Free trade agreements depriving of seed rights!
This is a series of deliberations about the politics behind popular market and the opportunities for successful organic agriculture markets as well as alternative markets …
There have been protests worldwide against free trade agreements, being implemented in favor of developed countries and multinational companies. One such was the protest conducted by the farmers in 2013, in Columbia, South America.
More than 60% of the farmers sieged Bogota, the capital city and other cities of the country. They went on a strike stopping the production of food for the urbanites. They poured out milk on the streets and fields. The reason for their uprising was that the country was deciding to totally forfeit the lives of its small and micro level farmers for the welfare of multinational companies.
The government of Columbia signed a free trade agreement with America and some countries of Europe. With that the products from those countries were imported to Columbia at the subsidized price. The imported products were sold at prices lower than the products produced internally. This forced the farmers of Columbia to sell their products at the very low price in the market.
Meantime, the government of Columbia also allowed multinational mega companies like Cargill in America to carry out cultivation in the vast expanses of land in Columbia. It made many legal amendments to suppress the small farmers and also get rid of them from farming. Many efforts were taken to deprive of the livelihoods of its farmers and their rights.
Having realized that they were being led to destruction the farmers started coming together from June, 2013. As it gradually gained momentum, it rapidly attracted many others, and on 19th August it spread at the national level, carrying out strike across the country, closing down all the shops. Other workers from oil refineries, mining, lorry transport, and medical workers joined hands with farmers.
On the 11th day of the protest, on 29th August, 20,000 students gathered in the city capital, Bogota, making it completely standstill. The government did not have any clue how to handle this huge protest and it therefore was fumbling. More than 250 representatives of agriculture and labor unions were arrested. Tear gas was used by the police to disperse and send away the crowd. The President of the country, Juan Manuel Sandoz declared that there was no such upheaval by the farmers in the country.
The government of Columbia was the primary reason for the protest to become serious. It gave unbridled right for the companies belonging to America, Europe, Canada and other countries to sell their seeds in Columbia. Small farmers should not maintain their own seed stock or share the seeds with others. The government of Columbia declared that it was illegal to share the seeds. Further, the government officials set fire on the warehouses of farmers, destroying about 70 tons of their seed stocks. That is why the farmers were raging unremittingly.
The protest staged by the farmers of Columbia still continues. With the ending of civil war that was continued for about fifty years, the farmers are confident that their sufferings will change for the better.
Similar state of affairs is seen in America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin American countries. In the name of protecting the farmers, they bring in seed related regulations but eventually the multinational companies target grabbing of seed markets in those countries. In all those countries the politicians have a fraudulent relationship with those multinationals. That is why the issue does not show up explicitly. Starting from mixed seeds, and green revolution, to genetically modified seeds the same corrupt politics continues.
The seed Acts are a mask in their effort to deprive of seeds from the farmers. Against all these suspicious seed regulations, there have been protests in many countries, like Ghana, Mozambique, Tanzania, Nigeria, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Mexico, Philippines, Thailand, Germany, France, Austria, Italy, Briton and India.
Even in Tamil Nadu , Tamil Nadu State Agricultural Council Act 2009 was introduced. As it faced lot of opposition, the Act was withdrawn.
There are reasons for those multinational companies showing heightened interest on agriculture and seed related trades. The way crude oil is so crucial for the Arab countries, similarly food production business is crucial for America. That is, profit is more in food production as in oil production. This was revealed by the American Intelligence Agency in 2009.
These exploitative companies will try to go any extent to get its greed fulfilled by even bringing a country’s secretariat under their control thereby executing favorable policies to gain profit. Only profit is important for them.
It is a great pity to know that those sovereign countries too make agreements in favor of those multinational companies, abandoning the welfare of the farmers, their livelihoods, seeds, and their products. It is like homicide. It is not only the rights of those farmers but the rights of the consumers that were lost due to those agreements.
So, the responsibility of protesting against any efforts in any form that endanger the rights of the farmers and on their seeds that they have been enjoying for generations, not only lies with the farmers but for the consumers too. It’s our duty to remain aware of those efforts protecting the rights of the farmers.
(To be continued)
The restored rights of the farmers in California!
There was a strong protest against the seed bill implemented in 2014 in California, the first among the American states in economic growth. The California Assembly introduced ‘Bill 2470’ (California Assembly Bill 2470- AB2470) bringing in changes to Food and Agricultural codes. With that, new conditions were introduced where sharing of seeds among the farmers and the right to sell those seeds was prevented.
The decision of ‘what to cultivate’ and ‘what not to cultivate’ was entrusted to the state secretary of Food and Agriculture Department. Though it was told that the bill was aiming at preventing spread of weed plants, there was a motive of control exercised that around 3 square miles away from a farmer’s land no seeds should be shared, exchanged, sold and stocked for selling. Strict rules were promulgated for seeds to be sold on their packaging and other related procedures. Those regulations demanded more expenditure for compliance and therefore became impossible for the ordinary farmers who used to handle small quantities of seeds. Therefore it was favorable only for multinational giants like Monsanto. And there was also a chance of spreading genetically modified seeds.
The people of that state protested against the bill incessantly and therefore in September 2016, an amendment was made to the seed sharing bill (Food and Agriculture Rules 52255.5-AB1810) and therefore the rights of the farmers were restored.
The rule was introduced in January 2017, termed as ‘Democracy of seed sharing’. By virtue of this rule, the rights of the farmers to have seeds of non commercial interest and also to share the same were protected.
(This series of articles written in Tamil by Ananthu for Pasumai Vikatan magazine dt 10th Aug 2017 has been reproduced in English by V Amalan Stanley)