KATHMANDU, Dec 24: The smiling faces of farmers as depicted in the website of Monsanto, the controversial genetically modified (GMO) seeds manufacturer, does not reflect the ground realities.
On the contrary, what Monsanto has offered to farmers, especially in India, is failed crops, which entail debt, distress and even suicide.
This statement comes from renowned Indian Professor Bandana Shiva, who terms the domination of hybrid seed “suicidal” for the uniqueness of small farm production.
In a recently organized “Mahesh Chandra Regmi Lecture” in the capital in the wake of the Monsanto saga re-triggered by advertisements for CG Seeds and Fertilizers, Shiva has opened a discourse on the use of GMO seeds in Nepal.
Cases of farmer suicide across four states of India – Maharastra, Andhra Predesh, Karnataka and Punjab — spread like an epidemic as more than 28,000 farmers have committed suicide in those states since 1995 after Monsanto was imposed there, stated the seed freedom activist.
Sharing the Indian experience of Monsanto and other hybrid seeds, Shiva stated that the farmers who have become dependent on this seed monopoly are in debt whereas most of the suicide was the result of being trapped in the cotton belt where the farmers had used the hybrid cotton seeds.
Having entered the Indian market in 1988, through the seed policy imposed by the World Bank, Monsanto now covers 95 percent of the cottonseed market, which has inflamed the seed price by 8,000 percent within a decade.
“The cotton which had earlier been grown in a mixture with food crops now has to be grown as monoculture, with higher vulnerability to pests, disease, drought and crop failure,” she mentioned giving her arguments on the negative impact of the genetically modified seeds from the economic, scientific and health aspects.
The industrialization of agriculture, and particularly production of GMO seeds, has not only made farmers dependent on the company for seed, but has also led to the degradation of biodiversity and farmers´ seed sovereignty in India from where a huge quantity of vegetable and food grains is imported into Nepal every day.
Bananas indigenously contain 0.44 mg of iron per 100 grams of edible portion. But the Genetically Modified (GMO) bananas will be 3,000 percent less efficient than biodiversity alternatives in reducing iron deficiency anemia in Indian women and all the efforts to increase the iron content of bananas has fallen short of the iron content of the indigenous diversity.
“The destruction of bio-diverse rich cultivation and diets has led to malnutrition crisis, with 75 percent of women suffering from iron deficiency in India,” she added.
A Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) report states that as many as 72 percent of food come from small farms. When it comes to the consumption of the GMO product, 90 percent of the modified soya is used for animal feed as it is unfit for human consumption, the data shows. The seed freedom activist´s own findings show that the protein content of wheat has declined in Punjab.
“The GMO production lacks nourishment, taste, flavor and the entire concept of food culture that has natural relationship with the earth. Farming system based on diversity produce much more food. GMO has bulldozed the uniqueness of the soil,” she added.
In Nepal, the hybrid seeds of more than 30 multinational companies are currently in use, according to the Seed Quality Control Centre. Among them, 10 GMO seeds of Monsanto, including maize and other veggies are already in use here, the office states.
Despite clarifications from the CG, which denies any agreement with the world´s most controversial multinational producers of hybrid seeds, the food concern has heated intellectuals this winter.
“The debate must go on for the forgotten food of today as it is the food for tomorrow,” shiva stated.
How Monsanto brings failed crops, farm debt, distress