“When 200 to 400 million Indians die of diseases and hunger induced by genetically modified seeds and foods, historians will hold the Government of India responsible for genocide here and in South Asia.” – Arun Shrivastava
Once again, our seeds are under attack. Trans-national seeds companies like Monsanto, Syngenta and Bayer are pushing genetically modified [GM] seeds in India without proper biosafety assessment. It is now scientifically known that when GM seeds are sown and plants flower, non-GM plants are contaminated through cross-pollination, and all life forms are contaminated through horizontal transfer of genetic traits. The contamination is irreversible. Once our seeds are contaminated with GM organisms, the contamination is in perpetuity.
Genetic engineering of seeds
Genetic engineering [GE] technology allows patenting of seeds; it has no other purpose. Natural seeds are taken and their genes spliced by one of several methods. The altered genetic trait in a natural seed is then patented. These seeds neither increase yield nor enhance nutritive content of foods; nor do they increase yield by reducing crop losses due to pest attacks or helping plants withstand vagaries of weather. But patented seeds ensure huge profits for multinational corporations.
Genetic engineering is an imperfect technology. It is a cell invasion technology through which inter-specie barrier is transcended. Mother Nature has devised mechanisms that make a fish behave as fish and a potato behave as potato. GE technology transfers the selected traits of one specie [e.g., ability to withstand low temperature in a fish] to another [e.g., tomato] so that the engineered specie [tomato] withstands cold temperature.
But in the complex world of nature, such invasion of cell and gene manipulation can wreak havoc. For example, Bt cotton seed contains the genes of bacillus thuringiensis [Bt] that makes a cotton plant behave like pesticide because Bt kills certain pests [e.g. boll worm] that attack cotton plants. Exactly the same transformation takes place when a farmer uses Bt rice or Bt Okra or Bt Brinjal or Bt corn or Bt potato or Bt tomato, or any seed containing the genes of Bacillus thuringiensis bacterium: the plant itself behaves like a pesticide.
This is the crux: multinational corporations, compromised governments, and bribed regulators want us to eat food from a plant that actually works in nature as pesticide. To obtain approvals for human consumption, these multinationals claim that GE foods and fibers are “substantially equivalent”, yet to ensure profits for themselves the same multinationals claim their products are “quite different” and worthy of a patent protection! Did they invent the seeds in the first place? Can a single transnational corporation produce one natural rice seed?
One folly of General Electric pursuing patenting of oil eating bacteria right up to the US Supreme Court and eventually winning a decision to patent one life form opened the floodgates for patenting ANY LIFE FORM. Prior to this the US Government had never allowed a patent on life forms.
Every country, particularly developing nations, is now being bludgeoned into approving GE seeds in utter disregard for biosafety, environmental safety and public health. An extreme example is Iraq where the illegal occupation forces of the US Government decreed that farmers shall not save seeds. The pressure is being brought on all governments, worldwide, by US and European governments who are backing the multinational seeds companies.
How farmers were misled into buying GM seeds
Seeds are nature’s creation. Farmers all over the world developed and saved seeds for themselves and neighbours to feed the world healthy food. The best seeds have been developed by farmers; it is a lie that seeds are developed by multinational companies and agriculture scientists. But farmers have been made to believe exactly this.
Our farmers developed natural hybrids by inter-planting land races for cross-pollination with wild variety. This natural hybridization – natural genetic modification of seeds – has gone on for thousands of years. It took decades to develop viable new seeds that could be adopted for planting.
The entry of powerful multinationals into seed business artificially reduced the time taken to assess the true merit of a seed. They used agriculture scientists to gain farmers’ trust and promote proprietary hybrids. Farmers gradually came to trust scientists above their own wisdom. In fact, the scientists barring exceptions like the late Dr Riccharia deliberately destroyed the confidence of farmers in their own wisdom and technology to the extent that they came to believe that “government approved seeds” are better than their own. That opened the seeds market to manipulations by companies.
A typical farmer seeks to enhance yield because he has been led to believe that greater yield will generate higher income, the lousiest lie postulated by economists and governments the world over. Actually, when farms boom, prices crash and farmers suffer most; when there is drought and farms go bust, farmers suffer. Yield alone never determines the income of a farmer; yet they believe that higher yield will ensure higher income. Only farmers who understand the market and consumer behaviour make money.
To push their seeds, seed companies employ questionable marketing tactics
Monsanto used leading Bollywood actors to promote Bt cotton seeds in Maharashtra and unethical high pressure selling techniques. In reality, Bollgard seed was responsible for 70% of farmers’ deaths by suicide in Andhra Pradesh in the last three years.
Bollgard cotton seeds failed in Andhra Pradesh but GM supporters lied all over the world that Bt cotton was successful. Even Tata Energy Research Institute, now renamed The Energy Research institute, lied:
“Field trials have shown that farmers who grew the Bt variety obtained 25%-75% more cotton than those who grew the normal variety. Also, Bt cotton requires only two sprays of chemical pesticide against eight sprays for normal variety. According to the director general of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research, India uses about half of its pesticides on cotton to fight the bollworm menace. Use of Bt cotton has led to a 3–27% increase in cotton yield in countries where it is grown.”
Hundreds of farmers and leading NGOs documented that Bt cotton failed to perform:
“Gene Campaign has conducted a field study to collect data on the performance of Bt cotton and non-Bt cotton… in selected locations in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh and included a total of 100 farming families selected by random sampling. The Bt cotton varieties compared were Bt 162 and Bt 184 belonging to Mahyco–Monsanto and the non-Bt cotton varieties were the local hybrids Brahma and Banni.
“Average yield per acre was found to be lower in the case of Bt cotton in all categories of land holdings. Non-Bt cotton varieties yielded between 15 and 17 percent more than Bt cotton. The Bt cotton was found to be a shorter duration crop (90–100 days) than the non-Bt cotton (100 to 120 days) but the plants showed less vigorous growth, with fewer branches and smaller leaves.
“A major problem reported everywhere was the premature dropping of bolls in Bt cotton which were on average smaller in size than the non-Bt cotton bolls. A comparison showed fewer bolls and shorter fibre length in Bt cotton. Non-Bt cotton was graded as A and B quality whereas Bt cotton was graded as B and C, fetching on an average Rs 300 per quintal less on the market. One of the most significant findings of this study was the indication that these Bt cotton varieties do not offer protection against pink bollworm (Pectinophora….”
- Source: Current Science, Vol. 85, No. 4, 25 August 2003
When Bt cotton was promoted in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh, farmers were promised they would get high yields at much lower cost of pesticide. Mahyco-Monsanto assured farmers that Bt cotton seeds protect cotton crop from boll worm. When Bt canola [rapeseed] seeds were promoted in Canada and the US, Monsanto promised farmers a reduced cost of pesticides. Farmers, knowing the environmental cost of repeated pesticide sprays, bought the seeds – but the cost of pesticides actually went up. Lower yield and higher costs ruined many farmers.
Frequently biotech seeds companies have resorted to fraudulently recycling failed seeds by renaming and remarketing them, time and time again, all over India, looting the farmers.
This marketing gimmickry has eliminated the learning process: the farmer buys seeds on the “promise” of a seeds company that the seed will give higher yield and this false promise is invariably backed up by fudged scientific reports and lobbying by extension officers.
Today farmers have given up the tradition of testing the seeds before adopting it. The implicit trust in “scientific wisdom” backed by Government of India’s elaborate charade of “farmer friendly seeds” has been their nemesis. Because each farmer wants to enhance yield, he becomes a victim of high pressure marketing. No questions are being asked of our scientists who are complicit in spreading the lie.
Farmers in India and around the world have been duped with false promises. Most importantly, none ever thought that GM seeds would contaminate their own seeds, their farmlands and the environment. No farmer in his right mind would ever risk this sort of uncontrolled destruction of his habitat. Yet, farmers were misled into doing exactly that.
World’s largest uncontrolled biological experiment
The release of GM seeds constitutes the largest uncontrolled biological experiment in the open environment without any knowledge of its long term consequence. Whilst it is possible to reverse chemical pollution, biological pollution replicates itself in the environment. There is no known method to reverse the process and the pollution actually intensifies as time passes. And these seeds can alter genetic purity of species and transmutate in ways that are unknown. Some of the known consequences are:
[a] Contamination of seeds and harassment of farmers: Wherever genetically modified seeds have been planted, non-GM crops in the vicinity have been contaminated and “super weeds” found. Percy Schmeiser, a Western Canadian farmer and seed developer of 50-years standing, found that seeds blown over his 900 acre farm contained GM canola seeds. Percy had never planted Monsanto’s GM canola – his seeds were contaminated by wind, blown over from a neighbour’s farm. Yet Percy was charged with ‘stealing’ Monsanto’s proprietary genetic material! This deliberate biological contamination of seeds is being watched over by Monsanto’s private police and yet not one GM Seeds Company has been charged with biological pollution. In fact, Monsanto has blackmailed over 8000 farmers in US and Canada and extorted millions of dollars from them. Such brutalization of farmers, with full support of law courts, is going on in developed countries. We are next.
[b] Animal deaths: In several blocks of Adilabad district [Andhra Pradesh], animals fell sick after grazing on Bt Cotton fields. There is a tradition of letting animals graze in cotton fields after harvesting the cotton. The animals which grazed in Bt Cotton tracts exhibited symptoms like shivers, convulsions, running nose, bloat, blood diarrhea etc.; many died. Local veterinary doctors appealed to farmers not to graze their animals on Bt Cotton fields.
[c] Colony Collapse Disorder [CCD]: In two states in the US where GM seeds were extensively used, 70% to 90% of bee colonies disappeared. A German study found transgenes in the gut lining of baby bees and scientists believe GMOs may be responsible for colony collapse. Albert Einstein had warned, “If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would only have four years left to live.”
[d] Impact on human health: It has been documented that farmers using GM seeds have experienced mild to severe reaction merely by working in the fields. The hazard of transgenic organisms has been described for humans, animals and the environment in many scientific investigations (Ho and Tappeser, 1997; Traavik, 1999; Chirkov, 2001; Wilson et al., 2004; Kuznetcov and Kulikov, 2006 and many others). “Four main sources of the hazards of GMO are accepted by scientists worldwide: [i] those due to the new genes, and gene products introduced; [ii] unintended effects inherent to the technology; [iii] interactions between foreign genes and host genes; and [iv] those arising from the spread of the introduced genes by ordinary cross-pollination as well as by horizontal gene transfer.” (World Scientists’ Statement, 2000).
[e] Impact on the environment: Conclusive reports show contamination of water bodies, aquatic life, flora and fauna. Experimental researches show adverse effects of GMO on insects (Birch et al., 1996; Losey, 1999; Zangerl et al., 2001). Consumption of GM-food by mammals has led to negative changes in their organs (Pusztai, 1998, 2001; Ewen and Pusztai, 1999; Malatesta et al., 2002, 2003; Vecchio et al., 2003; Prescott et al., 2005, Irina Ermakova, 2001-05, and others). Presentations made by farmers in a seminar in Delhi indicate that broad leaf trees are dying in regions that sowed Bt cotton seeds.
Scientists have appealed to their respective governments that they be allowed to “perform detailed investigations [costly and complex] and to stop uncontrolled distribution of and contamination by imperfect genetically modified organisms that can cause such human diseases as cancer, allergy, brain and heart diseases, can lead to disappearance of a great variety of useful bacteria, plants and animals and cause destruction of the nature and the biosphere.” Such scientists are gagged and many dismissed from service. Dr. Arpad Pusztai’s laboratory was closed down and all his research findings seized by the British Government.
The power of seeds companies
Nine multinational firms control over 50% of global seeds market. Ranked by turnover from seeds only, these firms are Monsanto [US firm, No1], Dupont [US firm, No.2 ], Syngenta [Swiss firm, No. 3], Groupe Limagrain [French firm, No. 4], KWS [A German firm, No 5], Land O’ Lakes [A US company, No 6], Sakata [ A Japanese firm, No 7], Bayer Crop Science [A German Firm, No 8], Taiiki [A Japanese firm, No. 9] and DLF Trifolium [No 10] The eleventh largest corporation – Delta and Pine Lands [D&PL] – co-inventor of Genetic Use Restriction Technology [GURT] with US Department of Agriculture [USDA], was cleared by US Department of Justice for takeover by Monsanto. So, Monsanto has further consolidated its position by acquiring D&PL and GURT, commonly known as the Terminator. The total turnover of these firms in 2005 was Rs. 441.40 billion [US$9.8 billion; US$1=Rs 45]. Analysis of the product-market activities of these firms shows that:
[a] None is competing directly. There is total domination of the market in a given region in a single or multiple products. Thus Monsanto controls canola, soybean and vegetable seeds; 25-30% of global seeds market of cucumber, tomato, and potato. Taikii controls flower and vegetable seeds. Syngenta controls thousands of rice seeds. Some operate in Europe, others in Latin America. But for Monsanto, Syngenta and Bayer India is the prize. If they destroy the local seeds of India and South Asia, they’d have won the global war.
[b] Each has carved out territories to minimize competition, thereby ensuring high margins for their stockholders. The USDA is a stockholder in D&PL, hence it is in the interest of USDA to destroy India’s seeds and pave the way for Monsanto’s Terminator seeds. Monsanto is US Government’s Trojan horse in India.
When none of these companies is competing directly and enjoys virtual monopoly in a given product and region, the fact that none has been investigated by Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commissions in their respective countries shows home government complicity in maintaining the monopoly. In developing countries, where farming is a source of livelihood, this covert strategy to destroy farmers’ saved seeds is shocking.
Our seeds are being purposively contaminated
There is a method in this madness. The International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources [PGR] for Food and Agriculture came into force on 29 June 2004. It allows “the free flow of genetic material to plant breeders” as well as to farmers and research institutions. This multilateral system for access and benefit sharing covers a list of 35 food and 29 forage crops, including staples like rice and corn. “The Treaty acknowledges the contribution of farmers to agricultural biodiversity and recognizes farmers’ rights to save, use, exchange and sell seeds,” an important rule of the international trade law.
But it falls short of unambiguously banning patents on plant genetic resources, leaving farmers’ varieties in international Gene Banks under the CGIAR (Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research), which come under the Treaty, as vulnerable as before. The text clearly states that no intellectual property rights (IPRs) may be taken out on the plant genetic resources and their components that are exchanged in accordance with the stipulation in the treaty; but this is qualified by limiting the condition to resources “in the form received”.
This could leave the door open for unscrupulous patenting of plant genetic resources that are not “in the form received.” If the stored seeds are genetically modified the treaty does not protect this common asset; it becomes the property of unscrupulous firms. The European parliament, despite growing opposition to GM foods, decided [6 Nov 2006] to support biotech firms and in March 2007 further decided to grant patent protection to conventional seeds. Effectively, all international treaties around seeds are eyewash, a mechanism to keep farmers and civil society busy fighting false flag operations.
When India harmonizes its own Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights [TRIPS] under coercive WTO rules, any Indian seed that is contaminated with proprietary GMOs shall become the property of the patent holder for that is the way patent laws are being interpreted. Under the new European ruling, any firm that trots down to the neighbourhood Patent Office first gets the patent on conventional seeds. Effectively, all our seeds will legally belong to a handful of US and European transnational corporations unless they are patented in double quick time by our farmers. Question is: who will do it, when our own Government and Ministry of Agriculture is promoting GMOs?
The strategy of US and European Governments is to deliberately contaminate natural seeds everywhere, particularly in South Asia. The majority of the 17 regions of mega-biodiversity are located in lesser developed countries; South Asia is one of them. 39 countries are already contaminated. There is no GMO free canola seeds available in Canada; all canola seeds are contaminated. Rice growers in southern US found all their rice seeds contaminated and had no option but to plant GM rice seeds. Theft of India’s seeds has been going on since 1960s when precious 19,000 rice seeds from Dr Riccharia’s seed bank was secreted to the International Rice Research institute [IRRI], Philippine, an event reported as “the Great Gene Robbery” by Dr Claude Alvarez.
The final objective of US and European governments is to dictate the terms at which food will be supplied to us in India and South Asia and consumers the world over. “Control seeds and you control the world’s food supplies; and if you control world’s food supplies, you control the world population.” That is the true implication of attack on our seeds.
Plans are afoot to kill as many citizens of third world countries as possible. The “useless eaters,” as Henry Kissinger said, are to be eliminated because a handful of corporations want to control our natural resources so that the white population in the United States and Europe, selected or elected few, live on this earth in perpetuity because the geological imperatives are such that the remaining natural resources can’t support more than 770 million people on earth – the population of 1750AD.
Is Government of India complicit in this planned genocide?
You bet it is. Multinational corporations have destroyed 97% of the world’s vegetable seeds varieties available in 1900 AD; the adverse effects of GM crops are known; still the “National Horticulture Board [of India] in its recent document has announced back-ended capital investment subsidy for projects developing genetic modified organisms (GMOs) and bio-technology.”
Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar is a powerful and dangerous supporter of the GM brigade. He has plans for GM sugar. Dr Mangla Rai, head of India’s agriculture scientific establishment, was a key person who engineered Knowledge Initiative in Agriculture [KIA] that Bush signed in March 2006 in Delhi, cheered by Monsanto and Wal-Mart.
The most damning evidence of complicity of the Indian Government comes from the fact that a doomsday seeds vault is under construction in Svalbard, Norway, that would store 3 million natural seeds. As Rick Weiss says, “The design bespeaks an Armageddon mentality.”
Why is the Government of India, through its Ministry of Agriculture, supporting a “natural seeds bank” in Norway, which is also financially supported by multinational chemicals & biotech seeds companies such as DuPont and Syngenta? Svalbard is the safest option because of it’s remoteness from the resource wars now raging all over the world, including India. Seeds need to be stored at low temperature to prevent germination and Svalbard is in the Arctic Circle. Anyone can guess that the vault is being constructed in anticipation of global contamination of all natural seeds. It is a well planned strategy to save our natural seeds stolen from us.
Our seeds will be contaminated because the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee [GEAC], an inter-ministerial body of the Government of India, in league with biotech seeds firms, has approved 151 crop varieties for open field trials all over India. The Department of Biotechnology [DBT] of the Government of India refused to disclose whether any biosafety assessments were made before approving open field trials.
A group of activists had to appeal to the Chief Information Officer [CIC] to direct DBT to disclose the biosafety assessments done before approvals were given. The DBT officers hid behind section 8.1[d] of Right to Information Act that the information would compromise trade secret of firms whose seeds were being assessed! [April 4, 2007] Unfortunately, it became clear in the hearing that DBT had actually not made any biosafety assessment before approving open field trials.
Whose interest DBT is serving: the people of India or the world’s largest seed corporation?
Every regulator, every senior officer, every senior politician responsible for overseeing our food security and food sovereignty has joined the conspiracy of silence.
When 200 to 400 million Indians die of diseases and hunger induced by genetically modified seeds and foods, historians [if they remain alive] will hold the Government of India responsible for genocide here and in South Asia. – Vijayvaani, New Delhi, Jan. 4, 2012
» Arun Shrivastava is a Management Consultant; he lives in Delhi and can be contacted at: email@example.com