Organic Consumers Association

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Move Over, God, the Biotech Companies Are Here

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Genetic Engineering page and our Millions Against Monsanto page.

Technologies are tools for doing or making things. They are a means to transform what nature has given into food, clothing, shelter, means of mobility, means of communication. Technology is a means to an end; it is not an end in itself.

But when we stop perceiving technology as a means mediating between nature and human needs and elevate it to an end in itself, we falsely give it the status of a religion. The Green Revolution bred seeds to respond to chemical fertilizers - they were called "miracle seeds". The father of the Green Revolution, Norman Borlaug, called the 12 people he sent across the world to spread chemicals by introducing new seeds his "wheat apostles". This is the discourse of religion, not of science and technology.

When the Green Revolution was introduced in India in 1965-66, no assessment was made of the impact chemical fertiliser will have on soil organisms, soil structure and the soil's water-holding capacity. No attempt was made to compare the yields of Green Revolution varieties and the outputs of indigenous varieties and mixed farming system. When we started to conserve native seeds through the Navdanya movement in 1987, we found many of the indigenous varieties outperformed the Green Revolution varieties in grain yield. They also outperformed them in total biomass yield - this really matters because while the grain is eaten by humans, straw is food for soil organisms and farm animals. Our work on mixtures and biodiverse systems of farming shows that as a system, indigenous biodiversity produces more food and nutrition per acre.

If we had a scientific approach to making choices about the technologies we use to produce our food, agroecology would win hands down. But the Green Revolution is promoted blindly as a religion, and not on the basis of science. Why else would finance minister P. Chidambaram announce in his Budget speech that the Green Revolution, which has destroyed the soil, water, biodiversity of Punjab, would now be expanded to eastern India?

Is the government trying to impose the cancer epidemic of Punjab on Bihar, West Bengal, Orissa and Jharkhand? Does it want to deplete and poison the waters of eastern India like it did to the waters of Punjab? Does it want the rich biodiversity of eastern India to disappear like the biodiversity of Punjab has disappeared to create monocultures of rice and wheat?

In the language of doublespeak, through a "memorandum of understanding" with biotech corporation Monsanto, the Punjab government is now introducing hybrid maize in the name of "diversification". Substituting one monoculture with another is not diversification, putting more diversity on our farms is. More than 75 per cent of hybrid maize goes for industrial use, especially animal feed. This is not a food system to reduce the hunger of people; it is a system to supply profits for the insatiable greed of corporations and industry. While feeding the hungry is the mantra, the real religion is greed.    
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