Seed Act a boon to multinationals – Dr. Shiva (Ceylon today )
By Zahrah Imtiaz
The Seed Act is a ‘backdoor’ by which the multinationals will get what they want, said Indian scientist and environmental activist Dr. Vandana Shiva.
Dr. Shiva, who was on a recent visit to Sri Lanka, was campaigning for the abolishment of the Seed Act and the patenting of local biodiversity by multinationals.
“There was a great study done on kidney disease in the North Central Province in your country and it isolated chemicals in agriculture, mainly pesticides and chemical fertilizer to be the main cause. Out of these, Roundup or glyphosate was identified to be the main contributor and your President even called for it to be banned. Soon enough, Monsanto went into action behind the scenes and it is no longer banned,” said Dr. Shiva commenting on the power which multinationals held in the country.
Dr. Shiva, who strongly opposes the patenting of seed and plant material, said ‘Seeds should be shared’ and that was the Dharma of the seed. She also added that the United States which holds the highest number of patents for species, has patented 9,000 species of Ayurvedic plants in India, “They have the patents, so now we have to pay them royalty to use our own plants”, said Dr. Shiva.
Speaking on the most famous product created by the multinational, Monsanto; Bt Cotton, Dr. Shiva went on to relate how Bt Cotton, a genetically modified organism (GMO) has led to over 284,000 famer suicides a year.
“They (Monsanto) first got the farmer to stop saving their seed then managed to get the public sector to stop producing the seed and finally they managed to buy up or close down all local seed producing companies. Today these companies can only sell Monsanto produced seed.
Before Monsanto, a kilo of seed was Indian Rs 5 and if you saved your own seed it was zero but with Monsanto it was Indian
Rs 4,000 per kilo. It was supposed to control pests but it created super pests. In the US, the herbicide resistant crops have created super weeds which do not even respond to Roundup. 17 million acres in America has been overtaken by these super weeds and they now use Agent Orange, which they used on Vietnam to kill these super weeds.”
The high price of seeds meant that many farmers would go into debt in order to buy the seeds they wanted. In addition to this, the seeds had a ‘terminator’ gene which meant that the next season of seeds produced by the Monsanto seeds were sterile. This kept the farmer buying more and more seeds from the company to grow his crop.
Dr. Shiva asked that we adopt a better model for Agriculture in the country, one which does not kill the biodiversity of the country.
“Last year the multinationals started this new tactic of the Seed Act. They said, if we cannot sell our GMOs in these countries, let’s patent the local seeds and then sell them. They tried this in Europe and now in Africa, the multinationals are trying to bring one law on seeds to all countries. The Seed Act is a brainchild of the multinational”, explained
Dr. Shiva and added that the Seed Law and patents which prevented farmers from saving their seeds was a crime against the Dharma of the seed, against nature and against farmers.
“When farmers breed seeds, they breed for diversity which is an insurance against vulnerability and they breed for nutrition. We must breed for quality, virility and nutrition,” said Dr. Shiva.