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Shiva writes: "Control over seed is the first link in the food chain because seed is the source of life. When a corporation controls seed, it controls life, especially the life of farmers."

A farmer is seen holding Monsanto's Roundup Ready soybean seeds at his family farm. (photo: Dan Gill/AP)
A farmer is seen holding Monsanto's Roundup Ready soybean seeds at his family farm. (photo: Dan Gill/AP)



Monsanto and the Seeds of Suicide

By Vandana Shiva, The Asian Age

27 March 13

 

Monsanto's talk of ‘technology' tries to hide its real objectives of control over seed where genetic engineering is a means to control seed

hese are the promises Monsanto India's website makes, alongside pictures of smiling, prosperous farmers from the state of Maharashtra. This is a desperate attempt by Monsanto and its PR machinery to delink the epidemic of farmers' suicides in India from the company's growing control over cotton seed supply - 95 per cent of India's cotton seed is now controlled by Monsanto.

Control over seed is the first link in the food chain because seed is the source of life. When a corporation controls seed, it controls life, especially the life of farmers.

Monsanto's concentrated control over the seed sector in India as well as across the world is very worrying. This is what connects farmers' suicides in India to Monsanto vs Percy Schmeiser in Canada, to Monsanto vs Bowman in the US, and to farmers in Brazil suing Monsanto for $2.2 billion for unfair collection of royalty.

Through patents on seed, Monsanto has become the "Life Lord" of our planet, collecting rents for life's renewal from farmers, the original breeders.

Patents on seed are illegitimate because putting a toxic gene into a plant cell is not "creating" or "inventing" a plant. These are seeds of deception - the deception that Monsanto is the creator of seeds and life; the deception that while Monsanto sues farmers and traps them in debt, it pretends to be working for farmers' welfare, and the deception that GMOs feed the world. GMOs are failing to control pests and weeds, and have instead led to the emergence of superpests and superweeds.

The entry of Monsanto in the Indian seed sector was made possible with a 1988 Seed Policy imposed by the World Bank, requiring the Government of India to deregulate the seed sector. Five things changed with Monsanto's entry: First, Indian companies were locked into joint-ventures and licensing arrangements, and concentration over the seed sector increased. Second, seed which had been the farmers' common resource became the "intellectual property" of Monsanto, for which it started collecting royalties, thus raising the costs of seed. Third, open pollinated cotton seeds were displaced by hybrids, including GMO hybrids. A renewable resource became a non-renewable, patented commodity. Fourth, cotton which had earlier been grown as a mixture with food crops now had to be grown as a monoculture, with higher vulnerability to pests, disease, drought and crop failure. Fifth, Monsanto started to subvert India's regulatory processes and, in fact, started to use public resources to push its non-renewable hybrids and GMOs through so-called public-private partnerships (PPP).

In 1995, Monsanto introduced its Bt technology in India through a joint-venture with the Indian company Mahyco. In 1997-98, Monsanto started open field trials of its GMO Bt cotton illegally and announced that it would be selling the seeds commercially the following year. India has rules for regulating GMOs since 1989, under the Environment Protection Act. It is mandatory to get approval from the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee under the ministry of environment for GMO trials. The Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology sued Monsanto in the Supreme Court of India and Monsanto could not start the commercial sales of its Bt cotton seeds until 2002.

And, after the damning report of India's parliamentary committee on Bt crops in August 2012, the panel of technical experts appointed by the Supreme Court recommended a 10-year moratorium on field trials of all GM food and termination of all ongoing trials of transgenic crops.

But it had changed Indian agriculture already.

Monsanto's seed monopolies, the destruction of alternatives, the collection of superprofits in the form of royalties, and the increasing vulnerability of monocultures has created a context for debt, suicides and agrarian distress which is driving the farmers' suicide epidemic in India. This systemic control has been intensified with Bt cotton. That is why most suicides are in the cotton belt.

An internal advisory by the agricultural ministry of India in January 2012 had this to say to the cotton-growing states in India - "Cotton farmers are in a deep crisis since shifting to Bt cotton. The spate of farmer suicides in 2011-12 has been particularly severe among Bt cotton farmers."

The highest acreage of Bt cotton is in Maharashtra and this is also where the highest farmer suicides are. Suicides increased after Bt cotton was introduced - Monsanto's royalty extraction, and the high costs of seed and chemicals have created a debt trap. According to Government of India data, nearly 75 per cent rural debt is due to purchase inputs. As Monsanto's profits grow, farmers' debt grows. It is in this systemic sense that Monsanto's seeds are seeds of suicide.

The ultimate seeds of suicide is Monsanto's patented technology to create sterile seeds. (Called "Terminator technology" by the media, sterile seed technology is a type of Gene Use Restriction Technology, GRUT, in which seed produced by a crop will not grow - crops will not produce viable offspring seeds or will produce viable seeds with specific genes switched off.) The Convention on Biological Diversity has banned its use, otherwise Monsanto would be collecting even higher profits from seed.

Monsanto's talk of "technology" tries to hide its real objectives of ownership and control over seed where genetic engineering is just a means to control seed and the food system through patents and intellectual property rights.

A Monsanto representative admitted that they were "the patient's diagnostician, and physician all in one" in writing the patents on life-forms, from micro-organisms to plants, in the TRIPS' agreement of WTO. Stopping farmers from saving seeds and exercising their seed sovereignty was the main objective. Monsanto is now extending its patents to conventionally bred seed, as in the case of broccoli and capsicum, or the low gluten wheat it had pirated from India which we challenged as a biopiracy case in the European Patent office.

That is why we have started Fibres of Freedom in the heart of Monsanto's Bt cotton/suicide belt in Vidharba. We have created community seed banks with indigenous seeds and helped farmers go organic. No GMO seeds, no debt, no suicides.

 

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+126 # MJnevetS 2013-03-27 12:50
The fact that our legislature and our courts have given this criminal company carte blanche to run roughshod over our farmers and all citizens in not only purveying their poisonous crops, but forcing them upon all citizens is a national travesty.
 
 
+40 # angry 2013-03-27 13:29
I don't know whether GMO is healthy or unhealthy, but I'd like to have it studied and adjudicated by a group of congressmen not getting a piece of the action. Actually, on EVERY issue. Only public funding of campaigns will fix America.
 
 
+5 # gobbag 2013-03-27 16:15
GMO isn't healthy or unhealthy in itself - it's just a way of accelerating change in a particular direction. Trouble is we don't yet (and maybe never will) have a way of avoiding unintended consequences, even assuming the intentions of the researchers are benign which in Monsanto's case they clearly aren't. So the upshot is that no amount of research can declare "GMO" safe: each new organism needs thorough testing.

btw, it isn't about fixing America. Or not just America, anyway. Generally agree with your thoughts, though :-)
 
 
+57 # WestWinds 2013-03-27 16:27
Quoting angry:
I don't know whether GMO is healthy or unhealthy, but I'd like to have it studied and adjudicated by a group of congressmen not getting a piece of the action. Actually, on EVERY issue. Only public funding of campaigns will fix America.


Take it from someone who has followed this for years, genetically modified foods are cancer producing for some and not enough time has gone by to know the effects of for others.

But what the heck is wrong with good old Mother Nature? Why must we have genetically modified foods? Are they really all that much better?

ANSWER: No, they really aren't all that much better. In some instances they are more convenient (for the growers and shippers) because they have tougher skins or have a certain shape that is easier to gather with machines, but nutritionally, they are no better and most often worse than REAL food. So why the big deal?

ANSWER: Because by modifying the genetics, they satisfy the patent office requirements to claim a different product and in this way they GAIN CONTROL OVER ALL ALL ALL FOODS BEING AVAILABLE TO US.

Translation: They own the food, thereby they own us. It's called "gaming the system" which is what these people do: lie, cheat, steal to get total control.

PEOPLE! You really must wake up to this idea that these people (industrialists ) are out to own everything and that means us, too. THEY ARE OUT TO OWN EVERYTHING; TOTAL CONTROL - THESE PEOPLE ARE SICK.
America, please wake up!
 
 
+6 # AMLLLLL 2013-03-30 17:38
Just as crucial is the ability of a corporation to be immune from prosecution, while it prosecutes small farmers. This is government sanctioned FOOD TERRORISM, and companies like Monsanto, Beyer etc. should expect a fight. If our government won't protect us, and put corporations above the law, it's time to hit the streets.
 
 
+30 # JohnBoanerges 2013-03-27 13:56
G-R-O-W H-E-M-P. For God's sake, cotton is a suck-ass soil destroyer in the first place.
 
 
+25 # buffalochip 2013-03-27 13:59
If there is an attorney among us. Would you please comment on how something that is in the public domain, like a seed, that was hybridized over thousands of years could have a few genetic modifications and be allowed to be patented? Could farmers use the same tactic to negate the validity of these patents? What if farmers bought one batch of Monsanto seed mixed it with some non Monsanto seed which would cause some natural cross pollination to occur, harvested it, and then claim that they have changed the seed and thus the patent is no longer valid?
 
 
+30 # WestWinds 2013-03-27 16:36
Quoting buffalochip:
If there is an attorney among us. Would you please comment on how something that is in the public domain, like a seed, that was hybridized over thousands of years could have a few genetic modifications and be allowed to be patented? Could farmers use the same tactic to negate the validity of these patents? What if farmers bought one batch of Monsanto seed mixed it with some non Monsanto seed which would cause some natural cross pollination to occur, harvested it, and then claim that they have changed the seed and thus the patent is no longer valid?


The ANSWER to this question is to reinstate the ORIGINAL law of the land; that no living material can be patented, and then revoke the Monsanto patents as being defective and not in the public interest. (I'd love to have them charged with crimes against humanity or conspiracy to commit fraud, but I don't think it would stick. I'll settle for taxing them into oblivion, though.)

As far as all of the cross-pollinati on goes, if you use their product in any part of your operation, then they have a legal stake in it; without a prior agreement in place with them, which they will never give.

I'm not a lawyer, and no lawyer will ever answer as a lawyer here, but I spent tons of time working in the court system and have a reasonable understanding of how things (should) go.
 
 
+19 # Norma 2013-03-28 06:57
Precedent in U.S.law...if you grow organic and your neighbor grows monsanto, the two will of course cross and you will be sued by monsanto when they field test your seeds.
 
 
+49 # pbbrodie 2013-03-27 14:26
We must fight back and fight back hard and now. This is totally unacceptable and people better wake up before it is too late, if it isn't already. The real suicide is allowing Monsanto to control the seed supply and spread their deadly GMO's. There is simply too much evidence available now that shows that GMO's are not the saviors they advertised but instead dangerous Greek gifts that are decimating the natural plants and supplanting them.
 
 
+14 # WestWinds 2013-03-27 16:37
Quoting pbbrodie:
We must fight back and fight back hard and now. This is totally unacceptable and people better wake up before it is too late, if it isn't already. The real suicide is allowing Monsanto to control the seed supply and spread their deadly GMO's. There is simply too much evidence available now that shows that GMO's are not the saviors they advertised but instead dangerous Greek gifts that are decimating the natural plants and supplanting them.


Exactly, pb, ex-act-ly!
 
 
+18 # angelfish 2013-03-27 15:06
"We have met the enemy and he is us". So said Pogo a generation ago. Too sad, TOO true.
 
 
+11 # reguspatoff 2013-03-27 15:47
A patent has a limited life, usually 20 years from the filing date. Since Monsanto first introduced its Bt GMO seed in 1995 in India, presumably its patents were already issued. So those patents should be expiring very soon, and their monoply should also be disappearing. Yet none of the news stories comments on these facts.
 
 
+24 # WestWinds 2013-03-27 16:18
Man, am I ever glad to hear about these organic seed banks! When we finally get control over these beasts, we are going to need a road back (to sanity!) and these organic seed banks are going to be the way and the answer.

One thing I wrote about extensively in the past was that under the Shrub administration, they deregulated the US Patent Office. What this means is that at the beginning of this country when the US Patent Office was first set up, the law was that there were no patents to be given for living material (human/animal/p lants) but Monsanto bought off the lawmakers, the Patent Office was deregulated and creeps like Monsanto Corporation have been getting ownership patents on living materials. THIS MUST STOP!!! This means that these (fill in the blank) can get a patent on your kid's DNA and own him like a dog and you won't be able to say anything! THIS MUST STOP!!! And I'm sorry to say that BHO has done nothing but go along to get along with this. THIS MUST STOP!!! NO PATENTS ON LIVING MATERIAL!!!
 
 
+17 # oakes721 2013-03-27 17:42
Genocide is what Monsanto seems to have in its genetically modified mind. Governments have been looking at over-population and the possibilities for reducing the numbers of people on Earth. Starving billions by turning off the self sustaining life cycle in seeds needed for foods may be the way they've chosen. Why else would they agree to such atrocities?
 
 
+17 # PABLO DIABLO 2013-03-27 18:20
Boycott Monsanto.
 
 
+6 # AMLLLLL 2013-03-30 17:42
Pablo, we also need to let stores know we will boycott them if they don't label their foods. Hit 'em in the pocketbook!
 
 
+15 # reiverpacific 2013-03-27 19:27
To "WestWinds" re' attorneys.
I'm not one but have been following Monsanto's development along with the protections granted to it by the World Bank and IMF, and this is HOW they do it.
They have a HUGE staff of attorneys, lobbyists to buttress the anti-natural strivings of their corporately spawned yes-men scientists and go into these countries, get bent politicians on their sides and then target the most productive regions and states and settle in like a ruinous weevil to directly screw, intimidate and eventually ruin them -as the article states. Millennia-culti vated and marketed seeds and their products, Like "Atta" or Chapati flour, which is a major and unique product of India like lentil Pappadums and other of the basis for the many types of breads made daily by the thousands in street and home Tandoors from Afghanistan to Sri-Lanka and Bangladesh (I have a home Tandoor myself and get this product regularly for Tandoori Parathas and Rotis from a Portland Indian cash and carry -now checking to see if any third-party has messed with it first: I talk to the C. & C. owners about Monsanto regularly, exhorting them to check carefully for ANY GMO meddling and they are horrified by my stories of this poisonous behemoth).
But then, they have a lobbyist/lawyer -supported and pandered to home base in the US death culture inside the Beltway!
And you'll never hear about this in the US Owner-Media (nor even very much on the BBC), only "alternative sources.
 
 
+1 # AMLLLLL 2013-03-30 17:44
reiver, the film Michael Clayton, (George Clooney) deals with this subject; a must see.
 
 
+8 # Depressionborn 2013-03-27 19:49
Look what we voted for now:

...in the newly passed 2013 Continuing Resolution, which funds the federal government through the end of September, there contained a rider to protect companies like Monsanto. The rider known as the Monsanto Rider protects all genetically modified crops from any court order issued against their use. In other words if legal challenge to the safety of the use of any biotech seeds were to be raised in court, companies like Monsanto would be automatically issued a permit from the USDA allowing them to continue selling, cultivating, and planting the genetically modified crops in question.
Basically that means there is nothing that can legally be done to stop the biotech companies from producing, cultivating, and selling genetically modified crops that could be harmful to humans.
The rider was snuck into the budget bill by Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
 
 
+10 # Kwamined 2013-03-27 19:49
Raze Monsanto
 
 
+5 # Depressionborn 2013-03-28 03:53
The rider was snuck into the budget bill by Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

PlEASE, get your villains straight. Mikulski did it. She pulled the trigger.
 
 
+6 # Kootenay Coyote 2013-03-27 19:53
MonSatano.
 
 
+4 # RnR 2013-03-28 06:44
Monsanto is the ultimate evil. If it weren't so trite I'd say Monsanto is the devils workshop. Enabled, as you may have noticed, by the ethics-less, morally challenged US Congress. Wait...my phone is ringing...must be the DNC looking for donations. Oh...congress must need some chump change to spend. Sure, wait, let me grab my wallet.

End of rant for the moment.
 
 
+4 # Hacienda View 2013-03-28 12:37
Monsanto work on the age old principle that every man has his price and they're right! the inscrutable man is simply the most expensive.
 
 
+5 # da gaf 2013-03-28 16:36
Monsanto is the enemy of this beautiful green planet...so what ever is necessary to defeat this enemy...only the future will tell..but will words be enough to stop this insanity of such evil corporation?
 
 
+2 # AMLLLLL 2013-03-30 17:49
Where's Anonymous when we need them???
 
 
+4 # RnR 2013-03-28 23:21
The Democrats want to look like such holy saviors with the gun control issue. They won't get one iota of support from me, nor one cent, until they walk back the Monsanto Protection Act which was snuck in anonymously. Why anonymously? If you're a Judas piece of garbage, why not be proud of it???
 
 
+1 # RnR 2013-03-28 23:22
and Barry signed it. Jesus, to think he was the lesser of 2 evils...boggles the mind doesn't it?
 
 
+5 # USA2012??? 2013-03-29 07:27
Earthlings beware: control of seed is a prelude to control of food: one of the absolute necessities of life in addition to water and breathable air. To vest control of such an extremely important necessity is to relinquish control of one's existence.

Therefore, the question should be amongst all of us is, "Why vest this kind of control into a corporate entity such as Monsanto?" "What is it that Monsanto hopes to achieve beside profit and ultimately control?" Most importantly do not forget: "absolute power corrupts absolutely!"

If my cryptic utterances seem like mere jibberish to those who dismiss such apocalyptic warnings let me state what has been and will continue to happen: "We're about to get screwed royally."

Simply put, "If you can't eat you cannot survive!"
 
 
0 # wldwly 2014-07-14 18:30
well ya know if you control the food you control the people. i worked with a hation that told me about homelife there. he said if you so much as grow a tomato plant the police will cut it down and tell you to buy your produce at the market! if they catch you growing something again,it's off to jail until they feel like letting you out...it makes me wonder if that is why america is in the process of building so many prisons.
 

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