Will the World Survive GM Cultures and the Damage to the Earth’s Eco-Systems?


Monsanto and the other major biotech companies – Syngenta, Bunge, Cargill, etc. – are all set on owning the world’s food supply. Monsanto is by far the leader in this nightmare of destroying organic agriculture and millennia-old biodiversity.

They have no respect whatsoever for the lives and the livelihood of farmers or, for that matter, any concern for the people who are exposed to severe health hazards from eating genetically modified foods. Corporate profit is all that counts.

The greatest long-lasting danger from GMOs is the destruction of the earth’s eco-systems – the degradation of the soil, the depletion of water resources and the proliferation of pests that were until now barely known, since they were kept under control by the natural balance of predatory insects keeping those that are harmful to the crops from having their potentially damaging effect. More later about this natural equilibrium.

The bio-tech industries have taken a big and dangerous step towards destroying the earth as it has been known for thousands of years. Organic agriculture, biodiversity and natural pest control have made the earth a place for sustainable farming for millennia. However, at this point of delicate balance for the earth’s survival, bio-tech corporations want to put an end to everything that is natural in order to make short-term profit from huge monocultures of the genetically modified products that they are falsely marketing as our saviors from world hunger and poverty. [1]

India is one country that has been severely hit by the bio-tech industry with accompanying disasters.

What follows after the farmers change over to GMO seeds after millennia of planting and making a livelihood in organic farming is a horror story of bad harvests, huge debts, increased costs for herbicides and fertilizers (in spite of the companies’ promises of lower costs), and the suicides of thousands of farmers in Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Kerala – among the Indian states that are hit the worst.

This has been going on for decades and if it were not for a lot of activism being focused on this problem, there is no chance that anything would change, since the corporations are tied in firmly with the governments in the heavy-handed corporatism that rules the world today. The farmers are lured into buying the GM seeds because of low-interest loans and obscene propaganda about giant harvests, less work and lower costs. Bio-tech PR claims there is no need for pesticides and less need for fertilizers, all of which has proved to be inaccurate. Added to this, these seeds are not adjusted to the eco-systems where they are being planted. They frequently need more water than is available and the results are disastrous.

One woman is in the forefront of the fight against the bio-tech industry. Her name is Vandana Shiva and she is based in Delhi.
 
Dr. Vandana Shiva, a former particle physicist, has for the past three decades done more than anyone else as an activist to attract the attention of the world to the deadly corporate horror story of genetically modified products. She attacks the problem from all angles, educating and organizing protest demonstrations through her organization Navdanya.

Navdanya  means “nine seeds”, and is a movement promoting diversity – fighting against the privatization of water, campaigning against Basmati biopiracy and generally leading a fight for the rights of rural farmers to a decent livelihood, uncompromised through biopiracy such as is taking place in India and all over the world. Biodiversity, the way farmers have been cultivating the land for millennia is her central argument and monocultures at the giant industrial farms are her principal enemy. She talks about food fascism and the bio-tech industry see her as their most prominent enemy in their vicious attempt of controlling the world’s food supply.

Vandana Shiva says on her Navdanya website

"When I found that dominant science and technology served the interests of [the] powerful, I left academics to found the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology (RFSTE), a participatory, public interest research organisation.

"When I found global corporations wanted to patent seeds, crops or life forms, I started Navdanya to protect biodiversity, defend farmers’ rights and promote organic farming.

"Navdanya/RFSTE’s journey over the past two decades has taken us into creating markets for farmers and promoting tasty, healthy, high quality food for consumers. We have connected the seed to the kitchen, biodiversity to gastronomy. And now we have joined hands with Slow Food to celebrate the quality and cultural diversity of our food."

SIU [2] magazine writes about Vandana Shiva:

"In fact, listening to her may make you rethink many of the world’s established social and political paradigms.

"For example, the generally acknowledged argument that the Green Revolution, at the very least, led to an increase in food production is one of them. ‘No, it did not increase production. Wheat and rice production increased, not the overall food production,’ argues Shiva, and launches into a lecture that concludes that whatever increase there was had nothing whatsoever to do with the Green Revolution, and that overall it has been a disaster for agriculture and food security in India."

The Mealy Bug, the deadly gift from Monsanto

The latest horror news on GMOs is the Mealy Bug that has been said to be "the deadly gift from Monsanto to Vidarbha, set to destroy all crops and plants". Vidarbha is the eastern part of Maharashtra state, in western India. It is India‘s most developed and urbanized state.
 
In a press note Kishor Tiwari, President of ‘Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti’ – a farmers advocacy group – writes that the Mealy Bug is a virus that is imported with the Bt Cotton sold by multinational corporation  Monsanto. In the coming summer season it will have an effect on a larger area covering almost all crops and next year it will be set to destroy not only cotton crops but all other food crops as well.
 
Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) has urged the Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, to ban Monsanto Bt. Cotton seeds in the agrarian crisis that has hit West Vidarbha. This is of the most urgent importance in order to save more than 3 million distressed and debt-trapped Vidarbha cotton farmers.

The London based Institute of Science in Society (ISIS) posts the following from Ram Kalaspurkar, organic farmer, Vidarbha Organic Farmers Association, Yavatmal, Maharashtra, India

"I am an organic farmer residing at Yavatmal in the state of Maharashtra. Our organisation, Vidarbha Organic Farmers Association, has been propagating organic farming since 1994. We have been helped a lot by Dr Vandana Shiva. She was the first person to tell us about terminators. Right now, we are working for her organisation Navdanya."

ISIS on their web site has published a letter from Ram Kalaspurkar who refers to a study where they have found that ‘Organic Cotton Beats Bt Cotton in India. They firmly recommend a return to organic cotton, saying that Bt cotton is a  trap that has to be avoided. In the article published by ISIS there are photos of plants infested by mealy bugs.

All the infested plots had the Bollgard label, which is supposed to control pests. It is made clear that the mealy bugs have never been found in the region before BT cotton seeds were introduced. (The mealy bug had, however, been found in China two years earlier.)

After the death of the cotton plants, the bug goes over to nearby plants and it has already shifted to Congress weed and many other weeds and plants in fields close by.

The Monsanto website  claims: 

"Bollgard II technology offers cotton growers efficient, effective pest control with fewer pesticide applications than in conventional cotton crops."

This is just one example of what has proved to be the totally false propaganda pumped out from Monsanto.

Rhea Gala reports from Andhra Pradesh – from VIDARBHA JAN ANDOLAN SAMITI (the following quoted passages are excerpted from the same VJAS source)

"In the fertile regions of Andhra Pradesh ‘white gold’ monocultures of the high-yielding hybrids of  ‘Green Revolution’ cotton had turned the state into the pesticide capital of the world even before the advent of genetically modified (GM) Bt cotton. Now, however, the revolution is turning full circle as more and more farmers are opting for low input organic methods that are healthier and economically far more rewarding."

The message is now:

"Return to Organic Cotton and Avoid the Bt Cotton Trap”
No more debt, pesticides and suicides for Indian cotton farmers who avoid Bt-cotton and regain livelihood, health, independence and peace of mind with organic methods."

Several Non-Governmental Organizations are working in many villages promoting non-pesticide management (NPM). The government has until now supported high-chemical-input cotton production at national and state level and this has sent the wrong messages to farmers. GM cotton is falsely promoted as the answer to reducing pesticide use, and it is one of many reasons why farmers are giving in to the pressure to grow GM cotton.

"Farmers initially saw the system of industrial production as timesaving and requiring far less knowledge of soils and pests; however it soon proved to be a relentless treadmill. It degraded the soil, depleted scarce water resources and proliferated cotton pests beyond the farmers’ worst nightmares, as both yield and profit progressively diminished." 

Research backs up the case for NPM and organic cotton.
A report entitled "Bt cotton vs. Non Pesticidal Management of cotton: Findings of a study by the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture 2004-05 compares Bt and NPM cotton in Andhra Pradesh."

The findings are unequivocally in favor of organic cotton. There are vast numbers of beneficial insects that get killed off from GM Bt cotton. Those insects are predators that attack and kill off most of the harmful insects and pests.

"It reports conclusively that Bt cotton is more prone to pests and diseases and that beneficial insects are more prevalent on NPM cotton. It also reports that the cost of pest management of Bt cotton is 690 percent higher than in NPM farming systems and that seed cost of Bt cotton is 355 percent higher than conventional varieties (‘Organic cotton beats Bt Cotton in India’ SiS 27)".

Recreating the natural balance of predators and pests

"The skill of managing pests without recourse to synthetic pesticide requires knowledge of life cycle and behaviour, vigilance, an armoury of pest specific deterrents, and a healthy community of natural predators of pests. To control pests such as the spotted bollworm, American bollworm, tobacco caterpillar, pink bollworm, aphids, jassids, thrips, white fly and mites, each of which is capable of causing between 30 and 50 percent damage to a crop, natural predators are the most effective year after year."

Conclusion

Vandana Shiva [3] by no means limits her activism to Bt cotton. She sets as her goal to recreate natural biodiversity in rice and all the other crops that the bio-tech companies are trying to take over with their GM seeds and products. There exist 100,000 varieties of rice evolved by Indian farmers and the diversity and the ‘perenniality’ have to be kept alive if we want to save our environment. Genetically modified seeds will lead to increased use of agri-chemicals and will thus increase environmental problems as well as human health problems.

Vandana Shiva addresses principally the dangers of GM farming in India, but the danger to the environment and to the livelihood of millions of people is obviously world-wide. Biodiversity  represents the sustenance and livelihood base of small farmers all over the world and a sane environment is naturally the key to the continuation of healthy lives for the billions of people in the world.

Footnotes:

[1] The problem is global, but strong resistance to GMO seeds and foods contaminated by GMOs is taking place in Europe. Corporate-friendly governments are trying to follow in the steps of U.S. pro-GM policies. The European Commission is ambivalent on the issue, but the people of Europe represented by numerous NGOs are leading the fight against this scourge of industrial GM farming in order to save the world from the dangers to people’s health and from the destruction of the earth’s eco-systems.

See report from ISIS – "Dr. Mae-Wan Ho warns that further indulgence in GMOs will severely damage our chances of surviving the food crisis and global warming; organic agriculture and localised food systems are the way forward"

 

[2] The Norwegian Centre for International Cooperation in Higher Education (SIU) is a Norwegian agency that promotes international cooperation in education and research.

 

[3] For more information on Vandana Shiva and her activism, see Monocultures, Monopolies, Myths and the Masculinisation of Agriculture

 

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