NEW DELHI

Punjab MoU with Monsanto raises public concerns

Various farmers’ unions, environmentalists, social groups, scientific and health organisations as well as individual intellectuals came together on Friday to oppose the decision of the Punjab Government which recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the multi-national company Monsanto to what was projected as promoting crop diversification.

In a joint statement these organisations claimed that the company had no expertise in diversification. On the contrary, it was averse to any diversification and had a history of monopolistic as well as exploitative practices that favoured monocultures.

Calling upon the Punjab Government to immediately scrap the MoUs to set up centres of excellence in the State, the organisations said that no administration that claimed to be custodian of farmers' interest would ever sign an MoU with a company that had “anti-farmer, anti people and anti-environment” legacy. They pointed out that National Biodiversity Board had filed a “bio-piracy case” against Monsanto.

The signatories warned that if the State Government continued with the programme, they would be forced to take necessary steps for protecting the lives, health, food security and sovereignty of Punjab and the nation. They also warned that it will not be possible to remain a silent spectator to the designs of the Government to allow MNCs to decide the fate of India's agriculture.

These organisations demanded that the Punjab Government wake up to the call of lakhs of affected farmers, poisoned and sick people, dying bio-species, toxic as well as depleting waters and damaged soil.

It must initiate steps to move towards a sustainable, self-reliant and safe farming practices. Most of the groups were already active through another socio-environmental coalition, Vatavaran Atey Samaj Bachaao Morcha, formed last year.

Executive director of Kheti Virasat Mission, Umendra Dutt, warned the Punjab Government against relying on corporates whose technologies had brought the State to the prevailing ecological disaster. General secretary of the Dhakaunda faction of Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) Jagmohan Singh on behalf of the joint front of 17 farmers’ unions said that Monsanto's technologies had created ecological disasters in the US and copying such practices would result in Punjab losing its position in India as a farming and farmer centred State.

“Punjab is facing the ill-effects of the chemical intensive agriculture, diminishing fertility of agricultural lands, depleting water, environmental pollution, large number of species becoming extinct because of reproductive failure, spread of cancers and other chronic illnesses among the citizens,” noted Epidemiologist G P I Singh, adding that pesticides and GM crops come from the same school of thought and the same labs that aim at generating corporate profits at the cost of farmers, public health and environment.

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