GM Business Out of Nepal!

Blog by Sareena Rai

If one does a search on the entrance of Genetically Modified (GM) food and crop products into Nepal, there really isn’t much written on the topic. According to a Food Research Officer for the Government of Nepal Yakindra Timilsena, resident of Kailali district, “Till now no published data was found about the GM food and crop products which enter Nepalese market” [sic]. This was posted in his personal blog on 20th March, 2011.

This small article wishes to highlight the impending doom that Monsanto, one US based bio-tech giant who’s aim is to control the source of all the world’s food (translates as, rather than weapons, if you control the world’s food production, you are the most powerful entity in the world) is here in Nepal. The Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives is very close to signing a deal with Monsanto, with full support from USAID. One wonders, what kind of ‘aid’ is this? According to the recent Himalayan Times article on 13th September “…Monsanto is one of the companies, the product of which when used in the Tarai last year had turned out to be a fiasco with farmers failing to produce corn cobs. Maize planted in thousands of hectares of land had been wasted, and despite protests from the farmers, Monsanto had refused to pay compensation.”

Why would the US want to dupe Nepali farmers further in the name of ‘aid’, and why would the MOA want to sign this deal? As the Himalayan Times reports “…officials at the US embassy said it was one of the duties of the US embassies across the globe to promote US companies and help them enhance their business”. First world business is apparently more important than the income of small farmers. It is also interesting to note that the very articles that were sourced to write this particular article appear only in the Business / Economy sections of Nepali daily newspapers, and as ‘good news’ at that.

While there were successful protests in India against Monsanto as recently as 9th August, 2011 [see] it was reported in the Kathmandu Post on 13th September that the Managing Director of Monsanto India, Amitabh Jaipuria (name sourced from The Rising Nepal, 12th September) was here “to enhance the maize sector in Nepal”, espousing that Monsanto’s pilot project will benefit 20,000 farmers.

Apparently 50 stakeholders from the public and private sector, involved in research and development, seed production, and maize purchasing attended the workshop that focused on the current status of the maize industry, its prospects and challenges to enhance production in Nepal. Clearly, there was no mention of farmers from the Monsanto-affected Tarai districts parlaying about the great business benefits of this project.

Some of us have seen the documentary ‘The World According to Monsanto’, and we encourage all to watch it for it proves that David C Atteberry, USAID’s mission director is either uninformed or is just plain lying when he says, “Most maize farmers are unaware of the health and financial benefits that high-yielding hybrid seeds can provide.” They forgot to mention ‘short term’ benefits, illness, high suicide rates of farmers who land in debt because it promotes monoculture (the production of one crop only = if your crop fails, you fail).

Genetically modified seeds are lab varieties that have a new gene that was spliced in. For example, Vitamin A rice or ‘Golden Rice’ that was distributed to Bangladesh has a gene that produces Vitamin A spliced into it. The negative effect in Bangladesh was that this promoted monoculture.

Whenever there has been research conducted on the ill effects of GM foods, the evidence has always been censored by governments and corporations, for example in Japan mice fed on GM corn developed unhealthy fat in their liver and this information was censored by the companies producing them. Therefore, we who are the consumers have yet to see the symptoms of these experiments on our own bodies and minds. Monsanto’s here to kill and make money off of it.

There are also many well documented cases of “super weeds” emerging that have become resistant to all herbicides as a direct result of GM crop development. Another result has been organic farms losing their organic certification (and therefore business) because their crops have been fertilised with pollen from GM crops sown miles away. Such problems however are tiny compared with the overall threat of altered genes entering the environment – the result? No one knows, and that is the point, that regulation of GM crops has so far been purely in the hands of the corporations and governments that they control. Thus it is in their interests to paint a rosy picture of GM crops.

Monsanto is just one of the many GM seed producing giants. According to S.Gurung, a resident farmer of Chitwan known to the writers of this article, hybrid rice entered Nepal about ten years ago due to the open border with India. “We’ve been buying hybrid seed varieties from a company called US Agriseeds (variety US312) from India since two or three years now. If we reuse the seeds they are inferior and the following year, yields are lower.” When questioned why farmers in this regard preferred using GM/ hybrid varieties she replied “These new varieties allow us to separate the grain from the stalks much quicker!”

Of course, information or warnings about using GM seeds is never printed on a sack of seeds.

In short, Monsanto are about to officially bring genetically modified varieties of seeds into Nepal. GM foods are proven to be injurious to health (although the evidence is censored), promotes monoculture creating a dependency on Monsanto itself where you have to use all their products e.g. fertilizer, herbicide, pesticide and where if your crop fails you fail.

The people responsible here are USAID, Monsanto, ‘stakeholders’, Nepal Economic, Agriculture, and Trade Activity (NEAT), the Department of Agriculture, and the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives.

In summary, beware! For Nepal to import GM technology in the name of development will be the same as importing debt, dependency, and inviting ecological disaster (while making a pretty dollar for the multi-national corporations). To combat this, civil society must take an informed and active role in matters that affect its future as importantly as this.

We will be protesting this on World Food Day, 16th October this year with other pro organic / pro permaculture organisations.

Topics: Nepal, GM