Nov 26/98: Indian farmers call for action against Monsanto


Professor Nanjunda Swamy
Thursday, November 26, 1998

Dear friends,

Monsanto's field trials in Karnataka will be reduced to ashes, starting on Saturday. Two days ago the Minister of Agriculture of Karnataka gave a press conference where he was forced by the journalists to disclose the three sites where field trials with Bt cotton are being conducted (for background information about the trials, see appendix 2 at the bottom). KRRS activists have already contacted the owners of these fields, to explain them which action will be taken, and for what reasons, and to let them know that the KRRS will cover any loses they will suffer. On Saturday the 28th of November, at midday, thousands of farmers will occupy and burn down the three fields in front of the cameras, in an open, announced action of civil disobedience.

These actions will start a campaign of direct action by farmers against biotechnology, called Operation 'Cremation Monsanto', which will not stop until all the corporate killers like Monsanto, Novartis, Pioneer etc leave the country. Farmers' leaders from the states of Maharastra, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh (states where Monsanto is also conducting field trials) were yesterday in Bangalore to prepare the campaign.

The campaign will run under the following slogans:

along with a more specific message for all those who have invested on Monsanto: You should rather take your money out before we reduce it to ashes.

We know that stopping biotechnology in India will not be of much help to us if it continues in other countries, since the threats that it poses do not stop at the borders. We also think that the kind of actions that will be going on in India have the potential not only to kick those corporate killers out of our country: if we play our cards right at global level and coordinate our work, these actions can also pose a major challenge to the survival of these corporations in the stock markets. Who wants to invest in a mountain of ashes, in offices that are constantly being squatted (and if necessary even destroyed) by activists?

For these reasons, we are making an international call for direct action against Monsanto and the rest of the biotech gang. This call for action will hopefully inspire all the people who are already doing a brilliant work against biotech, and many others who so far have not been very active on the issue, to join hands in a quick, effective worldwide effort.

This is a very good moment to target Monsanto, since it has run out of cash in its megalomaniac attempt to monopolise the life industry in record time. It is going now through a hard time of layoffs and restructuration in a desperate effort to survive, since it cannot pay its bills. It is also a good time because several recent scandals (like the pulping of the Monsanto edition of The Ecologist, the whole "Terminator Technology" affair, the illegal introduction of Bt Cotton in Zimbabwe, etc) have contributed to its profile as corporate killer, which, being the creators of Vietnam War's Agent Orange and rBHG, was already good enough, anyhow.

We are hence making a call to:

* Take direct actions against biotech TNCs, particularly Monsanto (be it squatting or burning their fields, squatting or destroying their offices, etc)

* Maintain the local or/and national press informed about all the actions going on around the world

* Take direct actions at stock exchanges targeting Monsanto, to draw attention on its state of bankruptcy

We are making this call for action on the line of Peoples' Global Action (PGA), a worldwide network of peoples' movements, in order to emphasize the political analysis beyond our opposition to biotechnology. This analysis does not only take environmental concerns into account, and is not limited to the defense of food security - it attacks neoliberal globalisation as a whole, the WTO regime as its most important tool, and the global power structures (G8, NATO, etc) as the root of all these problems. You will find the complete political analysis on the manifesto of the PGA, which you will find in the web page

The fact that this call for action takes place on line with PGA also has other implications:

* We are calling ONLY for non-violent direct actions. Non-violence in this context means that we should respect all (non-genetically modified) living beings, including policemen and the people who work for these TNCs

* The campaign will take place in a decentralised manner, and nobody should speak on behalf of other people involved in the campaign without their consent (also not on behalf of PGA, of course); however, people are welcome to report about the actions of others without pretending to represent them.

If you want to be informed of what is going on around the world on this matter, please send a message to> with the message on the text body. This way you will be informed about what is going on in India and in other countries. (The list will be active a few hours after we send this message).

Please, try not write back to this address, since we will be madly busy in the next days with the mobilisations. However, if you have good contacts with international media (CNN, BBC, TV5, etc) and want to help us to get them here to cover the bonfire at Monsanto's field please let us know as soon as possible.

Friendly greetings,

Prof. Nanjundaswamy
President, Karnataka State Farmers Association


Samykta Karnataka
November 25, 1998

It has come to light that the American Ambassador in Dehli has written to the Government of the State of Karnataka asking to provide a strong police protection to all American companies in the city.

Pointing out the previuos repeated attacks on American companies by "miscreants", the Ambassador has requested the State Government to create an atmosphere without fear and anxiety for them to work.

He has stressed the need for a special security for companies related to science and technology and also the their hundreds of foreign companies in the city.

Tight Security for Monsanto

Anticipating attack on the offices of Monsanto in Bangalore, tight security has been provided from today, top police sources confirmed.

Police have said in their note that they are providing security for the company owning the Terminator Technology and having the right to sell seeds which do not germinate for the second time. In a city where most of the TNCs are based, the present developments have made them to work with fear and anxiety.


Professor Nanjunda Swamy
November 23, 1998

Dear friends,

On Monday the 16th the public was informed by Indian newspapers that Monsanto (well known in India for the Terminator Technology) has been conducting 40 field trials with genetically manipulated cotton across five Indian states for the last three months. Monsanto is testing a hybrid cotton seed that has been genetically engineered to produce the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) enzyme. The permission granted by the federal government in Delhi pertains the states of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andrah Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. Now that peoples' movements are starting to mobilise on this matter, the same central government that granted the permission is inviting Monsanto to leave the country.

Monsanto has formed a joint venture with Mahyco (a 30 years old seed company) to carry out these field trails. According to the media, Monsanto now owns 26 percent of Mahyco.

In the rest of the message I include some excerpts of the newspaper coverage of this affaire. We will keep you informed of the developments in this part of the world, which will most probably include a number of nonviolent direct actions to burn down the genetically modified crops and kick Monsanto physically out of the country. We encourage you to do similar actions all over the world maybe we can make Monsanto's shareholders feel our pressure reflected on the value of their stocks.

Friendly greetings,

Prof. Nanjundaswamy
President, Karnataka State Farmers Association

"Curiously though agriculture is a state subject, Karnataka Government seems unaware of the trials going on in the State. Agriculture Minister C. Byre Gowda admitted that he had been informend of the ongoing trials but was unaware of where they were being undertaken in Karnataka or in Maharashtra."
- The Indian Express, Bangalore edition, November 16, cover page

"The trials started three months ago although the "Ministry of Science and Technology has admitted that it does not have the requisite regulatoy regimen to assess the risk of dealing with such transgenic material for which biosafty guidelines have only now been issued." In that sense, the University of Agriculture Science (UAS) Bangalore warned that "The genetic modification involved in geneticlly engineered hybrid seeds is a concealed one that cannot be ascertaiened with existing regulations of the seed act and quarantine." B.R. Hedge, Director of Research at UAS, affirmed that "The Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) was only now starting to look at ways which regulatory mechnisms should be put in place to check the clandestine import of such genetic material. Nevertheless, for the moment we have nothing ready"

- all quotes from The Indian Express, Bangalore edition, November 18, cover page & page 9

The KRRS has issued a deadline to the State Government and Monsanto to disclose the places where the trials are being conducted and the exact description of the seeds that are being tested. "'Monsanto should reveal immediately where the trials are being conducted' failing which 'direct action would follow on the company's office in Malleswaram' he [Prof. Nanjundaswamy] threatened. 'The government can foist 100 cases of attempt to murder [against us], but we will throw it [Monsanto] out... first from Karnataka, next from Maharashtra' ... The former professor of law wondered how the State's Agriculture Minister could be unaware of the trials. 'The Government cannot continue for three minutes' considering its irresponsible behaviour, he said".

- The Indian Express, Bangalore edition, November 20, page 4

"'Monsanto will have to leave the country within a week. Otherwise we will be forced to throw them out. We have given a day's ultimatum to the company to furnish details about the seed trials undertaken in the state and the country.'"

- Prof. Nanjundasway in The Times of India, Bangalore edition, November 20, p. 5
Although the field trials are testing BT cotton, the Indian press and politiciancs seem to be rather confused and are mixing up this issue with the terminator technology, which has been used by opponents of Monsanto as an example of the destructive potential of this corporation. However, this confusion is making it easier for Monsanto to reject any accusation by denying the use of this technology. Here are some statements about this issue taken from the last days press.
"Second and Third World markets are the main targets for the terminator seed."
- William Phelps, Spokesman, Department of Agriculture, USA; quoted in The Indian Express, Bangalore edition, November 18, cover page

"It is not merely the economic factors that threaten the poor farmers of the world, but it is nature of the Terminator gene itself, since the pollen >from the crops carrying the Terminator will infect the fields of farmers who either reject, or cannot afford the technology."

- UAS, quoted in The Indian Express, Bangalore edition, November 18, cover page

"This is a terminator of biodiversity, terminator of food security. It is a damaging technology because pollination pollution can render all indigenous varieties sterile. This gene will slowly remove all characteristics of germination from seeds. This means the harvest seeds cannot be used for sowing during the next seseason. It will also force seed dependency on farmers who cannot afford to buy seeds. Monoculture was introduced in the country in 1965 with an aim to provide food security. When Green Revolution Technology introduced monoculture it was thought the method would be very effective. Terminatorgene is being dubbed as a second Green Revolution Technology. This, too, will prove ineffective. Genetically modified seeds are polluting the local species. It will not solve the food problem, in fact it will terminate food security along with biodiversity."

- Prof. Nanjundaswamy, quoted in The Times of India, Bangalore edition, November 20, p. 5

The sincerity of Monsanto can be easily assessed by the usual roguish reply it gave to the critics:
"Monsanto will only bring to India, products and technologies which are consistent with what India wants and its laws aprove.... Monsanto has not, and will not, bring to India any technology that will adversely affect the environment, current agricuture practices and force farmers to use any technology it provides."
- Monsanto statement, as quoted in Deccan Herald, Bangalore edition, November 21, p. 9
Yesterday the Union Minister for Rural Development, Babagouda Patil, declared that "Monsanto will be asked to leave India" (headline, The Times of India, Bangalore edition, November 23, p. 5).

"He said that he recieved Information that Monsanto is developing and conducting field trials on the 'terminator gene' seeds at a private farm in Ranebennur taluk of Haveri district. 'I have informed the Prime Minister and Union Agriculture Minister', he said. He said he knew the complications arising out of the issue due to WTO stipulations. 'But the government will not compromise on this issue as scores of farmers' lives will be in danger. The terminator gene seed will pose a serious threat to Indian agriculture.' The Union cabinet is expected to deliberate on the issue besides initiating measures to close Monsanto's buisness operations in the country... He said that the Center would not hesitate to withdraw from WTO if its provisions threaten our very existence."
- The Times of India, Bangalore edition, November 23, p. 5

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