India defies Monsanto, and says NO to GMO crops — The New Internationalist

From “The New Internationalist”:

“We’ve followed the story of the slow but increasing and badly needed pushback against Monsanto’s predatory business practices, which force farmers to buy Monsanto seed annually, rather than re-use it. Worse, Monsanto seed has been genetically engineered so as to require the use of Monsanto herbicides and fertilizers.

And with (until recently) the seeds patent protected, farmers could be sued for having Monsanto genes in their crops. And with Monsanto having established a near monopoly in seeds, it has set prices so as to extract a higher percent of agricultural revenues than it could otherwise command. Needless to say, what is good for Monsanto is not at all good for farmers, as these excerpts from a Daily Kos post illustrates:

‘I am a small farmer, and I am deeply concerned about the broad power Monsanto and other seed companies wield. Their patents on life, unfair business practices, and aggressive genetic engineering of seed for commercial farming are making farmers dependent on their very expensive seed and killing the millennia-old practice of saving seed.

Since I was a child, the cotton business has been radically changed by developments like Round-Up Ready cotton. Farmers are forced by market pressures to adopt new practices, like using Monsanto seed, that are locking them into annual tithes to a monopolistic seed company. Monsanto, in particular, has forced hundreds of small seed companies out of the business with litigation and threats of litigation, and it’s no accident. Farmers are afraid to collect seeds at all, for fear that Monsanto will accuse them of patent infringement….

In visiting my husband’s family in Bangladesh, my brother-in-law complained about the lack of rice varieties available for consumption. In the past, hundreds of tasty varieties were available. Now only a very few with much less taste are on the market. These varieties, grown in the very unhealthy chemically dependent and unsustainable manner espoused by Monsanto to encourage the use of their many pesticides and herbicides, depletes the land and contaminate the waterways. Fish populations, on which the Bangladeshi population depends heavily for protein, are disappearing. Only the farm-raised varieties are in vast supply, those also being of less nutritional value and raised in polluted waters.

Monsanto’s hold on the seed market is especially problematic in that they also manufacture the chemicals with which the seeds are grown. This is forcing many farmers to use GMO seeds and unsustainable methods whether they want to or not. Neighboring farms (specifically, organic or those choosing to use non-GMO seeds) are having their seeds contaminated by the GMO varieties. Native varieties and hybrids, grown for 10,000 years and adapted to optimize local growing conditions, are bought up by Monsanto and removed from the market, denying options to farmers and consumers. Those not bought up are in danger of contamination by Terminator genes, which would lead to their extinction. The same way we protect animal species from extinction, we should protect plant species, especially the tens of thousands of food varieties, from companies like Monsanto that are consciously eliminating them. Would we allow genocide to occur in any other circumstance?

GMO crops have not been tested properly for safety. In India, farmers allowed their cattle to graze on GMO cotton plant stubble as they had grazed their cattle for millennia; all those cattle died within a few days. Many GMO varieties are neither better yielding nor requiring less fertilizer or water. They are designed to increase the use of Monsanto chemicals. These varieties are more expensive to grow, and the farmers are not allowed to save seed for the next year or the seeds have “Terminator” or “Traitor” genes to make new seeds sterile, causing them added expense. Monsanto’s methods are depleting the soil in areas already stressed.

I hope you will rein in these companies and start to restore’.”

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