Friday, October 7, 2011

Press Release - Monsanto Quit India Campaign

Press Release


Monsanto Quit India Campaign

Kheti Khurak Azaadi Jatha

9th to 17th August 2011

Kheti Khuraak Azaadi Jatha got massive support by farmers against food and Agriculture Imperialism

Urgent need to form a Grand Coalition of farmers- Consumers to protect Food Sovereignty of Nation

Bathinda, August 11th 2011: Launching a scathing attack on successive governments’ faulty agricultural policies and the increasing corporatisation of our food and farming systems, several farmers’ leaders and environmental activists demanded that political parties in Punjab must spell out their vision and road map for Punjabi farming. They pronounced the government as anti-farmer given its secret deal struck with Monsanto in a Public-Private-Partnership whereby the government is facilitating the expansion of the market for Monsanto, a large American MNC. They also condemned the fact that the government is not taking a pro-active stand against Genetically Modified (GM) seeds even though the ill-effects of intensive models of agriculture with chemicals and GM seeds are there for everyone to see in Punjab.

“While other states are charting out more sustainable pathways of development for their farmers based on lessons of disaster gleaned from Punjab and other such places, it is extremely unfortunate that our policy-makers in the state are unwilling to acknowledge or learn from our mistakes. While the agri-chemicals mistake continues, the danger of GM is being sought to be perpetrated now. For reasons that are unscientific, ill-informed or vested, the Punjab government is not hesitating to take an anti-farmer and anti-Nature stand once again when it comes to GM crops. While other states are disallowing open air field trials of GM crops after taking a considered policy view on the matter, Punjab is reported to be in favor of such trials in the state! There is ample evidence to show that GM crops are hazardous in a variety of ways and particular products like Monsanto’s GM maize, allowed for field trials in the state, pose many health and environmental risks. It is high time that the Punjab government realized that field trials are trials essentially of untested products, with a technology that is living, irreversible and uncontrollable once it is released into the environment even in the name of trials. We demand that the government disallow all such trials in this state”, said Umendra Dutt of Kheti Virasat Mission.

Speakers addressing the Press Conference condemned the partnerships that the state government has entered into with Monsanto, in the name of improving maize productivity. Farmers’ leaders supporting Monsanto Quit India Campaign said, “With regard to Monsanto in particular, the state government should be aware of its long history of crimes against humanity, by its production and marketing of many toxic chemicals and other hazardous products. On its way to becoming the world's largest seed company, Monsanto used several strategies including deploying technology that reduces possibility of farmers re-using their seed, legal frameworks that prevent farmers and researchers free and open access to seed and aggressive, monopolistic market maneuvers that suppressed competition. Monsanto did not shy away from resorting to bribery for getting regulatory approvals. Monsanto had at one point reportedly even stated its goal thus: ‘No food shall be grown that we do not own’, reflecting its profiteering ambitions. This company has not hesitated to sue and jail farmers for the ‘crime’ of saving and re-using seed from their crops and wanted to enforce its patents even in cases of genetic contamination clearly taking away from the affected farmer's rights! Monsanto and its associates have not hesitated to sue governments in this country in pursuit of their profits and markets. How is the government hoping that farmers would benefit from the expansion of this company, its products and markets? What happened to all the investments that went into the public sector research on maize all these years, if they cannot be reached to the farmers?”.

Speakers also announced plans of holding a public debate with all political parties to gauge their depth of understanding and vision for farming in Punjab, in the run up to the elections and hoped that no party would keep away from such a debate. The 4 main questions to be debated in this forum would be: how would the party ensure income security and stability for all farmers of the state?; how would the party ensure environmental sustainability of our productive resources without which farm livelihoods will be jeopardized?; what is the party’s stand on upholding farmers’ rights over their productive resources like land, water and seed?; what is the party’s road map towards promising all citizens safe, diverse and nutritious food?

The Kheti Khurak Azadi Jatha - a caravan around the state to build a people’s movement to protect our food, farmers and freedom has so far covered six districts. Started from Ludhiana on 9th August the Kheti Khuraak Azaadi Jatha would traverse around twelve districts of Punjab before ending on the 17th of August at Malerkotla.

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