The entry of Monsanto in the Indian seed sector was made possible with a 1998 Seed Policy imposed by the World Bank, requiring the Government of India to deregulate the seed sector.
In 1997-98, Monsanto started open field trials of its GMO Bt cotton illegally with the intent to sell the seeds the following year.
Cotton seed has historically been among farmers’ lowest expenses. During the harvest, cotton growers would cultivate crop seeds and save them for the following season. As a general practice, they also would swap seeds with neighboring farmers, ensuring through natural selection that subsequent generations of cotton seed would be best suited for the region. Although local cotton did not provide the same potential yields as cotton seed from the Americas, it had adapted to India’s unique climate — an intense monsoon season followed by months of drought.
After the introduction of GMO seeds, fifty percent of an Indian farmer’s debt was for the purchase of new seeds. GMO seeds cost up to 10 times more than traditional seeds and are structured to self destruct, ensuring that farmers must purchase new seeds the following year—further increasing their debt.
To afford GMO cotton seeds, the farmer must take out a seed loan from the State Bank of India. If the crop fails, which is highly probable since GMO cotton is designed for use in irrigated fields, the farmer will not be able to pay back the loan and will be denied a second loan. The farmer then will turn to an unregulated private moneylender who charges usurious rates, sometimes as high as 100 percent. A second crop failure, or even an underperforming crop, can place the farmer in a hole so deep that many turn to suicide.
As Monsanto’s profits grow, farmers’ debt grows. It is in this systemic sense that Monsanto’s seeds are seeds of suicide.
Here is an excerpt from the book Earth Sentinels that puts a face on the devastating effects of GMO seeds:
Mahakanta Suresh stood at the edge of his field staring at the withered cotton crop. His farm had been handed down through many generations, providing not only a living, but a good way of life in India’s Cotton Belt. He reminisced of the time, long ago, when his father had danced with his mother after a bountiful harvest. The entire village had prospered that year, celebrating late into the night with food, spirits and music. His father had stepped away from the festivities and sauntered over to him, displaying a fig between his fingers. Mahakanta plucked the sweet luxury from his father’s hand. His father laughed heartily, drunk from the free-flowing wine.
Mahakanta savored the childhood memory before it faded, leaving him to face the devastation in front of him. He could have survived the misfortune of one bad season, but alas, last year’s crop had also failed. Now, there was no money left to buy new seeds. He would lose the farm and house to the moneylenders who had extended him credit.
He could no longer face his wife and children, who silently ate their dinner each night while hopelessness filled the air. His three healthy children once had a future, but without property, they would be burdened with a father who couldn’t support them, couldn’t provide for them. His family would be the lowest of the low.
A sacred cow wandered past him. The bells on its collar clinked as it headed toward his neighbor’s field, which was filled with thriving cotton grown from traditional seeds. Mahakanta remembered the purveyor arriving at his doorstep two years earlier, catching him as he returned home after a hard day’s work. The salesman opened his satchel, showing Mahakanta charts and photos of other customer’s cotton fields that yielded 10 times more than average using his new magic seeds. In addition, he touted that the magic seeds resisted pests, eliminating the need to purchase expensive pesticides. The purveyor promised the magic seeds would make Mahakanta a very wealthy man. But, what the man did not tell him was that these seeds were not drought tolerant like the traditional seeds that had been used for generations in India. And, the man did not tell him that the seeds from his new crop were genetically structured to self-destruct, ensuring that Mahakanta would have to buy new seeds the following year.
So, with hope for a better future, Mahakanta naively planted the magic seeds, watching the green shoots emerge in the spring. However, it was not long before the plants withered in the scorching sun and succumbed to the hungry bollworms.
How he wished he had switched back to the traditional seeds after the first year, but the purveyor assured him that the dismal harvest was caused by the drought, not the magic seeds, and the next bountiful crop would more than make up for the previous losses. Mahakanta’s misplaced trust had been a deadly mistake. His only comfort was that he wasn’t the only one who had fallen under the spell of the magic seeds. Dozens of farmers in his village had done the same thing.
Mahakanta unscrewed the cap on a pesticide bottle, took one last look at the land of his ancestors, then gulped the toxic fluid. It burned going down and the fumes made him cough. He thought it was a fitting punishment for his failure.
The farmer expected to be dead before his family came back from the fields. Instead, his son found him writhing on the ground in agonizing pain. His wife ran over screaming for help. A neighbor who had found Mahakanta not long after he drank the pesticide explained what had happened. There was nothing anyone could do—the poison always took its victim.
The wife stroked her husband’s head, saying, “I told you the money wasn’t important. Why didn’t you listen?” Mahakanta could not hear what she said. The pain made him oblivious to his surroundings. He threw up. Red-speckled vomit slowly slid down his shirt. Foam spewed out of his mouth.
His wife wailed. She was losing a good husband and would be a widow heavily in debt.
Mahakanta was overcome with pain. Everything went dark. He felt his body become weightless. Colors appeared, then shapes that turned into human forms. He recognized a neighbor who had committed suicide a few weeks earlier. Countless numbers of spirits came forward, one after another, each a victim of crop failure caused by the magic seeds. Before Mahakanta could ask why they came, they escorted him away.
Earth Sentinels is an epic adventure filled with compelling characters, such as the fallen angel Bechard, shamans, spiritual beings, and earth’s creatures who collaborate using supernatural powers to save the planet from imminent destruction, demanding that mankind changes its way…or else. You’ll meet 17-year-old Zachary, whose family’s organic farm is being ruined by fracking; Haruto, living in Fukushima, Japan, where the nuclear meltdown is raging out of control; Mahakanta, a cotton farmer in India, who used GMO “magic seeds” with devastating results; the Amazonian tribe members, Conchita and her father, Pahtia, fighting against intruders illegally tearing down their rainforest; and the Bear Claw First Nation Tribe who are dealing with an unstoppable oil spill ruining their traditional hunting grounds.
As the events unfold and the world retaliates, each character is forced to question their own motives.
Genre: Visionary Fiction, Metaphysical Fiction, Urban Fantasy