By Vandana Shiva
Intelligence agencies are supposed to protect the safety and security of a nation and its citizens from external threats. Tragically, we now have a report from the Intelligence Bureau that promotes the very foreign interests that are threatening our seed and food sovereignty, the livelihood of our farmers and the health of our citizens. The IB report, which was commissioned by the UPA government but submitted to the newly elected NDA government, blindly promotes genetically-modified organisms (GMOs). GMOs are the source of genetically modified foods.
The report names seven agitations pursuing “anti-developmental activities”. The “Anti-Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO)” activism is ranked third and this section begins with this sentence: “The pro-GMO debate in India centres round the resounding success of Bt cotton in the last 10 years.” This sounds more like propaganda of the GMO industry than the result of an investigation by an Indian intelligence agency.
A later paragraph further reinforces the evidence that the IB was not investigating but transmitting messages from the foreign GMO industry and its lobbyists. In paragraph 35, the report cites Ronald Herring of Cornell University. Herring has systematically attacked Indian farmers, scientists and plant breeders and Cornell University has become a hub of the pro-GMO lobby. Cornell worked with USAID and Monsanto/Mahyco to try and impose Bt brinjal on India, unscientifically, undemocratically and illegally. That is why the then environment minister, Jairam Ramesh, ordered a moratorium on Bt brinjal after organising seven public hearings across the country.
India is governed by a biosafety law embodied in the “Rules 1989 for the manufacture/use/imp-ort/export and storage of hazardous micro-organisms/genetic engineered organisms and cells”. Biosafety laws are designed to protect the biodiversity, the environment and public health from the negative impacts of GMOs. I was appointed by the UN in an expert group to frame the international law on biosafety. I also worked with our government to strengthen our biosafety framework. The IB is clearly ignorant of the laws of the land, as well as our parliamentary and judicial processes. That’s why, in paragraph 34, it states that five individuals “contributed to the three year moratorium on Bt brinjal and the ban/moratorium regimes recommended by the Parliamentary Standing Committee (August 9, 2012) and the technical expert committee (TEC) appointed by the Supreme Court.”
The IB, like the foreign interests seemingly influencing its analysis, clearly holds the institutions created by the Constitution of India — the government, Parliament, the courts — in contempt of foreign commercial interests. It presents them as being manipulated by five individuals.
The IB report is not just biased in favour of foreign MNCs, it is also factually inaccurate. It states in paragraph 31 that the “anti-GMF activism was initiated in 2003 by Vandana Shiva”.
Let me inform the IB of the facts. In 1987, when I was attending a conference on biotechnology, organised by the Dag Hammarskjold Foundation at the UN in Geneva and Bogeve, the old agrichemical industry stated clearly that they were going to introduce GMOs in order to take patents on seeds, so that they could collect royalties from every farmer, in every season, in every country of the world. That is when I committed myself to defend our country’s seed and food sovereignty.
In 1998, when Monsanto, a US-based MNC, started field trials of its GMO Bt cotton illegally, I sued them in our Supreme Court for violation of our biosafety laws. That is why they could not commercialise their Bt cotton until 2002.
Upholding our national laws to defend our biosafety and seed and food sovereignty is a democratic imperative and in national interest. Clearly these are not the motivations guiding the IB. The IB report repeats the false claims and myths of the GMO industry about Bt cotton. It hides the fact that in 1996-97, before Bt cotton, we exported 168.2 million bales of cotton, and in 2012-13, after Bt, we are importing 145.9 million bales. It hides the failure of Bt cotton to control pests, and that farmers are having to spend more on Bt pesticides. It hides the reality of the falling yields of Bt cotton. It hides the reality that the high cost of seeds for which Monsanto collects royalties has left our farmers trapped in debt which has pushed more than 284,000 farmers to suicide since 1995. Most of these suicides are concentrated in the Bt cotton regions.
An intelligence agency committed to national interest would have addressed the epidemic of farmers’ suicides. Instead, the IB report talks of a 2-3 per cent drag in the growth of the national economy because of those of us working for the protection of our ecological heritage and people’s rights — the seven agitations pursuing “anti-developmental activities” are the ones against nuclear power plants, coal fired power plants, genetically modified organisms, Posco and Vedanta in Orissa, against extractive industries in the Northeast, and the Narmada Bachao Andolan.
Each life is precious and priceless. But since the IB has put a loss figure, we decided to assess the cost of farmers’ suicides using the US’ calculation of the value of life (used for insurance and accident claims). For 284,000 farmers’ suicides since 1995, this translates to $1.99 trillion. India’s GDP was $1.82 trillion in 2012. Besides the cost of farmers’ life there is also an economic drain on the national economy. Just the royalties collected for Bt cotton amount to `5,000 crore. Can you imagine the economic drain if all seeds were GMOs bought from global companies?
Henry Kissinger had said, “Food is a weapon.” Today control over seeds through genetic engineering and patents has become the key to using food as a weapon. That is why for 30 years we have been saving seeds and defending seed freedom. We have been promoting organic farming that protects our biodiversity, the livelihood of our farmers and the health of our citizens. This should be the agenda for a free and prosperous India. Not the seed slavery through GMOs being promoted by the Intelligence Bureau.
(Vandana Shiva is a philosopher, environmental activist, and eco feminist. Shiva, currently based in Delhi, has authored more than 20 books and over 500 papers in leading scientific and technical journals. She was trained as a physicist and received her Ph.D. in physics from the University of Western Ontario, Canada. She was awarded the Right Livelihood Award in 1993. She is the founder of Navdanya http://www.navdanya.