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It Is Time India Declared Independence From Monsanto And Big GMO

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india independence day

On August 15, India commemorates independence from Britain. In the 1990s, however, the IMF and World Bank wanted India to shift hundreds of millions out of agriculture. In return for up to 90 billion pounds in loans, India was required to dismantle its state-owned seed supply system, reduce subsidies and run down public agriculture institutions and offer incentives for growing cash crops to earn foreign exchange.

India is the largest recipient of World Bank loans in the history of the institution. The conditions outlined above form part of a broader development plan that involves the mass displacement of people. The National Alliance of People's Movements recently stated that the real impacts of this "dangerous financial institution" (World Bank) works only to further the cause of powerful capital.

Hundreds of thousands of farmers have taken their lives since 1997 and many more experience economic distress or have left farming as a result of debt, a shift to cash crops and economic liberalisation. Facilitated by the WTO and the U.S.-India Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture, there is a deliberate strategy to make agriculture financially non-viable for India's small farmers and to impose a model of agriculture dominated by transnational agribusiness, from seed to plate.

The mantra is to let "the market" intervene: a euphemism for letting powerful corporations take control.

PM Modi says India is now one of the most business friendly countries in the world. When the World Bank rates countries on their level of "ease of doing business," it entails national states facilitating policies that force working people to take part in a race to the bottom based on free market fundamentalism. The more "compliant" governments make their populations and regulations, the more 'business friendly' a country is. And the World Bank's 'Enabling the Business of Agriculture' involves opening up markets to Western agribusiness, their chemical inputs and patented seeds.

The mantra is to let "the market" intervene: a euphemism for letting powerful corporations take control; the same corporations that benefit from massive taxpayer subsidies, manipulate markets, write trade agreements and institute a regime of intellectual property rights thereby indicating that the "free" market only exists in the warped delusions of those who churn out clichés about letting the market decide.

According to neoliberal rhetoric, foreign investment is good for jobs and business. But just how many actually get created is offset many times over by the jobs destroyed to pave the way for foreign corporations. In India, there is an ongoing displacement of a pre-existing productive system as small farmers and village-level food processors are squeezed out. For example, Cargill sets up a food or seed processing plant that employs a few hundred people. This displaces agricultural jobs (as witnessed by events in the edible oils sector and false arguments for the need for GMOs) and village-level processors who are put out of business so Cargill can gain a financially lucrative foothold.

The process resembles what Professor Michel Chossudovsky of University of Ottawa notes in his book about the structural adjustment of African countries. In The Globalization of Poverty, he says that economies are "opened up through the concurrent displacement of a pre-existing productive system. Small and medium-sized enterprises are pushed into bankruptcy or obliged to produce for a global distributor, state enterprises are privatised or closed down, independent agricultural producers are impoverished" (p. 16).

The plan is for a fraction of the population left in farming working on contracts for large suppliers and Wal-Mart-type supermarkets that offer a largely monoculture diet of processed, de-nutrified food based on crops soaked with chemicals and grown in increasingly degraded soils according to an unsustainable model of agriculture that is less climate/drought resistant, less diverse and unable to achieve food security.

One major flaw here is what jobs will the displaced hundreds of millions do given that jobless growth now seems to be reaching India?

The alternative would be to protect indigenous agriculture from rigged global trade and corrupt markets, and to implement a shift to sustainable, localized, self-sufficient agriculture which grows a diverse range of crops and offers a healthy diet to the public. In 2006, farmer and campaigner Bhaskar Save outlined solutions for India's agrarian crisis.

Monsanto is now very much embedded in India. It has even been called the "contemporary East India Company" and says GM food is necessary to feed the world's burgeoning population. Such claims are hidden behind a veil of humanitarian intent, which is easily torn away to expose self-interest. India does not need GM to feed itself and no false argument or regulatory delinquency to force them in can disguise this.

Four major high-level official reports in India (listed here) have advised against adopting GM food crops, and the ISAASDT Report (among others -- listed here) states that smallholder, traditional farming can deliver food security in low-income countries through sustainable, agri-ecological systems.

Instead, what we witness is the marginalization of small farmers -- the backbone of global food production -- in favour of a less productive industrialized system that leads to the globalization of bad food and poor health.

The roots of hunger and food insecurity across the world are tied to an exploitative system of agriculture and food production, where food surplus areas have been created to exist alongside and benefit from food deficit areas. Transnational agribusiness fuels and profits from this.

GMOs are wedded to U.S. interests. Facilitated by the World Bank and IMF, these interests have since 1945 restructured indigenous agriculture in other countries and shaped trade rules/agreements to create debt, dependency and demand for the dollar. GM is being used to secure the ultimate stranglehold of U.S. corporate interests over global food. The political backing for GM by the U.S. State Department, the strategic position of the GMO biotech sector in international trade agreements and the push to get GMOs into India are apparent.

As celebrations take place in Delhi on August 15, the bedrock of India -- the small farmer -- is being denied investment and sacrificed in the name of "progress."

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