The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Vandana Shiva: Make Monsanto Pay
Monsanto is in the news again. The Competition Commission of India, the country's antitrust regulator, said last week that it suspects a Monsanto joint venture abused its dominant position as a supplier of genetically modified (GMO) cotton seeds in India and has issued an order citing prima facie violation of Sections 3(4) and 4 of the Competition Act, to be investigated by Competition Commission of India's director-general.
Monsanto also faces cases brought by state governments and domestic seed manufacturers, for the astronomical royalty it charges. In previous cases, Monsanto defended itself by saying that it was “trait fees" (for using its technology in cotton hybrids) and not royalty.
Fact is that Monsanto has viewed the laws of our land as mere hurdles in its way to swindle India and our farmers. On March 10, 1995, Mahyco (Monsanto-Mahyco) brought 100 grams of cotton seeds, containing the MON531-Bt gene, into India without the approval of the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC).
Eager to establish a monopoly in India based on the smuggled MON531 gene, Monsanto-Mahyco started large scale, multi-centric, open field trials of Bt cotton in 40 locations spread across nine states, again without GEAC approval.
Article (7) of the Environment Protection Act, 1986, states: “No person shall import, export, transport, manufacture, process, use or sell any hazardous microorganisms or genetically engineered organisms/substances or cells except with the approval of the GEAC." GMO traits, once released into the environment, cannot be contained or recalled.
Genetically engineered cotton from the trials was sold in open markets. In some states, the trial fields were replanted the very next season with wheat, turmeric and groundnut, violating Para-9 of the Biosafety Guidelines (1994) on “post-harvest handling of the transgenic plants" according to which the fields on which GMO trials were conducted should have been left fallow for at least one year.
In face of these blatant violations of Indian laws and the risks of genetic pollution India faced, the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology filed a petition in the Supreme Court of India against Monsanto and Mahyco in 1999, for their violations of the 1989 rules for the use of GMOs under the Environmental Protection Act.
India's laws, rightly, do not permit patents on seeds and in agriculture. This has always been a problem for Monsanto and, through the U.S. administration, it has attempted to pressure India into changing her robust intellectual property regime since the World Trade Organization came into existence and continues to do so today.
Monsanto-Mahyco Biotech (MMB) Ltd collected royalties for Bt cotton by going outside the law and charging “technology fees" and “trait fee" to the tune of $900 million from marginal Indian farmers, crushing them with debt.
In 2006, out of the Rs 1,600 per 450 gram package of Bt cotton seed (Rs 3,555.55/kg), almost 80 percent (Rs 1,250) was charged by MMB as “trait fee." In stark contrast, before Monsanto destroyed alternative sources of seed (including local hybrid seed supply) through unfair business practices, local seeds used to cost farmers Rs 5-9/kg.
In response to the unfair pricing, the government of Andhra Pradesh filed a complaint with the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission against MMB, pointing out that Monsanto was charging Andhra Pradesh farmers nine times what it was charging U.S. farmers for the same seeds. MMB said the royalty it charged reflected its research and development costs for Bt cotton, admitting that they were charging royalty to Indian farmers.
Monsanto's ruthlessness is central to the crisis Indian farmers are facing. Farmers leveraged their land holdings to buy Bt cotton seeds and the chemicals it demanded, but the golden promise of higher yield and reduced pesticide use failed to deliver.
Of the 300,000 farmer suicides in India since Monsanto smuggled the Bt gene into India in 1995, 84 percent, almost 252,000, are directly attributed to Monsanto's Bt cotton.
While the government of India is suing Monsanto, the government of Maharashtra has signed an MoU with Monsanto to set up the biggest seed hub in the country in Buldana, announced at “Make in India Week." How can a corporation breaking India, taking the lives of Indian farmers, destroying our agriculture and food security and violating our laws be rewarded with the “Make in India" label?
For arrogantly breaking Indian laws and corrupting our regulatory systems, Monsanto must be held accountable. For the failure of Bt cotton, Monsanto must be made to pay damages to the farmers and seed companies that have had to pay “technology fees" for a failed technology.
The land that our farmers have lost to the agents selling Monsanto seeds and chemicals must be returned to the farmers' families. All the illegal royalty collected from our farmers and India's seed companies must be returned to India.
With its flagship product failing across the country year after year and the dimming prospects of the super-profits the company has become used to, why would Monsanto make a large investment in Vidarbha unless it is sure of continued monopoly?
The technical expert committee has recommended that Herbicide Tolerance (Ht) and GMO varieties of crops for which India is the center of diversity, not be allowed in India. Is Monsanto counting on the GEAC approving Bayer's herbicide-tolerant terminator mustard in contempt of the recommendations of the Technical Expert Committee? Allowing Bayer's Ht terminator mustard will open the floodgates for herbicide tolerant crops, worsening India's agrarian crisis and debilitating India's food security.
Herbicide tolerance, which goes hand in hand with Monsanto's glyphosate based RoundUp herbicide, has failed across the world at controlling weeds, creating super weeds. Glyphosate, classified by the World Health Organization as a carcinogen, is already being used across India and we are seeing an explosion of cancers in villages where glyphosate is used. If we allow another failed technology and its associated poisons to further destroy India's rural economy and allow extraction of profits from Indian farmers, we will fail our nation and India's future generations.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
'This is a Sick Statement': Brazil’s Bolsonaro, Under Pressure for Anti-Environmental Policies, Blames NGOs for Record Amazon Fires
'Work Together' or 'Destroy it': Goldman Prize Winner Francia Márquez on World's Second Deadliest Country For Environmental Activists
In April 2018, Afro-Colombian activist Francia Márquez won the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize, thanks to her work to retake her community's ancestral territories from illegal gold mining. However, her international recognition comes at a very risky price.
By Stuart Braun
A year after activist Greta Thunberg first stood in the rain outside the Swedish parliament with her now iconic "Skolstrejk för klimatet" — school strike for the climate — placard, the movement she spawned has set the tone for environmental protest action around the world.
Toy maker Hasbro wants to play in the eco-packaging game. The board game giant will ditch its plastic packaging by 2022. The move means that games like Monopoly, Scrabble and Operation will no longer have shrink wrap, window sheets, plastic bags or elastic bands, as the Associated Press reported.
By Jessica Corbett
Pointing to the deaths of more than half a billion bees in Brazil over a period of just four months, beekeepers, experts and activists are raising concerns about the soaring number of new pesticides greenlighted for use by the Brazilian government since far-right President Jair Bolsonaro took office in January — and the threat that it poses to pollinators, people and the planet.
By Elliott Negin
On July 19, President Trump hosted Apollo 11 astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins and their families, along with the family of their deceased colleague Neil Armstrong, at a White House event to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first manned landing on the moon.