contents page
previous next
zoom out zoom in
thumbnails double page single page large double page
fit width
contents page
previous next
zoom out zoom in
thumbnails double page single page large double page
fit width


Bollu Sami Redely, confirming to the local Parliament Representative Raja Reddy who is also a member of Andhra Pradesh Ryta Sangha, from his records, that the Bt. cotton was brought to him on the 26th June for planting. The clearance for these trials was given only on the 27th July by the Department of Biotechnology which in any case is the inappropriate authority for biosafety clearance of field trials.

A woman farmer of Andhra Pradesh from the village Ulli in front of her failed cotton crop. Companies such as E.I.D. Parry, which is now owned by Monsanto, have sold spurious seed to the farmers leading to cotton failure in more than 36,000 acres. This is aggravating the cycle of debt which pushed more than 500 farmers in the district of Warangal to commit suicide last year. The suicides in the cotton areas are the propelling force behind the farmers' suspicions of corporate takeover of seed.

this market. The cotton is modified to be resistant to the boll weevil, a major cotton pest.

Of course, Monsanto wouldn't be Monsanto without a bit of subterfuge, and this is where the tale gets murkier. Monsanto apparently doesn't trust Indian farmers to swallow its propaganda as easily as i t would like. So, in order to avoid having to persuade farmers of the case for GM crops, i t has tried a different tack: growing GM crops on the farmer's land without telling him.

This is what happened to Basanna Hunsole, on whose land the first cremation took

Of course, Monsanto wouldn't be Monsanto without a bit of subterfuge, and this is where the tale gets murkier.

place. According to the farmer, he was approached in July 1998 by officials from Mahyco-Monsanto, who offered him the chance to grow - free of charge - a new variety of cotton, which they claimed would give him wonderful results. They omitted to tell him that the cotton was genetically modified, or that it had not been approved for testing by the government. In effect, Monsanto tricked Basanna Hunsole into unknowingly growing illegal crops on his land. Moreover, Basanna was unimpressed with what he saw. Despite Monsanto's claims, he said that the GM 'bollgard' cotton grew "miserably", and reached less than half the height of the traditional strains he was growing in nearby fields. Worst of all, they were heavily infested with boll weevils.

These illegal tests on Basanna Hunsole's land were carried out with no safeguards in place. There was no 'buffer zone' around the field, and none of the farmer's neighbours was notified of the potentially hazardous crops that were growing near their fields. Basanna only discovered the truth about what was growing on his land when Karnataka's Minister of Agriculture publicly announced, in November, the locations of Monsanto's test sites in the state.

Monsanto had obviously calculated that Indian farmers were easily fooled and too ignorant to bother informing about what was really happening on their own land. I t is this corporate arrogance that has enraged farmers' groups all over India, and seen support for 'Operation Cremate Monsanto' spread rapidly since its inception. After the truth about Basanna Hunsole's field was discovered, Monsanto belatedly signed a statement in which they admitted their deception, and promised to behave themselves in the future. But when, a few weeks later, the government of Andhra Pradesh announced i t was stopping all Monsanto trials in the state, i t cited similar deceptions as the reasons for its decision.

So, what future for Monsanto in India? None at all, i f another group of campaigners - the 'Monsanto Quit India' - campaign has its way. 'Monsanto Quit India' is a coalition of NFOs opposed to GM crops, and to Monsanto's attempts to monopolize Indian agriculture. It was launched on 9th August 1998 - the anniversary of the day when Gandhi famously told the British to 'Quit India'. Now, say the coalition, the same message is being sent to Monsanto's headquarters in Illinois. The Monsanto Quit India campaign has already distributed thousands of 'Quit India' postcards to

NGOs, community groups and farmers across the country. So far, just four months after the campaign began, over 10,000 people have signed these postcards and sent them to Monsanto's headquarters.

Resistance to Monsanto, and to their vision of a future where farmers everywhere wil l be dependent on global corpora-

What future for Monsanto in India ? None at all, if another group of campaigners - the 'Monsanto Quit India' campaign has its way.

tions for their livelihood, and where consumers have no choice about the food they eat, is growing fast in India. The recent decision by the Indian government to allow the mass import of American soya beans is beginning to alert the Indian public to the potential hazards of GM foods. Campaigners say that, due to the lack of labelling, there is no way of telling whether or not the beans from America are genetically modified.

The Monsanto Quit India campaign already claims tens of thousands of supporters, as do the various organisations and local efforts concentrating on burning Monsanto's crops until the corporation begins to listen to those who have worked the land for generations. Perhaps in future, before Monsanto claims that its supercrops are the only way to save the people in developing countries from a future of penury and hunger, they might care to ask those people themselves. In India, at least, they wil l find themselves increasingly unwelcome.n


The Ecologist, Vol. 28, No 1, January/February 1999 A Very Happy Birthday for NAFTA. by Paul Kingsnorth

predatory acts against his business.

Everybody's favourite regional 'free' trade treaty is celebrating its fifth year. And this could be the best birthday i t has ever had. For NAFTA - and the giant, unaccountable multinationals which i t serves - could be about to receive a wonderful birthday gift: the right to override the legal verdicts of American juries in the interests of corporate profit.

Readers of The Ecologist wil l probably be less than surprised to hear another tale of corporate predators seeking to use international trading agreements to overturn national laws which get in the way of their business activities. Today, any nation foolhardy enough to defend its own laws designed to protect the environment, safeguard jobs, or favour the small and local over the enormous and global, wil l soon find an army of corporate lawyers baying for its blood, waving the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the statutes of the World Trade Organization (WTO) or, perhaps at some time in the near future, the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI). At the same time, anybody naive enough to question the rapid development of a New World Order in which the interests of vast, unaccountable private companies take precedence over those of elected governments wil l be told, patiently, that this model of 'development' is the only way to ensure the world's future prosperity.

The latest demonstration of corporate despotism disguised as 'free' trade comes from the USA, and is perhaps the most worrying example yet. In this case, a foreign company is not only claiming millions of dollars worth of damages from the US government for 'restriction' of its trade, but is seeking to overturn the verdict of a jury of twelve ordinary Americans, which decided that the company had acted illegally in the first place.

The Loewen Group is a Canadian funeral company, which owns more than 700 funeral homes and 109 cemeteries across the USA. In 1995, i t was involved in a legal dispute with a small businessman named Jeremiah O'Keefe. O'Keefe, the owner of a small family funeral parlour in Mississippi, took Loewen to court, complaining that they were using their size and power to drive small, local businesses like his to the wall. He alleged that Loewen had committed various illegal, anti-competitive and

A Mississippi jury agreed with O'Keefe, and awarded him damages totaling $500 million. Glenn Millen, the foreman of the jury, said of the Loewen case, "ordinary people saw through this company and, quite frankly, I don't see how they have a leg to stand on."

And there it should have ended: a predatory multinational penalized by a citizen jury for attempting to drive a smaller rival out of business. Large companies like Loewen have come to dominate the American funeral industry in recent years. In this context, Jeremiah O'Keefe's legal victory set a significant precedent for other small firms to follow.

But Loewen would not give up. Defeated by US State law, it turned to NAFTA for salvation. The North American Free Trade Agreement, under which Canada, the US and Mexico agreed to remove all barriers to mutual trade, was passed in the US Congress in 1993 by just four votes. As with other such supranational agreements, its ultimate effect is to give the interests of corporations precedence over those of democratic governments, and the people they represent. Buried deep in the hundreds of pages of dry prose that make up the agreement is Chapter 11, which clearly lays out the principle that foreign investors must be treated in the same way as domestic ones. Loewen, with clever lawyers has managed to use this chapter of the treaty to bring a legal case against the US government, claiming substantial cash damages for violating NAFTA.

This is the first time that the Chapter 11 provisions of NAFTA - which allow a corporation to directly sue a government for cash damages, to compensate for investment denied - have been used in the US, and it sets a hugely important precedent. I f Loewen wins the case, and succeeds in overturning a jury verdict and squeezing millions of taxpayers' dollars out of the US government, it could conceivably spell doom for small businesses all over America. It wil l certainly mean that any other multinationals which are currently having trouble picking off their smaller rivals wil l start forming an orderly queue outside their lawyers' offices.

Loewen claims that Mississippi's civil justice system violated international norms of 'fairness', by discriminating against the corporation because it was Canadian. They also claim that, in awarding damages to

"NAFTA is not so much about trade as about creating powerful new rights for corporations and investors." - Lori Wallach, Director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch.

Jeremiah O'Keefe, the court attempted to 'expropriate' Loewen's assets without compensating the company. Both of these accusations, were they true, would be violations of NAFTA. Overall, says Loewen, the court case which they lost was a 'denial of justice'. Those involved in the original case, though, point out that Loewen's claims are disingenuous, to say the least. Glenn Millen, the foreman of the original jury, calls Loewen's NAFTA action "indefensible". The jury's verdict he says, was reached simply because Loewen was clearly in the wrong. "The thing I really just don't get," he says, "is what NAFTA and trade has to do with Loewen. They acted like crooks and were found liable. End of story."

But Lori Wallach, the Director of the US NGO Public Citizen's 'Global Trade Watch', thinks she does get it. As she has been pointing out since NAFTA's inception (and as she highlighted in her Ecologist article in May/June 1998) NAFTA is "not so much about trade as about creating powerful new rights for corporations and investors at the expense of the public interest and democratic governance." The Loewen case, she says, is merely the next, logical step for NAFTA to take as it seeks to meet these objectives.

"This case is not before any US court," she points out, "but wil l be heard by a NAFTA tribunal, without any of the due

The Ecologist, Vol. 29, No 1, January/February 1999