Tuesday, February 9, 2010

India Tells Biotech Industry Where to Put its Aubergines

The good news today is that India has decided to place a moratorium on subjecting the country to genetically modified aubergine (eggplant/brinjal). The usual industry 'scientists' and 'experts' did everything they could and managed to drum up (pay for) the support of some senior politicians. But this time common sense has prevailed.

It remains to be seen whether the country is sensible enough to treat other genetically modified organisms (GMO) the same way. It will also be interesting to see if other developing countries are tricked into accepting GMOs based on the industry lies about their increasing yields, being more nutritious, being better for the environment, being drought resistant and whatever make-believe rubbish they come up with.

Sadly, it's too late for India's cotton farmers. They were promised increased yields, but yields have stayed the same or decreased. They were promised lower costs from reduced pesticide use but pesticide use (and therefore costs) is steadily increasing. Seeds for GMOs are far more expensive than those for conventional crops. Prices have also increased far more rapidly and farmers are not permitted to store cotton seed for later planting.

In addition to damaging the environment, especially through reduced biodiversity, the whole of India's cotton industry is contaminated with genetically modified cotton. It is probably not possible to reverse this process so if any farmers are still trying to grow conventional cotton crops, they will soon face demands for payments from the multinationals that sell the seeds (something already happening with Brazilian soy beans).

As a result, many Indian farmers have gone bankrupt or are facing bankruptcy. The costs are so high that others have tried to pull out of cotton production. Some have found that they have no viable alternative livelihood remaining and leave farming altogether. And thousands of farmers have committed suicide because their businesses have been ruined by this genetically modified cotton, a phenomenon that has been going on for at least a decade.

Only a few countries have been rash enough to grow GMOs on a large scale and only a handful of crops are available in genetically modified forms. But the industry seems to have unlimited amounts of money available to 'persuade' powerful people to support them. In addition to DfID, the Gates Foundation is also interested in GMOs. It's hard to know whether the Gates Foundation has bought into the hype or whether they have bought into the industry. Ok, it's not hard to know, they have well and truly bought into the industry.


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