Scientist and philosopher Vandana Shiva has made a name for herself as a thinker and fighter in the global battle over genetically modified seeds. Her prime target:

Monsanto is privatizing the seed. They control 95 percent of the cotton in India, 90 percent of the soy in this country. They’ve taken over most of the seed companies of the world [and] everything begins a seed. The food on our plate. You and me were seed at one point. The little calf that becomes the cow. Seed is the source of life. And seed is the source of renewal of life. …

I sat at meetings where the corporations said, “The reason we’ve got to do genetically modified organisms is because it’s the only way we can claim a patent. A patent is a claim to invention, a claim to creation. And it brings with it an exclusive right to exclude anyone else from using, having, distributing the patented product.” … they’re claiming intellectual property. And they changed the language. They say the seed is no more a seed. It’s an intellectual property. They make the society shift its thinking of what is at stake. Seed is the first link in the food chain. And therefore, when you control seed, you control food.

Shiva notes, “I come from a country where there were no corporations in the food system until 20 years ago.”

Small is not just beautiful, it’s bountiful:

The rights of our farmers to be able to have seed, the most fundamental source of livelihood in a poor country. Eighty percent of the food of the world is even, today, produced by those small farmers of the kind that we have in India. Our small farmers are feeding 1.2 billion Indians. We forget the scale of what smallness means multiplied many times. Because we’ve got used to the dinosaur mentality. We only see the big. We forget that dinosaurs go extinct.

Broken promises:

In India, Monsanto came in with a claim of 1,500 kilograms of cotton per acre with their genetically engineered cotton. The average yields are 400 kilograms. Our studies show that. The government studies confirm this.

When you grow just genetically modified cotton, you destroy all the associate crops that were feeding the poor families. So it actually leads to less food. When you spray roundup and kill the greens that are necessary for women to have iron, for children to have vitamin A, you’re creating hunger. You’re creating disease.

JOE WINDISH, Technology Editor
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Copyright 2012 The Moderate Voice
  • merkin

    My father worked for over thirty years for Monsanto but in a different division.

    When Monsanto says that they only do genetically altered seeds because they can get a patent on them they are not just being opportunistic, they mean that they wouldn’t invest all of the time and money into the research if they couldn’t get a patent. This is the very best of intellectual property rights, not the worst.

    The flip side of a patent is that other people can license the technology from Monsanto. If I were India and concerned about my subsistence farmers I would negotiate a countrywide license for the technology. I don’t think that Monsanto would be adverse to such an arrangement for a developing country. Such a country is in a strong negotiating position since finally Monsanto would depend on the Indian government to enforce the patents. They could just tell Monsanto that we tried to help you by buying a license, we will let you litigate these patent infringements when hell freezes over.

  • Rcoutme

    Thank you, Merkin, for saying what I was going to point out. This parallels the argument about the ‘greedy’ pharmaceutical companies.

    Are the companies ‘greedy’? Probably. Even still, the rest of the world has ceased to create new drugs. We are the last ones left. Why? Because the rest of the world took away any incentive to create new drugs. Those drugs SAVE money (often) since invasive operations or institutionalization are no longer needed. Other drugs save lives or make life more worth living (reducing pain, etc).

    Do we need to curb the out-of-control costs of medicine in this country? Yeah…probably. Just don’t wipe out one of the best cost-controllers left in the world (the pharmaceutical industry). As one of my higher-ups (when I was working long, long ago) had put it, “If they decide to set all the prices for drugs, then we would just go ahead and make those and let go of virtually all the research and development.”

  • Dr. J

    I can’t tell if Vandana Shiva is for or against Monsanto’s product. She’s simultaneously complaining that it’s innovative enough to get patents and valuable enough to win 95% market share, yet falls short of advertised yields and creates disease and hunger. Oh, and because India is populous and poor, they should get it for free.

    Did I read that right?

  • rudi

    The Monsanto BB lawyers are suing framers when the GES cross pollinate which non-modified seeds.
    http://www.cornucopia.org/2011/03/farmers-and-seed-producers-lunch-preemptive-strike-against-monsanto/