Transgenics, poverty and ecological disaster

Transgenics, poverty and ecological disaster

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By Verónica González

It is estimated that more than 125,000 farmers have taken their lives as a result of the ruthless campaign that has turned India into a testing ground for genetically modified crops. Official figures from the Indian Ministry of Agriculture confirm that more than 1000 peasants kill themselves each month

In India we find clear examples of the disasters caused by the introduction of technologies controlled by multinationals to organize production aimed at the global market. Punjab, India's most prosperous agricultural region, is currently the victim of an ecological and social disaster, as is Warangal. Farmers traditionally grew legumes, millet and rice for local food. They were poor, but they had no debts. The seed companies proposed to them to plant hybrid cotton seeds, a raw material for the global textile industry. These seeds known as "white gold" would lead them out of their poverty. However, these promises proved unsuccessful. Their native seeds were displaced with new hybrids that they did not control. These hybrids could not be stored, forcing farmers to buy the seed at a high price every year. GM seeds are 1000% more expensive in Maharashtra than traditional seeds. Cotton crops failed and farmers were heavily in debt.

Many farmers in Warangal cannot cope with the rising costs of production and marketing of these hybrid crops. As seeds are very vulnerable to attacks by pests, spending on pesticides increased by 2000%, from 1980 to 1997. Now large multinationals are trying to introduce seeds resistant to these pests through genetic engineering that will further increase costs and ecological risks. So farmers from the Andhra Pradesh Farmers Union in Warangal uprooted Monsanto's genetically modified Bollgard cotton.

The cultivation of transgenics requires a large amount of water, pesticides and fertilizers.

Around 50% of world production practices irrigated crops that are too demanding in water, which means that seas such as the Aral, in Central Asia, have lost almost half their surface area when two rivers that fed it were diverted to irrigate plantations of cotton and rice. There are projects underway for its rehabilitation, but a large amount of transgenic cotton is still grown in the area and there is no thought to reduce its cultivation.

The Warangal drought, where more than 50 million people are facing hunger, is not a natural disaster. It is caused by multinationals like Monsanto that promote in arid regions such as Gujarat and Rajasthan, with scarce groundwater, thirsty crops for export instead of local crops, less water consumers and destined to meet the food needs of their population.

To produce a cotton T-shirt you need 150 g of chemicals and 2000 liters of water. 16% of the total pesticides used in the world go to cotton and its intensive production requires between 7,000 and 29,000 liters of water per kg. fiber. Each hectare of land accumulates 1 kg of dangerous substances per season. Conventional brands in the textile sector that use cotton for their garments do not guarantee ethical behavior throughout their production line, and the more expensive brands such as Lacoste or Diesel are the ones that offer the least social and environmental guarantees to producers. By buying from C&A and “FRUIT of the LOOM”, we contribute to the lack of respect for workers' rights in Brazil, China, Pakistan, Turkey, Bangladesh and Romania, in the former case and in Cambodia, Jordan, Morocco, India and Indonesia, in the second case. If we buy from H&M, we encourage child labor and overtime among its workers. Of the € 10 that a cotton t-shirt costs us, the worker who has collected it will only receive 2 cents.

It is a lie that BT cotton has higher yields than conventional cotton. In the US, Argentina, Colombia and Australia, total cotton yields remained constant after the switch from conventional cotton to Bt cotton. The increase in yields in India and China was not due to transgenic technology, but to the exploitation of the farmers. In Xinjiang, China's largest cotton-producing province, where the country's highest yields are achieved, mostly conventional cotton is grown and not transgenic varieties. According to a study by the University of Andra, in India, Bt cotton requires the same amount of pesticides and pesticides as conventional cotton. In Africa, transgenic crops have lower yields than conventional varieties and are used to feed animals in rich countries and to produce industrial products such as agrofuels.

The main cotton producers worldwide are China, the United States, India, Pakistan and Uzbekistan. Cotton producers include developed countries, "developing" countries and countries that are among the poorest on the planet (Mali, Benin and Burkina Fasso). In the latter countries, people's lives depend on cotton production, which is conditioned by the economic interests of the five main world producers.

Bt cotton is not a food crop and its seeds are very expensive. Cotton production has come to have a negative balance in the economy of small farmers, who spend more on its production than they are finally paid for their cotton harvest. With globalization, this type of agriculture has spread to regions where peasants have always been poor, but had been self-sufficient in food until now. In South Africa, since the adoption of transgenic Bt cotton, the number of small-scale cotton producers has fallen from 3,229 in 2001 to 853 in 2007.

It is estimated that more than 125,000 farmers have taken their lives as a result of the ruthless campaign that has turned India into a testing ground for genetically modified crops. Official figures from the Indian Ministry of Agriculture confirm that more than 1,000 peasants kill themselves each month.

In India, once agricultural production was reoriented to non-food crops and for export, food prices have skyrocketed, doubling between 1999 and 2000. As farmers became poorer, consumers paid more.

Recently the WTO has forced India to remove all restrictions on imports in compliance with "free trade" agreements. This has allowed the US industry to introduce contaminated meat - what the rich have left over is thrown to the poor. Deaths from eating poisoned or adulterated food have quadrupled since then.


Video: Alexander Panchin against the myths of GMOs. Science against (July 2022).


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