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Vandana Shiva: Why Monsanto Is Fighting Tooth and Nail Against California's Prop 37

One of the world's most renowned scientists and environmental activists, Vandana Shiva, is speaking out on behalf of proposition 37 -- a California effort to label genetically modified foods.

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This is why we are making a call for “seed freedom” globally. And we have created the Global Citizen’s Alliance for Seed Freedom which issued a new report. The report is global, both in the positive steps that citizens are taking everywhere to liberate seeds and fight these corporations, as well in as the new laws and the new implementations they’re trying to shape.

If you take it all into account what we really need is something like the abolition movement. It was a handful of people who thought it was wrong that people should own other people. When I started 25 years ago it was a handful of us who thought it was wrong that some companies should decide to declare life as their creation and property and then extract royalties and close our options.

Why are GMOs spreading so much? Because GMOs are connected to patents. Only when GMOs grow will they collect the royalties. That’s why all of Latin America grows Round Up Ready soya. All of Brazil grows Round Up Ready soya. All of the farming areas of the mid-west of this country grows GM corn and soya. Two percent of the soya is eaten as food. The myth that GMOs are feeding the world is a big lie. It is feeding the hunger for profits for just five corporations: Monsanto, Dupont, Syngenta, Basf, and Dow.

Kolhatkar: The standard argument is that they can create genetically modified plants that are drought resistant and resistant to all of the temperaments of nature, but in reality, don’t these GM seeds often require more chemical intervention, which then Monsanto happily sells to farmers?

Shiva: Well, so far in these 20 years of commercialization of GM crops (and we’re not talking about the future we are talking about an experiment of twenty years), there are only two traits that have commercialized on a large scale. One is a family of crops called the BT crops in which a toxin is taken from a soil organism and put into the plant. The claim is that it will control one pest called the boll worm. But that pest has become resistant and new pests have been created. In India 13 times more pesticide is being used on cotton compared to what was being used before.

The second family is the Round Up resistant crops or the herbicide resistant crops. These herbicide resistant crops were supposed to control weeds. Instead, the US has fifteen million hectares of land overtaken by super weeds that can’t be controlled by Round Up. Now they are asking farmers to spray Agent Orange that was sprayed in Vietnam.

So it is not the case that GMOs do the work of weed control and pest control. Ecological farming does that much better. The argument that they can engineer climate resilience with a single gene is, again, a false claim. It’s an anti-scientific claim. All complex traits like resilience to the environmental stress whether it is climate or a pest are multi-genetic traits. Many genes come into play.

These seeds have been evolved by farmers and nature over millennia. My organization, Navdanya, with its 110 seed banks, saves climate resilient crops because we know that this is what farmers need today: salt tolerant seeds that we can use after cyclones, flood tolerant seeds after flooding, and drought tolerant seeds. All that the companies are doing is stealing and engaging in bio-piracy of what farmers have already bred.

An herbicide tolerant crop means they sell more herbicide. They have said very clearly in conversations I’ve had with them that “every failure is a success.” When Round Up ready 1 fails, they bring in Round Up Ready 2 with two genes of Round Up resistance. When Boll Guard 1 fails with one gene of a BT toxin, they bring in Boll Guard 2 with two genes and they’ve now carried on up to 8 genes. Every single time they stack up the royalties.

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