In India, Bt Cotton has become one of India’s biggest cash crops, accounting for over 90% of its cotton production. If you are not familiar with Bt cotton, it stands for bacillus thuringiensis cotton. Basically, Bt is a GMO gene that is placed in the cotton plant to act as a pesticide.
The problem is: it damages the soil over time and usually farmers are left fighting another insect that Bt doesn’t repel.
One company managed to corner the market on these GMO Cotton seeds in India and, you guessed it, that company is Monsanto. The creators of Agent Orange, the deadly cancer-causing chemical that was used in Vietnam, now has an international monopoly on the GMO and seed business.
In 2005 a decision, it was announced that Monsanto’s Bt cotton seeds would be allowed in India, after much lobbying by Monsanto. Since then, there has been an alarming suicide rate among farmers in India that is connected to the failure of the Monsanto GMO (genetically modified organism) cotton seeds.
Now an agrarian crisis has hit Maharashtra itself thanks to the Monsanto program. Farmers are buying 11 packets of 450 gm per hectare as per the company’s guide for the recommended “population method” but the sudden demand and ill-managed Indian sub agents have brought the company big trouble as 50% of the Bt cotton seeds failed to germinate even after its second sowing.
The Vidarbha Janandolan Samiti farmer’s advocacy group has approached the local state Govt. of Maharashtra to arrange a high level probe of all complaints received from farmers of west Vidarbha where more than 10,000 cotton farmers have committed suicide since June 2005 after the introduction of the killer Bt cotton seeds in this region.
The Monsanto Bt cotton seed crisis heated up in early June when all Bt cotton seeds ordered by Maharashtra dealers sold out it to the adjourning Andhra farmers and there was no seed available to cater to the local market.
Monsanto sub-agents had failed to respond to a state govt. request, and then suddenly Bt cotton seeds were freely available in the market by the third week of June.
A source supply was immediately discovered and Yavatmal police raided the house of Nerendra Indurkar in the very small village of Munjala and reportedly caught him red handed packing local cotton seed in the pockets of branded Bt cotton. Police have sealed the advanced imported pocket packing machines and thousands of packets of Bt cotton seeds being sold on the premium.
However the alleged culprit, Nerendra Indurkar, was allowed to go without any interrogation. Officials at Monsanto were called and facts were shared but they denied any link with this bogus Bt cotton seed supply racket.
Now that the stage has been set and a timeline has been created, here enters the Monsanto official….
When news of a Monsanto senior official’s arrival from Mumbai reached the nearby village of Munjala, cotton farmers of the village Karanji, about 140 K.m. from Nagpur, located the Monsanto official and took him to their field where a complete failure of ‘Paras Sudarshan’ Bt cotton seed was shown to him.
When the Monsanto representative failed to admit the lapse, he was severely beaten up by the farmers. It was reported that even a local agriculture officer did not come to his rescue. This, from accounts in daily papers in Vidarbha and the Marathwada region of Maharashtra where more than 4 million hectares under Bt cotton cultivation are reporting the flood of bogus seed supplied local agents of American cotton seed MNC giant Monsanto.
At this point, although the situation was reported, the administration has failed to take any action of this serious issue. So, Vidarbha Janandolan Samiti has written to Maharashtra Chief Minister Prathiraj Chavan to order a judicial enquiry into the supply racket of bogus BT. cotton seed in Maharashtra, and also to start criminal action against the culprit, Tiwari added.
Monsanto has done a lot of horrible things without any remorse — the agent orange it made doesn’t just affect the person who comes into contact with it; it goes on to affect their children, and their children’s children. Similarly, many hard-working farmers have lost everything, including their lives, due to Monsanto.
I imagine many who read this will grin when they read what happened to the Monsanto official. Did some kind of justice get served by the Indian farmers out in that farm field? Well, maybe, but violence is never the answer. Then again, try to explain that to the India farmers.
h/t Salem News
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Photo Credit: Ranjith Shenoy