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Biotech Wars: Food Freedom Vs. Food Slavery June 15, 2003
By Vandana Shiva
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
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
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
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
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, and for ourselves and the generations to come.