August 9th is "Monsanto Quit India!" Day
"New Delhi, August 8th 2011: Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture (ASHA) announced a nation-wide day of action against corporate takeover of our food and farming systems on August 9th, Quit India Day. The day is being marked in scores of locations in fifteen states around the country as “Monsanto, Quit India!” Day, filled with various events where citizens are going to take part to express their resistance against corporate control on our productive resources. This is to save our Food, Farmers and Freedom, announced ASHA in a press release.
“We have chosen the most potent and obvious symbol of corporate takeover of our food and farming – Monsanto, the largest seed company in the world and one of the top five agri-chemical corporations, with an annual turnover equivalent to five years of India’s outlay for National Agricultural Development Programme! Our governments should be aware of its long history of crimes against humanity, by its production and marketing of many toxic chemicals and other hazardous products. On its way to becoming the world's largest seed company, Monsanto used several strategies including preventing farmers from re-using their seed, denying farmers and researchers free and open access to seed, and aggressive, monopolistic market maneuvers that suppressed competition. Monsanto did not shy away from resorting to bribery for getting regulatory approvals. Monsanto had at one point reportedly even stated its goal thus: ‘No food shall be grown that we do not own’, reflecting its profiteering ambitions. This company has sued and jailed farmers for the ‘crime’ of saving and re-using seed from their crops and even when they were victims of accidental genetic contamination! Monsanto and its associates have also not hesitated to sue governments in this country in pursuit of their profits and markets. How is the government hoping that farmers would benefit from the expansion of this company, its products and markets and on what basis and understanding are they partnering with the company?”, said ASHA in its press statement.
“The citizens of this country would like to know what has happened to all the investments that went into the public sector research all these years, given that today an overwhelming chunk of cotton and maize seed markets are controlled by this one company and given that many PPPs are being signed to promote this corporation’s seeds at the expense of this country’s seed sovereignty. Further, various public sector agri-universities are facilitating bio-piracy in the name of collaborative research projects", said the organizers. They pointed out that it is short-sighted on the part of various governments to promote proprietary seed rather than strengthen farmer-level solutions for Seed in agriculture, given that this will only foster mono-cropping, dependence and overly-priced seed which will affect sustainable farm livelihoods. Sustainable alternatives are consistently being ignored on the farm front, the organisers said.
In 15 states across the country, led by farmers’ unions and civic groups, various events have been organized to create awareness amongst ordinary Indians about the true nature of corporations like Monsanto and to put pressure on governments to scrap any deals and partnerships with Monsanto and other such entities. The variety of events include bicycle rallies, Beej Rath, Kisan Jagran Sabhas, public protests and candlelight vigils, film screenings and awareness programs, Kheti Khurak Azaadi Jatha in Punjab and so on.
“We are forced to remind everyone on Quit India Day that we are living in times when our freedom is being jeopardized yet again in insidious ways – if we as a nation want to protect our food sovereignty and if we want to retain control on what we grow and what we eat, we need to resist this corporate takeover. We need to put into place lasting and affordable solutions that are farmer-controlled in our agriculture. Urban consumers should realize that it is not just our farmers who are getting trapped and exploited; consumers should understand that access to safe, diverse and nutritious food for all is also at risk”, said ASHA in its press release.
Details of various events across the country are available at: http://www.kisanswaraj.in/2011/08/07/state-wise-listing-of-events-for-monsanto-quit-india-and-kisan-swaraj-week/
ASHA is an informal network of more than 400 organisations all over India, which through grassroots work, trainings, campaigns and policy advocacy seeks to promote practices and policies that make Indian agriculture ecologically sustainable, ensure dignified livelihoods with income security to its farmers especially the smallholders, preserve their control over agricultural resources like seed, land and water, and ensure adequate, safe, nutritious and diverse food for all Indians."
Firstly, let me state that I stand with the people of India who participate in these events tomorrow 1000%. Monsanto is an evil company bent on global ownership of all seed through an irresponsible untested process. Their tactics in India have been nothing less than criminal. Farmer suicides, poverty, deception regarding yields, intimidation, animal deaths and biopiracy. Their deliberate subjugation of the poor not only in India but globally has only served to place the biodiversity of our planet in a dangerous cycle of pesticide/herbicide use in conjunction with patents and technology fees that seek to take ownership of nature itself. Their blatant arrogance and disrespect for agriculture and the knowledge possessed by the people have now brought our world to a precipice.
And now they set their sights on Africa, a continent besieged by political corruption, war, poverty and the effects of a changing world, in particular the effects of climate change. They now wait stealthily hunched like a cat waiting to pounce its prey as the droughts become more severe. They will use climate change to further their agenda as they patent climate traits already known to the indigenous people of our world simply to make a profit. They will make more empty promises based on conditions of subjugating poor farmers to buying seed yearly they cannot save as they wait for yields that do not come as they spiral even further into poverty.
The scenario of a monoculture world where food sovereignty is but a dream is not a world we should ever allow to happen. For our children's sake and the sake of a planet rich in biodiversity we must stand up to this assault on our food freedom, our environmental democracy and our very lives.