Monsanto: Patenting Nature One Seed at a Time

Monsanto’s revenue, last quarter, exceeded expectations. They predict 2012 to be their year. While Monsanto prepares for its right of passage into the market, the consequences of good times seem far from being applaud-worthy.

Monsanto left unchecked is a threat to the life of this planet.

Monsanto, a St. Louis based genetic seed company, has earned its bad reputation around the world—Particularly in India.

Monsanto is selling its BT cotton seeds to poor Indian farmers under the guise of being disease resistant and higher-yielding. The seeds are sold to the farmers through an infiltration of the Indian culture. Monsanto uses local actors and celebrity figures to sell its seeds and misinformation.

Most farmers become enticed with the promise of high yields and lots of money so they sign over their freedom to Monsanto. Not long after the Indian farmers are gathering their yields, they figure out the seeds are not as disease resistant as Monsanto advertised. But the catch is, not having had a successful yield, farmers have to start over from scratch—Hard for any business person, even harder for a poor Indian farmer.

Opponents of Monsanto say the company conveniently leaves out information about their seeds needing extra pesticides, irrigation and other costly products once they are planted. Unaware of this, the Indian farmers are forced to go back to a Monsanto representative for additional products. Most of the farmers need to take out additional loans from the company, placing more strain on an already tight budget. The farmers are now indebted to Monsanto. Most will never have a fighting chance to pay off their debt.

Left with the anguish of letting down their family and the shame of not being able to pay off their debt, many Indian farmers take their lives. The numbers are staggering. Each month an estimated 1000 Indian farmer commit suicide due to their insanely unrealistic contracts with Monsanto.

Indian farmer examines his yield

For the farmers that don’t kill themselves, they are not allowed to use the seeds from their BT cotton seed yield. Now, the farmers have to buy new seeds from Monsanto every growing season. If the farmers don’t abide, they can be fined and/or sued, something the meager paychecks of the farmers would not be able to cover.

Not only are farmers being put out of work, losing yields and being lied to, but any farmer who is using nature’s process of fertilization runs the risk of cross-contamination from Monsanto’s seeds. Not only is the genetic makeup of Monsanto’s seeds inferior, but now Monsanto can make the case that every plant that has been contaminated is essentially property of the company.

If Monsanto deserves any credit, they say that they tell the farmers up front that their seeds need a lot of irrigation (see the fine print…). But less than 10 percent of Indian farmers have irrigation systems suited for Monsanto’s BT cotton seed. Most farmers rely on rainfall.

However, 12,000 Indian farmers are dying each year. This is an epidemic. It is up to the Indian government to protect their farmers from predatory loan and advertising techniques by Monsanto and similar companies. I liken this issue to minority communities in the US and the statistically significant amount of payday loan services who prey on them. With high interest rates, borrowers have little chance to pay their loans back.

Of course, the actions by Monsanto have not been assessed by an independent party for biosafety. Monsanto chooses to rush in and do their bidding regardless. Sounds reminiscent of the proponents of the Keystone XL pipeline: “Just get the damn pipe built and we’ll assess potential risks later.

*Update:

&

Here is an article detailing Obama’s decision to allow Monsanto to sell genetically engineered corn in the US. He approved of this last December (2011).

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2 Comments

  1. After a few days of arriving in India I heard about the alarming rate of cotton farmers killing themselves. This is shocking and so sad. I didn’t know about this company though.
    Thanks for sharing this.

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