Report: Anti-Monsanto Protest at the US Embassy

Silent Protest in front of US Embassy/USAID office in Maharajgung, Kathmandu

Date of the protest: 25th November 2011

Time of the protest: 3:30 pm to 5:30 pm

Demand of the protest: Transparency and Dialogue: Demand USAID and the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives to release documents and details on the proposed seed program.

Ultimate demand: Demand USAID and Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives to cancel the proposed “hybrid maize project” with Monsanto.

Participants from various backgrounds gathered in front of the Teaching Hospital in Maharajgung to protest a controversial agreement between Monsanto, Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MoAC) and USAID to introduce Monsanto’s hybrid seed in Nepal. Farmers from the group “Rastriya Krisak Samuha Sammelan Mahasangh Nepal” were present at the Protest. According to a member of the gropu, Mr. Udhab Adhikari, farmers from the Kathmandu Valley are united and in the group; however they would really like to unite farmers from all over Nepal and fight for a same cause.

The turnout was anywhere between 250 and 300. While, we were stopped from going close to the USAID office, since the police drew an imaginary line that was unlawful to cross. We tried to negotiate with the police, but we could not cross the line. However, we were able to deliver a note with our demands and signatures to the embassy representative with our signatures. While, the official press release from the US Embassy, concerning the agreement is still in US Embassy’s website, the MoAC keeps denying that any deal has been signed.

Three TV channels and two newspapers, and a dozen of freelance journalists covered the protest.  Republic had a picture in their front page with a one like quotation saying “Nepali and Foreign youths stage protest near the US Embassy in Kathmandu against Introduction of a genetically engineered seeds in Nepal”. The Himalayan Times had a small piece quoting Mr. Mishra, one of the participants, happened to provide some false information. However, I have spoken to Mr. Mishra and “The Himalayan Times” in order to clarify it, and make sure all the campaigners are in the same page, and we don’t appear fragmented. Mr. Mishra has been provided with adequate information. Overall, media coverage was not adequate. On a brighter side, a lot of freelance journalists are working on the issue as long-term project; some of them are following the story.

There was a great display of solidarity the protest. Later in the evening, an anti-Monsanto concert was organized by a punk bank called “rais ko rees”. Anti-Monsanto banner saying “Get Monsanto out of Earth” was hung on the stage. Moreover, some of the attendees could be seen with anti-Monsanto slogans written in their T-shirts.

Another protest is on the plan, possibly in front of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MoAC).

Kusum Hachhethu

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Navdanya means “nine seeds” (symbolizing protection of biological and cultural diversity) and also the “new gift” (for seed as commons, based on the right to save and share seeds In today’s context of biological and ecological destruction, seed savers are the true givers of seed. This gift or “dana” of Navadhanyas (nine seeds) is the ultimate gift – it is a gift of life, of heritage and continuity. Conserving seed is conserving biodiversity, conserving knowledge of the seed and its utilization, conserving culture, conserving sustainability.

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