SEED FREEDOM AND FOOD FREEDOM
Since the second world war, fought over the control of resources, Oil Companies and Chemical Corporations that were beneficiaries of the World Wars – like Monsanto – have influenced geopolitical policy (masquerading as food policy) to create peace-time demand for and dependence on fossil fuels and toxic chemicals in the global food system. A system waging war on nature and human beings forcing countries to use war chemicals and technologies in the name of agricultural innovation. A system that creates heavily subsidised chemical food and commodities that are incapable of nourishing humanity or protecting the planet and its vital ecological processes. A system that, by design, wastes 50% of global food and creates global hunger leaving a billion people perpetually hungry and 2 billion people suffering from food related diseases. A system that contributes 40% of green house gas emissions and is largely responsible for the climate crisis we face.
Within the last century, healthy, natural, organic food has been made more difficult to produce because of the chemical pollution, at first, and genetic pollution, more recently. A handful of companies have spread these toxics across our planet diverting US$ 400 Billion of public money to subsidise their high cost chemical commodities to make them artificially “cheap”. The costs of this “cheap” food are astronomical in terms of the health of people, the ecological damage it causes and it’s exploitation of farmers. If the true costs of chemical food were taken into account it would be unaffordable. Instead of subsidising chemical food and creating epidemics of food related diseases, public money, used for nourishment and the protection of public health through organic food would save us billions in health care. Denying people their right to healthy, poison-free food by manipulating laws, policy, science and the use of public money to impose a non-sustainable, unhealthy food is food-dictatorship.
This food-dictatorship has now grown to threaten our seeds, the source of all food. Without the diversity of open-pollinated, freely available, freely exchanged open-source seed humanity will not have food – we will only have toxic commodities.
“Control oil and you control nations; control food and you control the people”.
– Henry Kissinger
“Control seed and you control life, itself”.
– Dr. Vandana Shiva
Through imposing laws related to Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) & patents on seed which deny farmers and gardner the right to save and share seed, pseudo ‘Hygiene’ laws called Sanitary and Phyto-Sanitary (SPS) laws such as the Food Safety Modernisation Act in the US which deny local, small scale artisanal producers the right to produce and process safe and healthy food, and Acts like the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015 (more accurately labeled the Denying Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act), our diversity, freedoms and right to health are being criminalised. Precedent after precedent (See Bowman v/s Monsanto, Michael White v/s Monsanto, Percy Schmeiser – David v/s Monsanto, or the case of Steve Marsh in Australia) is being crafted to erode our rights to food and diversity, ensuring that in the long run all food and seed (except genetically modified, corporate owned sources of uniform seed) are made illegal and made to disappear.
The freedoms we enjoy today are the fruits of the struggles of our ancestors and forbearers, who refused to co-operate with unjust laws – whether it was slavery in the US, or racial segregation in South Africa and the US, or the colonisation of India. Our freedoms are gifts of Civil Disobedience and Satyagraha. In 1848, Henry David Thoreau coined the term ‘civil disobedience’ in his essay on why his commitment to the abolition of slavery led to his refusal to pay poll tax. Higher moral laws compel citizens to disobey lower laws that institutionalise injustice and violence.
“The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right.
It is truly enough said that a corporation has no conscience; but a corporation of conscientious men is a corporation with a conscience. Law never made men a whit more just; and, by means of their respect for it, even the well-disposed are daily made the agents of injustice”
“One has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws”
– Martin Luther King Jr.
“As long as the superstition exists that unjust laws must be obeyed, so long will slavery exist”
– Mahatma Gandhi
It is for times such as these that Gandhi used Satyagraha – the force of truth to resist unjust laws peacefully and non violently. He first used Satyagraha in South Africa in 1906 to refuse to cooperate with the laws of the apartheid regime imposing compulsory registration on the basis of race. Our diversity, as the peoples of the world, includes the diversities of our cultures and our foods; and must be celebrated. Higher laws that flow from the laws of the Earth, reaffirmed by the laws of our humanity, compel us to question and resist the imposition of laws based on uniformity as an instrument of control being forced upon our diversity as peoples, cultures and the other species, which we have a duty to protect and defend.
The strategic implementation of post-war chemical agriculture has, in the last century, systematically destroyed the diversity that would be our greatest strength in combating the climate crisis created, to a large extent, by this very system of production and consumption of chemical food. In this period we have lost 93% of the varieties of food crops. The loss of this diversity in our diets has led to nutritional deficiencies. Having created these deficiencies by eroding diversity, chemical and biotechnology corporations are now offering the disease of monocultures as a cure for malnutrition through bio-fortification. Golden Rice is a startling example of the failed, obsolete science being used to impose food slavery on the people of the world. Especially the poorest, from the people of Africa and Argentina to the 300,000 farmers in India who have been driven to suicide by these new age colonisers through royalty collection and destruction of alternative sources of seed.
The “Free Trade” agreements of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) were the first attempt by chemical corporations like Monsanto, along with trade corporations like Cargill, to create Seed Slavery and Food Dictatorship. Monsanto wrote the intellectual property agreement related to life forms, plants and animals. Cargill wrote the agricultural agreement and the food processing industry wrote the sanitary and phyto-sanitary agreement of the WTO. In effect all WTO agreements that impact our food and agriculture are corporate laws – first imposed on governments and later imposed through governments. People’s movements challenged corporate rule and corporate laws, prevented the corporate takeover of our seed and food through the WTO.
After failing to achieve their goal, through the WTO, these corporations are now creating ‘New’ ‘Free Trade’ treaties like the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), Trans Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and various bilateral and regional agreements, undermining national constitutions and laws, and changing existing laws to better suit their own interests, not those of the citizens of the various countries. Corporations, now desperate, are using undemocratic, illegitimate and unethical means to try and achieve their goal of a totalitarian dictatorship on food.
The chemical giants Monsanto, BASF, Bayer, Dupont, Syngenta and Dow have cross licensing arrangements, through which patented genetically engineered seed traits are shared among them , essentially forming one monopolistic Seed Cartel. Monsanto is attempting to buy Syngenta, thereby creating an even larger, more powerful entity, and avoiding US taxation and liability by shifting their offices out of the US.
How Democratic rights of farmers and citizens are being denied
1) The Monsanto Law of WTO : Written by Monsanto, Article 27.3 (b) of the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement allows patents through Genetic Manipulation even. This law was due for mandatory review in 1999. The US Government has been blocking the review of this law in collusion with Monsanto, which has been charging illegal royalties on patents on life through this law.
2) Breeder’s Rights Laws, known differently in different places, do not actually protect the rights of Plant Breeders, except corporate entities. The work of farmers, breeders, and even public sector agriculture universities, is being negated and denied. Through these laws the Seed Sovereignty of farmers and gardeners is being made illegal.
3) Seed Laws based on uniformity, and compulsory licensing and registration, criminalizing biodiversity and the act of seed saving. Since 2004, Monsanto has attempted to install legislation of their own in various places – India’s 2004 The Seeds Bill, which would require farmers to register their own seeds and take licenses, effectively criminalizing the saving of traditional varieties of all seeds was prevented from becoming an Act. Attempts in Argentina failed as well. In the same year, they managed to pass a federal Seed Act 2004 in the US which is now being used to shut down seed libraries across the US, classifying them as “Agriterrorists”.
4) International and national biosafety laws that protect the environment and public health and guarantee citizens the right to safe food are being diluted and subverted. Monsanto is intent on imposing the fallacy of “Substantial Equivalence of GMOs” on other countries through Harmonisation of laws in the TPP and TTIP, undermining the constitutions and Biosafety laws of those countries by force.
5) Laws like the DARK Act in the US to deny citizens the right to know what they are feeding their families and the right to labelling. Most importantly, the DARK Act prevents the identification of Monsanto products, laden with chemicals like RoundUp, that have been proven to cause cancers, birth defects and are strongly linked to the meteoric rise of autism seen only in the US, where Genetically Modified food has been forced on citizens without consent. Labelling would enable establishment of Monsanto’s liability in endangering the health of American citizens.
6) In a move to throttle the thriving alternatives – that people are choosing over the corporate, toxic food system – local, organic, artisanal food is being criminalised through Food Safety Modernisation Acts while toxic, industrial chemical food is being given a free pass, ignoring the destruction caused by factory farming to the climate, soils and our health.
7) Investor-State Dispute Settlement Mechanisms, built into TTP and TTIP, allow corporations to sue Governments protecting the environment and public interest, essentially holding corporations in higher grace than the constitutions of entire nations and the rights of citizens those Constitutions are bound to protect. This would deny nations the ability to ban GMOs or the use of highly toxic chemicals from the same Seed Cartel.
If feeding the world was the goal for these corporations they would not need to make available and potential alternatives illegal, alternatives that have the power to nourish the world without the destruction of our health and the health of the planet. This corporate rule is being forced upon us because nobody will choose to feed their families empty, toxic commodities of their own free will. We will not allow our rights to healthy, natural, organic food be superseded by the imaginary rights of fictitious entities to unrestricted profits. The fact that alternatives exist makes it our moral obligation to protect these alternatives. Corporate dictatorship on food cannot co-exist with the laws of ecology and the laws of the planet. It cannot coexist with human freedoms and liveable, just and democratic societies.
Satyagraha against this corporate rule, civil disobedience of fabricated, unjust laws, being forced on all citizens, across all cultures, in all societies, has become a moral and survival imperative. Whenever and wherever citizens and movements have organised against unjust seed and food laws, the corporations have had to retreat. This has happened with seed related laws in India, Europe, Columbia, Chile, Brazil and the struggle for Seed Freedom and Food Freedom continues all over the world. Through Satyagraha and Civil Disobedience we can end Seed Slavery and Food Dictatorship and build alternatives that protect and nourish the planet and people.