Earlier this year, Vandana Shiva generated quite a stir within the blogosphere after comparing GMOs to rape in a Twitter post:
Despite the outrage evoked by her tweet, the metaphor is quite fitting, especially when one considers the technical definition of the word rape:
Rape: “the unlawful compelling of a person [replace ‘person’ with ‘organism’] through physical force or duress to have sexual intercourse.”
Because many GMO crops are wind and insect pollinated, their pollen (and the transgenes they carry) easily evade containment and are capable of traveling great distances. For instance, if pollen from genetically modified corn reaches a receptive non-GMO corn plant, transgenes will be forcibly integrated (through sexual reproduction) into the germline of their offspring, rendering them and all their future offspring permanently GMO. This could therefore be defined as a form of ‘bio-rape.’
The farmer whose non-GMO crop is contaminated with GMOs is also violated. First, his ability to make a living is compromised, as his formerly organic crop has now been rendered non-organic. Second, Monsanto can legally suit that farmer for ‘patent’ infringement for having his crop contaminated by their seeds, essentially accusing him of criminal activity for being a victim of their biopollution!
It is one thing for GMO crops to contaminate adjacent organic land within a country which has already weighed the risks and benefits and approved that GMO product, but another for a multinational corporation’s seeds to illegally contaminate a country who has not yet approved their use due to biosafety concerns. The latter case describes the long and abusive history of Monsanto vis-à-vis the Indian people, beginning in 2001 with the discovery of a Monsanto-patented Bt gene within fields planted with conventional, non-GMO seeds in the western state of Gujarat. Monsanto, who discovered their gene in these fields, claimed that the Gujarat farmers were guilty of seed piracy, when in fact they were victims of either bio-pollution (i.e. contamination via cross pollination with GMO plants), or had been coerced into using illegal Monsanto Bt-containing seeds before they were officially approved.1
Widespread Illegal Use of Monsanto GM Cotton Across India.
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A new report published on Down To Earth, Science and Environment Online, documents the spread of illegal Monsanto GM cotton across India.
According to the author of the May 22nd report, Latha Jishnu, Monsanto’s Roundup Ready Flex seeds are being grown in at least three Indian states without biosafety clearance, repeating the Bt cotton saga that began in 2001, when reports surfaced in Gujarat of thousands of farmers starting the illegal cultivation of Bt cotton before regulators could approve its commercial use.
In 2013, history is repeating itself as herbicide-tolerant GM cotton known as Roundup Ready Flex (RRF) spreads illegally in at least three states. Roundup Ready Flex, first reported to be in use in Gujarat last season, has since spread to Punjab and Maharashtra although the regulator, the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee, has not cleared the technology. This is being field-tested by Monsanto’s Indian partner, the Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company better known as Mahyco.
Jishnu also voiced concern over the connection between the spread of GM seeds and the concerning number of farmer suicides that follow their failure to live up to promised yields and financial gains:
Farmers’ organisations in Maharashtra, particularly those in Vidarbha, have become alarmed by the spread of the illegal Roundup Ready Flex. The region is notorious for the huge numbers of suicides by primarily cotton farmers in the past 15 years and farmers’ lobbies have been blaming the use of GM technology or Bt cotton as it is known for the spate of suicides.
The report goes on to explain the implications of the discovery of the illegal GM cotton:
In India, the spread of Roundup Ready GM cotton is matter of serious concern since GEAC [Genetic Engineering Approval Committee] had called for additional tests by Mahyco. Kishore Tiwari of the Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS), a farmers’ advocacy group that is fighting to safeguard the sustainability of agriculture in drought-prone Vidarbha, says herbicide-tolerant Bt cotton is being openly sold at Rs1,500/ per packet of RRF (450 gm) “which is highly objectionable because RRF is yet to receive approval.
GEAC sources say Mahyco has been asked to provide detailed data on the use of RRF and its impact on the environment and approval for its commercial release is some way off.”
Is the Biotech Industry Guilty of Bio-Rape?
Over the past 12 years, India has been the victim of the illegal release of Monsanto’s GM products on numerous occasions. The forceful and illegal insertion of a transgenic crop into the biosphere of a region is an irreversible transgression, i.e. you cannot ‘recall’ a transgene like it were a defective car part. Not only are a country’s and their people’s sovereign laws violated, but insofar as these transgenes produce biopesticides known to have unintended adverse health effects to non-target organisms (including mammals), such as the recently reported Bt toxin leukemia link, the transfer is a violent act that will carry onward infinitely, rendering all plant progeny that now possess the ‘biopollution’ genetically modified as well. Some of these genes may even carry over horizontally to the bodies of those who consume them, violating their own genetic integrity. Is this not a form of bio-rape? Especially when done surreptitiously, illegally, without informed consent, and for one motive only: profit of those who own the seed patent, seed manufacturing or distribution rights.
1Non-GM-Famers.com, India farmers claim Monsanto is spreading piracy rumors to cover crop failure. 21 June 2003
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