trait comes from the variety into which a GM trait is introduced. As Andrew Pollack of the New York Times observes: ?The yield of a crop is mainly determined by the seed?s intrinsic properties, not the inserted gene. An insect resistant protection gene will not make a poor variety a high yielder?. The scientists? claim th
 at GMOs will increase food security is therefore an unscientific myth. Over the 20 years of commercialisation of GMOs, two traits account for most genetic modification. These are crops into which a gene has been added to resist herbicides (herbicide-resistant crops) or a gene has been added to resist pests (Bt crops). The former are supposed to control weeds, the latter are supposed to control pests. However, herbicide-resistant crops have led to evolution of super weeds, and pest-resistant crops have led to creation of super pests. Monsanto introduced Round-up Ready Crops for herbicide resistance. When super weeds started to overtake crops, Monsanto introduced Round-Up Ready II. In 2010, it introduced smart stax with eight toxic genes ? six for insecticides and two for herbicide resistance. Monsanto?s strategy was to ?create a captive customer base? through stacking eight toxic genes. The strategy was a failure. Monsanto lost 47 per cent of its shares, and is paying US farm
 ers $12 per acre to deal with the problems created by its GMO seeds. If one toxic gene does not control pests and instead creates super pests, stacking six insecticidal genes will only accelerate the emergence of resistance. Monsanto and others who promote GMOs forget Einstein?s observations that ?insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result?.

Another serious issue related to GMOs is the destruction of biodiversity, and the creation of monocultures and monopolies. India had 1,500 varieties of cotton. Today 95 per cent of cotton grown in India is Bt cotton. And most of the Bt cotton is owned and controlled by Monsanto through licensing arrangements. Monsanto charges ?50 lakh as an initial licence fee and then royalty. When GM Bt cotton was introduced, prices of cotton seed jumped from ?5 per kg to ?1,600 per 450 gm of which the royalty was ?725. If this extraction of super profits had continued, it translated into an annual transfer of ?1,000 crore or ?10 billion from poor Indian farmers to Monsanto. For the farmer this means debt. An anti-trust case against Monsanto filed by the government of Andhra Pradesh has forced the company to reduce the price of Bt cotton, but the introduction of Bollgard II has pushed the prices up again.

A failed and hazardous technology such as genetic engineering can only be pushed through dictatorial means. GMOs and democracy cannot co-exist. GMO-free food and agriculture is necessary for creating food security and defending food democracy.