Why Giving GM Mustard a Chance is Reminiscent of the Nazi Era

Small farmers could be victimised by corporate giants if GM mustard is given a chance in India, says Vandana Shiva.

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Is allowing commercial cultivation of GM mustard  akin to sounding death knell for small farmers? (Photo: Lijumol Joseph/ <b>The Quint</b>)

India is steeped in a huge controversy, created by Monsanto on the first GM crop, supposedly approved for commercialisation in India. Engaged in litigation on many fronts, Monsanto is trying to subvert our patent law, our Plant Variety and Farmers Rights Act, our Essential Commodities Act , our Anti Monopoly Act (Competition Act).

It is behaving as if there is no parliament, no democracy, no sovereign laws in India to which it is subject to. Or, it simply does not have any regard for them.

The Poison Cartel

In another theatre, Monsanto and Bayer are merging. They were one as MOBAY, part of the poison cartel of IG Farben. Controlling stakes of both corporations lies with the same private equity firms. The expertise of these companies is those of war. IG Farben - Hitler’s economic power and pre-war Germany’s highest foreign exchange earner - was also a foreign intelligence operation. Hermann Schmitz was president of IG Farben, Schmitz’s nephew Max Ilgner was a director of IG Farben, while Max’s brother Rudolph Ilgner handled the New York arm of the ‘VOWI’ Network (the Nazi foreign intelligence operation) as Vice President of Chemnyco.

MOBAY (MonsantoBayer) supplied ingredients for Agent Orange in the Vietnam War. 20 million gallons of MOBAY defoliants and herbicides were sprayed over South Vietnam. Children are still being born with birth defects, adults have chronic illnesses and cancers, due to their exposure to MOBAY’s chemicals.

Wars were fought, lives were lost, countries carved into holy lands – with artificial boundaries that suit colonisation and resource grab – while Bayer and Monsanto sold chemicals as bombs and poisons and their brothers provided the loans to buy those bombs.


JD(U) workers stage a demonstration against genetically-modified (GM) mustard in New Delhi, on  6 September 2016. (Photo: IANS)
JD(U) workers stage a demonstration against genetically-modified (GM) mustard in New Delhi, on 6 September 2016. (Photo: IANS)

Is this Fair Play by MNCs?

More recently, according to Monsanto’s website Bayer CropScience AG and Monsanto Co. have “entered into a series of long-term business and licensing agreements related to key enabling agricultural technologies”. This gives Monsanto and Bayer free access to each other’s herbicide and the paired herbicide resistance technology. Through cross licensing agreements like these, mergers and acquisitions, the biotech industry has become the IG Farben of today, with Monsanto in the cockpit.

The global chemical and GMO industry - Bayer, Dow Agro, DuPont Pioneer, Mahyco, Monsanto and Syngenta - have come together to form Federation of Seed Industry of India (FSII) to try and become bigger bullies in this assault on India’s farmers, the environment , and democratically framed laws that protect the public and national interest. This is in addition to the lolly-group ABLE, the Association of Biotechnology Led Enterprises, which tried to challenge India’s seed price control order issued under the Essential Commodities Act, in the High Court of Karnataka. The case was dismissed.

The new group is not “seed industry”, they produce no seeds. And they try to stretch patents on chemicals to claim ownership on seed, even in countries where patents on seeds and plants are not allowed by law. This is the case in India, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, and many other countries.

An Anathema for Farmers

All the disputes in India are related to Monsanto un-scientifically, illegally and illegitimately claiming patents on seed, in contempt of India’s laws, and trying to collect royalties from the Indian seed industry and Indian farmers. The FSII is an “IG Farben 100 Year Family Reunion” - a federation that signifies coming together of independent and autonomous entities.

Monsanto’s “innovation” of collecting illegal royalties and pushing Indian farmers to suicide is also an innovation in killing without liability, indirectly. Just because there is a new way to kill does not make killing right, or a right. “Innovation” like every human activity, has limits - limits set by ethics, justice, democracy, the rights of people, the rights of nature.

I G Farben was tried at Nuremburg. We have national laws to protect people, their right to life and public health, and the environment. India’s biosafety laws and Patent, and Plant Variety Act are designed to regulate greedy owners of corporations - with a history of crimes against nature and humanity.

Snapshot

Will the Farmers Benefit from GM Mustard?

  • Apprehension about commercial cultivation of GM mustard is related to the ownership of seeds which is usually patented by corporate firms.
  • Majority of disputes in India are related to agro-tech firms trying to stake claim to seeds and earning royalties on the same.
  • Concerns are also being raised about giving market access to companies like Bayer whose application for a GMO was rejected in 2002.
  • The question that the government needs to answer is whether the interests of small farmers would be ensured.

Problem With GM Mustard

Industry is getting ready to push its next “gene” the GM-Mustard (DMH-11). The GM mustard being promoted as a public sector “innovation” is based on barnase-barstar gene system (protein-protein binding) to create male-sterile plants and a bar gene for Glufosinate resistance. In 2002, Pro-Agro’s (Bayer) application for approval related to the commercial planting of GM Mustard based on the same system was rejected.

Although banned in India, Bayer finds ways to sell Glufosinate, to the tea gardens of Assam and the apple orchards of Himachal Pradesh, illegally. Sales agents show the Glufosinate sales under the ‘other’ category to avoid regulation. These chemicals are finding their way into the bodies of our children without government approval.

Essentially all key patents related to the bar gene are held by Bayer Crop Science which acquired Aventis Cropscience, which itself was created out of the Genetic Engineering divisions of Schering, Rhone Poulenc and Hoechst. Then Bayer acquired Plant Genetics Systems, and entered into cooperation agreement with Evogene - which has patents on genome mapping.

Before any approval is granted to the Genetically Engineered Mustard, the issue of limits to patentability needs to be resolved on the basis of Indian law, patents on plants and seeds and methods of agriculture must not be allowed.

Pental, a retired professor and GM-Operative, will not commercialise GM Mustard seed. His commanding officers at Bayer/Monsanto/MOBAY will.

Would the commercial cultivation of GM mustard ensure that the small farmers are not exploited by corporate giants? (Photo: Reuters)
Would the commercial cultivation of GM mustard ensure that the small farmers are not exploited by corporate giants? (Photo: Reuters)

Small Farmers and Their Concerns

Given our experience with GM cotton, the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) is considering the option of putting in place guidelines for socio-economic assessment to judge proposed GM varieties on the basis of factors such as economy, health, environment, society and culture.

At the core of socio economic assessment is the issue of monopolies and cartels and impact on small farmers. Even though patents on seeds are not allowed, for more than one-and-a-half decade, Monsanto has extracted illegal royalties from Indian farmers, trapping them in debt, and triggering an epidemic of farmers’ suicides. Monsanto’s war on India’s foot soldiers - farmers - is a war being waged by the Farben Family, on our Earth Family.

(The writer is an environmental activist. She can be reached at @drvandanashiva. This is a personal blog and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

This is the counter view on the debate following the government’s decision to allow the commercial cultivation of genetically modified (GM) mustard. You can read the view in favour of the decision here.

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