In certain states of India there is an epidemic of farmers’ suicides. Today farmers in every village are facing debt and despair.
Many farmers who traditionally grew pulses and millets and paddy have been lured by seed companies to buy hybrid cotton seeds and other GM crops, which were supposed to make their lives easier and wealthier. Instead they faced bankruptcy and ruin.
Their native seeds have been displaced with new hybrids which cannot be saved and need to be purchased every year at a high cost. Hybrids are also very vulnerable to pest attacks. All pesticides have to be bought from the company that sold them the seeds; there have been reports of blatant profiteering from these companies.
It is experiences such as these which tell me that we are so wrong to be smug about the new global economy. It is time to stop and think about the impact of globalization on the lives of ordinary people. This is vital if we want to achieve sustainability.
We are repeatedly told that without genetic engineering and globalization of agriculture the world will starve, it is constantly promoted as the only alternative available for feeding the hungry.
Everywhere, food production is becoming a negative economy, with farmers spending more buying costly inputs for industrial production than the price they receive for their produce. The consequence is rising debts and epidemics of suicides in both rich and poor countries. Cows in the European Union receive on average $2 per day in subsidies. Over 1 billion people live in the world on less than $1 dollar a day.
Farmers in the Third World are encouraged by the IMF and the World Bank to produce cash crops for export. There are usually commodities that can be easily bought and sold on the World Markets. With fluctuating world prices, Fair trade is what can drag farmers and communities out of poverty. In some African countries it is cheaper to buy American sugar and coffee than it is to buy locally produced goods. This is because of over production and subsidies in the West which means that they then dump these goods on Africa destroying local markets.
When patents are granted to companies for seeds and plants, as in the case of basmati, saving and sharing seed is defined as theft of intellectual property. Corporations which have broad patents on crops such as cotton, soya bean and mustard are suing farmers for seed-saving and hiring detective agencies to find out if farmers have saved seed or shared it with neighbours.
As Gandhi reminded us, “The Earth has enough for everyone’s needs, but not for some people’s greed.”
This article has been adapted with the kind permission from Food Patents—Stealing Indigenous Knowledge
By: David Oglaza (founder of the Green and Ethical business http://www.guidemegreen.com)