India says no to Monsanto

Monsanto is a massive american company founded in 1901, they were among the first to experiment with genetically modified crops, they were also the company who invented Agent Orange which was used to such destructive ends in places like Vietnam and they also developed DDT which it became known was toxic and was subsequently banned. On the other hand they also developed the mass produced LED and so made christmas decoations as we know them possible.

India is a massive subcontinent which has about ninety million farmers, there is a huge area known as the cotton belt, simply because the main cash crop in this area is cotton. In this area since the late ninties there are over 200,000 farmers who have comitted suicide.

Cotton seed has been among farmers’ lowest ¬†outlays. During the harvest, cotton growers would cultivate crop seeds and save them for the following season. As a general practice, they also would swap seeds with neighbouring farmers, ensuring through natural selection that subsequent generations of cotton seed would be best suited for the region. Although local cotton did not provide the same amount of product as the american varieties, it had adapted to India’s unique climate – an intense monsoon season followed by months of drought.

Monsanto helped to kill this practice. The company introduced a genetically modified cotton plant that produces bacteria known as Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt, a commonly used pesticide against bollworm. When Bt cotton seed first came to market nationwide in 2002 under the trademark Bollgard, a box recommended for one acre of farmland was 1,400 rupees, about $35, a substantial amount for a farmer who in a good year will earn a few hundred dollars to support his family. Although government-regulated prices have been halved to 750 rupees per box – a predatory pricing lawsuit filed by the state of Andhra Pradesh forced Monsanto and the federal government to lower the prices – the input costs of Bt cotton are still more than the average farmer can afford to spend out of pocket.

.Now here is the first thing, this BT cotton gives a higher yield and many farmers were convinced to buy the new seed which has a warning on it in English to only plant it in irrigated fields, many of these farmers cannot read English. So what happens is this, they get a loan from the Bank of India to buy seed, the crop fails and they can not repay the loan, so they get a loan from a private moneylender at ridiculous rates, they spiral into debt and then take their own lives.

Now we jump to recent events and Monsanto are now trying to patent their GM crop seeds, with a patent they have complete control over the buying, selling and use of their products, they have already managed to buy the patents for over a thousand such products. While they tried to buy the patent for these climate resistant crops the courts in India said no, and when they appealed the higher courts in India also said no!

The ramifications of India doing this are huge as it may lead other countries to change their patent laws to also prevent Monsanto from gaining these patents, but why? Well, Monsanto and other corporations like them can prevent the supply of new seed after natural disasters as they control every aspect of the seed, it is not because someone is making money, but more than that they have control over so many lives in a profit and shareholder based scenario. There are already over 200,000 Indian farmers who have paid a high price and there will be more.

There is something also to be remembered that Monsanto have had many issues with their products being toxic, the BT crops in India are no exception, they have been found to be toxic to humans affecting the blood cells. On another note it is dangerous for one company to try to control such a large amount of the world’s food supply, no company should be allowed to do that. The world is waking up to this fact.

Slur loves the fact that India is saying No!

Lucien Grey

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