- The Facts:
A part of this article was written by The Navdanya Organization. It has a primary membership of more than 650,000 farmer families in 22 states of India. It has also established 111 Community Seed Banks (CSBs) in 17 States across India.
- Reflect On:
Navdanya has been creating awareness and fighting against the corporate takeover of food by corporations like Monsanto. 200,000 farmers have been converted to organic farming in different parts of the country as result.
The Green Revolution left farmers discontented and indebted as the result of degraded soil, and pest-ridden crops, which caused slavery and disillusionment as well as tension in the State of Punjab between the farming community and a newly centralized state taking charge of agricultural policy as well as agricultural commodities’ prices, finance and credit. Before the Green Revolution, Punjab was the land of five rivers, prosperous, with hard-working farmers. By 1984 Punjab farmers were protesting against this slavery.
It became a land of violence and war.
The deregulation of commerce has been pushed by the corporate world since the onset of GATT and WTO where rules were written by corporations to enlarge their freedom to commodify and privatise land, water, seed, food, information, data, and knowledge.
By enclosing the commons, the freedom of people, their cultures and democracies is destroyed. It is about an end to real economies where independent producers exchange and sell goods at fair and just prices. Along the same lines, the World Bank’s structural adjustments imposed in 1991 dismantled India’s food security system. By removing the laws regulating markets, prices and stock-holding, it destroyed farmers’ livelihoods, people’s right to food and food as a public good, in order to create a “free market“ in corporate commodities.
Half a million farmers participated in a historic Seed Freedom – Bija Satyagraha rally In 1993 at Bangalore’s Cuban’s Park. This was the first international protest against WTO.
The Indian farmers’ protests we are witnessing today are a continuation of these earlier protests and are against the World Bank conditionalities being made law.
Millions of farmers are today protesting across the streets of Delhi to ask the government to cancel the so called “Farm Bills”, the new laws passed to deregulate the market. A step taken which ignores the trade unions that represent some 650 million workers of the sector, and which, clearly, is in the interest of the big agribusiness corporations.
As the strikes and public protests continue, Vandana Shiva, president of Navdanya International, underlines that the so called “Farm Bills” are in reality`Food System Bills’. They indeed will determine food production, farmers’ incomes, food prices, and will have impacts on soils, biodiversity and natural resources endangering 70 years of a regulatory system to protect small farms, small farmer livelihoods and food sovereignty of the country.
The government initiative does not come as a surprise. On the contrary, the attempt to hand over the Indian agriculture sector to international corporations is as old as Navdanya, created over 30 years ago by Vandana Shiva to stop such corporate takeover. As Navdanya’s founder attests: “The World Bank and Corporations have been trying to introduce these laws to dismantle India’s food Sovereignty since the 1991 Structural Adjustment. For 30 years we have stopped these laws. If they are not repealed, they will destroy what is still the biggest food system of the world, real farming by real farmers, created and sustained by small farmers over thousands of years”.
These laws embody the push towards corporate globalisation in the name of “free trade” and competitiveness, perpetuating the neoliberal illusion that “the market regulates itself,” while instead the consequences for local economies and small farmers are devastating. This so called “freedom“ is only for corporations and their masked owners, a term misused to destroy the Earth’s ecological fabric — the fabric of people’s economies and societies.
The farmers’ struggle in India is for the common future of humanity: Will we have a future of fake food without farmers, without diversity, without food democracy? Or a future of healthy food for all grown by real farmers in abundant biodiversity, growing real food, taking care of our health and the health of the planet?
Access Navanya’s founder, Dr. Vandana Shiva’s twitter account, here.
The Takeaway: Big corporations who have been exposed a number of times engaging in various unethical, immoral and destructive actions, who have also exercised great control over various governments and government policy, have acquired control of Earth’s natural resources and control nearly all aspects of human life. Food, and the control of seed is one of them.
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. In the case of cotton, Monsanto now controls 95 percent of the cotton seed market through its GMOs. 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. Finally, 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).
The creation of 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. – Shiva, taken from her piece, “The Seeds of Suicide, How Monsanto Destroys Farming.”
Do we really live in a democracy when governments, big corporations and major financial institutions seem to be able to do what they want against the will of so many people? Why do we choose to give them so much power and influence? Are there campaigns to justify certain actions that are taken by these corporations and governments in the minds of many people? Are there campaigns to silence any opposition?
Dr. Prabhjot Singh uses the “Black Cats” as an example. According to one of his recent Instagram posts, “The Indian government faced strong opposition from Sikhs in the time period between the mid 1970’s to mid-1990’s. To counter this, they set up a covert operation nicknamed “Black Cats.” The Indian government would hire individuals, and wait until they could grow beards. Then they would tie turbans and the government would send them to kill groups of Hindus in buses or villages in Punjab. during these events, the Black Cats would use names of people that the Indian government wanted to eliminate. The indian media would then publicize killings of Hindus to divide religious unity, and plaint prominent Sikh figures as a terrorists. Sound familiar?”
Is this something we are seeing happening in India right now? I don’t know, but many social media users from India are claiming so. Is India attempting to silence its farmers through violence, which gives the government and perhaps the international community an excuse to step in and shut down these protests? Things are a mess, right now, at least nine senior Indian journalists are facing criminal charges for reporting allegations that Delhi police fatally shot a farmer in the head during protests last week, despite the authorities claiming no shots were fired.
I’m not sure what the solution is, but we seem to be living in a time where millions, if not billions of people around the globe are waking up to aspects of our reality that they were once not aware of. More people are asking questions and thinking critically, and we seem to be going through a process that’s been a long time coming. There are always birthing pains during a re-birth, and we are starting to realize that things are not always as they are presented, and that a large amount of perception manipulation may occur in those who constantly rely on mainstream media for information.
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