Monsanto: taking control of the food system
Monsanto is a controversial seed and chemical corporation with a long track-record of corporate abuse. From selling toxic chemicals to extensive lobbying, Monsanto is at the forefront of pushing a model of agriculture that takes control away from small-scale farmers as well as causes environmental damage.
Monsanto maintains its market dominance by selling its expensive weed-killers and seeds to cash-strapped small-scale farmers. These have to be purchased new every year making them costly for small-scale farmers. But they are also unnecessary too. Scientific evidence shows that organic, non-chemical methods are both low-cost and effective for growing healthy food as well as being better for the environment.
Killing more than just weeds
Monsanto’s flagship weedkiller, Roundup is made from a chemical called glyphosate, that the World Health Organisation has classified as probably causing cancer while other studies have shown it damages the environment. Earlier this year, Global Justice Now joined with campaigners across Europe to successfully prevent a 15 year relicense, and instead we forced the EU to reduce it to a temporary relicense of just 12-18 months.
In India, where Monsanto controls 90% of the cotton seed market, small scale farmers are at the sharp end of Mosanto’s activities. Unlike farmers’ own seeds which can be saved and swapped freely, Monsanto’s GM cotton seeds are patented which means farmers have to buy them every year. At a cost of up to four times more than traditional varieties, this increases farmers’ costs considerably, creating indebtedness and threatening livelihoods.
Calling Monsanto to account
Monsanto has recently accepted an offer to be taken over by another big corporation, Bayer. If this acquisition goes ahead it will create a mega-agribusiness that will become both the largest seed and pesticide corporation in the world. However, Monsanto’s long history of environmental destruction and corporate control will not be left unaccounted for.
Last October, the people’s tribunal took place in The Hague. While this was a symbolic people’s court, the witnesses and judges were real. Witnesses from across the globe will gave testimony of human rights abuses, threats to communities and environmental destruction. The tribunal also reviewed Monsanto’s history of producing toxic chemicals for warfare, its well-documented manipulation of scientific evidence, misleading and dishonest marketing campaigns and underhand lobbying efforts to promote its products.
We sent a photographer to visit India and Bangladesh to document how corporate power has impacted on the lives of small farmers. In India, Monsanto controls a monopoly over cotton seeds and farmers are suffering as they are forced to pay increasingly higher prices. In Bangladesh, see how a community organisation has established one of the world’s biggest seed saving networks in order to challenge corporate power.