Letter to Agriculture Minister in the context of Agriculture Ministers Meet from 7 States on 9th June 2006 at Hyderabad to discuss and determine the price of Bt Cotton
p v satheesh
Please let me greet you on behalf of the 40 million and odd farmers of Andhra Pradesh on the auspicious day of Mrugasira Karte the day on which the first rain star takes birth. A day when millions of farmers reach their farm to plant the seed for a new season. A day on which hopes are planted on earth. And a long wait begins for the harvests of the planted seed.
Tomorrow you will be joining Agriculture Ministers from seven cotton growing States of the country in a meeting at Hyderabad to discuss the issue of price of Bt Seeds.
It is but natural that AP is chosen as the place for the agricultural ministers to discuss the price of Bt cotton, because you and your government have put up a historic fight against Monsanto to curb its greed and clip its evil corporate wings. A fight unprecedented in the agricultural history of the modern world. At least in the case of an all-conquering Monsanto which has used corruption, sleaze and threat to make most governments to bow before it.
But you have remained a shining star. Probably a Mrugasira Karte, yourself. We trust, this is because you are a farmer yourself. And in a world swamped by burgers and pizzas, you still eat Ragi Mudda at home, paying tribute to mighty millets in your own way.
It is this personal and politically persona of yourself that inspirers this letter to you. Reddygaru, please read this letter carefully before you attend the Ministers’ meet. Please spare a few minutes for this letter in your punishing schedule.
On the one hand this meeting of Agricultural Ministers is a welcome news in the sense that there is a general understanding among the various Indian states that the enormously usurious rates of Bt seeds are robbing Indian farmers of the very small gains they get by cultivating Bt cotton. But we also think that this is certainly not the only issue that needs to be considered in your conference.
What we urge you to discuss is the issue why Bt cotton should not be banned from Indian soils? What is it that we are going to lose if we do so except for saving the royalty adding upto of billions of rupees that Monsanto collects for its Bt gene and ploughs back into USA? Is it right for us to make the poor Indian farmer pay for the greed of one of the most profit hungry multinational?
When you are sitting for this conference, surely you will have before you a long list of the history of failed Bt cotton in India, particularly in Andhra Pradesh. You are also acutely aware that at least a thousand farmers, if not more, have committed suicide after growing Bt cotton in AP, Maharashtra as well as in Karnataka. These facts are not yet very well known. But when they start emerging, they will be calamitous in their impact.
In Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra at least half a dozen studies done by independent scientists [scientists who have not bought over by the corporations nor the ones who are serving governments and therefore are under the obligation not to speak out] and development economists have clearly brought out the successive failures of Bt cotton both on the economic front and yield front. You, Shri Raghuveera Reddygaru, are more aware of this than your counterparts from other states. Our own studies have been regularly fed to you and your government, year after year.
But unfortunately, these suicides and failures of Bt cotton will be
passed on to an elegant phrase coined by the biotech industry called
externalities. Will you be trapped by this elegant prose or are you
ready to put your nose into harsh facts, Shri Reddygaru? If you do,
let us produce some facts for you that you may not be very familiar
Considering all these facts [and many more which we are willing to submit to you if you want them, both within India and across the world], the question now is not whether we will use Bt cotton at a reduced price?
The question really is, whether in the interest of the economic well being small and poor farmers in India, in the interest of Indian soils, in the interest of the health of the farm labourers, particularly women, in the interest of the shepherding community of this country, ARE WE READY TO BAN BT COTTON?
Mr Minister, millions of Indians in your state have elected you to this august position with a lot of faith and hope. Please keep their interests at your heart. Cutting through the corporate hype, brushing aside the manufactured evidence of the bought up science, confronting the powerful vested interests, please think on behalf of the small farmers who are your major constituency and their bitter experiences with Bt cotton.
We have no doubt that you will concur with us that Bt is best Banned.
On the day of Mrugasira kaarte, day on which millions of your farmer brethren go to their fields to plant new seeds for the new season, please give them new hope Shri Reddygaru, by banning Bt from their fields. Let their soils be saved, let their animals be saved. Let the health of your millions of farmer fraternity be saved.
Please show this initiative with a new courage and determination, as you have always shown in the past.
The state of AP and the Indian nation will be grateful to you for that act.
Wishing you well in your deliberations
[p v satheesh]