India Creates Organic Seed Bank in Response to GMO Suicide Seeds, Farmer Debt


Christina Sarich – Nation of Change

Across 17 states in India there are a group of organic seed-collecting activists who have decided to take Monsanto and other Big Ag and chemical companies down in this interminable fight the old-fashioned way – by beating them at their own game. The seed bank, called Navdanya also has a learning center called Bija Vidyapeeth (meaning school of the seed) that teaches the importance of biodiversity, conservation of the earth’s resources and organic farming methods.

The organization refers to GMOs as “biopiracy” and aims to rejuvenate the indigenous farming practices that have been passed down for multiple generations, often for more than thousands of years. The desire to teach people of their food rights and alternate means to staying healthy and well fed in the face of climate change without the use of genetically altered seeds and the herbicides, like Round Up, which are utilized to grow them.

Prince Charles, one of the British royals, visited Navdanya earlier this month, presenting a Rudraksh tree, during a symbolic planting, whose seeds are traditionally used as prayer beads in Hinduism. Prince Charles has a relationship with an organic activist, Dr. Vandana Shiva. Dr. Shiva is not only an activist, but has long been an advocate of human rights and has been awarded the Right Livelihood Award, considered the “alternate Nobel Prize.”

Prof. Vandana Shiva

Prof. Vandana Shiva

Prince Charles and Dr. Shiva both participated in a BBC Reith Lecture in 2000, where ecological and social issues were brought to attention.  In this lecture, the plight of farmers that have been lured by Monsanto and other Big Ag companies is detailed:

“Farmers who traditionally grew pulses and millets and paddy have been lured by seed companies to buy hybrid cotton seeds referred to by the seed merchants as “white gold”, which were supposed to make them millionaires. Instead they became paupers. Their native seeds have been displaced with new hybrids which cannot be saved and need to be purchased every year at high cost. Hybrids are also very vulnerable to pest attacks. Spending on pesticides in Warangal has shot up 2000 per cent from $2.5 million in the 1980s to $50 million in 1997. Now farmers are consuming the same pesticides as a way of killing themselves so that they can escape permanently from unpayable debt.”

India is not the only country looking at inventive ways of saving organic seeds and keeping them available to the public at large. Community-run seed libraries are now coming into vogue as people realize the need for maintaining biodiversity and food sovereignty.  The Berkeley Ecology Center and the Bay Area Seed Interchange Library (BASIL) are as close to the traditional library model as you can get, which were fiscally sponsored by volunteers. Seeds are provided free to members who are asked only to grow the seeds they take and return some of the new crop’s seeds to the library when they are harvested. In this manner, seeds are returned for yet another patron to “borrow” the following growing season.

Other organizations, like have been around since the 1970s, actively saving organic, heirloom seeds and offering “participatory preservation and exchange” among their members. All members are required to sign the “safe seed” pledge and is one of the largest seed saving organizations in North America.

It is organizations like these that will prevent Monsanto’s hostile takeover of seed and thus the entire agricultural industry. Monsanto’s Indian website states, “Producing more, Conserving more, Improving farmers lives,” but this has proven to be a false mission statement.

As Global Research so eloquently puts it,

“Patents on seed are illegitimate because putting a toxic gene into a plant cell is not “creating” or “inventing” a plant. These are seeds of deception — the deception that Monsanto is the creator of seeds and life; the deception that while Monsanto sues farmers and traps them in debt, it pretends to be working for farmers’ welfare, and the deception that GMOs feed the world. GMOs are failing to control pests and weeds, and have instead led to the emergence of superpests and superweeds.”

As Dr. Shiva puts it, saving seed, is indeed, a political act. Are you saving yours?


TRANSCEND Member Prof. Vandana Shiva is a physicist, ecofeminist, philosopher, activist, and author of more than 20 books and 500 papers. She is the founder of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, and has campaigned for biodiversity, conservation and farmers’ rights, winning the Right Livelihood Award [Alternative Nobel Prize] in 1993. She is executive director of the Navdanya Trust.

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