War Against Nature
and the People of the South
by Dr. Vandana Shiva
excerpted from the book
Views from the South:
The effects of globalization
and the WTO on the Third World
edited by Sarah Anderson
Vandana Shiva is a physicist, founder and president of the
Research Foundation for Science Technology and Ecology, and one
of India's leading activists. She played a key role in the famous
Chipko movement to save the Himalayan forests and now works on
behalf of India's farmers, trying to resist the introduction of
globalized industrial agriculture and biotechnology into Indian
food production. She is a member of the Board of Directors of
the International Forum on Globalization, and was a recipient
of the Right Livelihood Award (also known as the alternative Nobel
Peace Prize). Her most recent book is Biopiracy The Plunder of
Nature and Knowledge (Boston South End Press, 1997).
In this paper, Shiva describes how the transformation of peasant
agriculture in India to a globally industrialized model has reduced
food security, threatened local businesses and biodiversity, driven
farmers off their lands, and opened the door for global corporations
to take over the nation's food processing. Shiva then examines
the forces driving the globalization of agriculture, including
the agribusiness giants and two of the WTO agreements these firms
have promoted the agreements on agriculture and intellectual property
Supporters of globalization often claim that this process
is natural, inevitable, and evolutionary and one that is bringing
prosperity and growth, embracing us all and knitting us into a
Global Village. Only by participating in global markets, they
say, can Third World people get access to jobs and better lives.
In reality, globalization is not a natural process of inclusion.
It is a planned project of exclusion that siphons the resources
and knowledge of the poor of the South into the global marketplace,
stripping people of their life-support systems, livelihoods, and
Global trade rules, as enshrined in the World Trade Organization
(WTO) Agreement on Agriculture (AOA) and in the Trade Related
Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) agreement, are primarily
rules of robbery, camouflaged by arithmetic and legalese. In this
economic hijack, the corporations gain, and people and nature
The WTO's overall goal of promoting "market competition"
serves two functions. Firstly, it transforms all aspects of life
into commodities for sale. Culture, biodiversity, food, water,
livelihoods, needs, and rights are all transformed and reduced
to markets. Secondly, the destruction of nature, culture, and
livelihoods is then justified on the basis of the rules of competition.
Policy makers attack ethical and ecological rules that sustain
and maintain life, claiming that they are "protectionist"
barriers to trade. In reality, the WTO does not reduce protectionism;
it merely replaces protections for people and nature with protections
The global reach of corporations to take over the resources
of the poor of the Third World is made possible not just by reduction
and removal of tariffs, one of the goals of the WTO. It is facilitated
by the removal of ethical and ecological limits on what can be
owned as private property and what can be traded. In this way,
globalization is completing the project of colonization that led
to the conquest and ownership of land and territory. Biological
resources and water, the very basis of life's processes, are being
colonized, privatized, and commodified.
Agriculture, which is still the primary livelihood for three-quarters
of humanity, and which is as much a cultural activity as an economic
one, is also threatened by "trade liberalization," driven
both by the structural adjustment programs of the World Bank and
the IMF, and by the WTO's Agreement on Agriculture. The globalization
of food and agriculture systems, in effect, means the corporate
takeover of the food chain, the erosion of food rights, the destruction
of the cultural diversity of food and the biological diversity
of crops, and the displacement of millions from land-based, rural
livelihoods. Global free trade in food and agriculture is the
biggest refugee creation program in the world, far exceeding the
impact of Kosovo. It is equivalent to the ethnic cleansing of
the poor, the peasantry, and small farmers of the Third World.
GLOBALIZATION OF INDIA'S AGRICULTURE
Trade and investment liberalization have led to a dramatic
transformation of agriculture in India that has had a devastating
impact on peasant farmers. These policies have brought about
* a shift in production from food to export crops that has
reduced food security
* a flood of imports that have wiped out local businesses
and diversity and
* an opening for global corporations to take over the control
of food processing.
A SHIFT TO EXPORT CROPS
Cotton Seeds of Suicide
Economic globalization is leading to a concentration of the
seed industry, the entry of global corporations into agriculture,
the increased use of pesticides, and, finally, increased debt,
despair, and sometimes suicide among small farmers. Capital-intensive,
corporate-controlled agriculture is being spread into regions
where peasants are poor but, until now, have been self-sufficient
in food. In the regions where industrial agriculture has been
introduced through globalization, higher costs are making it virtually
impossible for small farmers to survive.
The new export-oriented policies that are part of agricultural
globalization have led to a shift in India from the production
of food crops to commodities for exports, such as cotton. Cotton
cultivation has expanded even into semiarid areas such as Warangal
in Andhra Pradesh, where farmers traditionally grew paddy, pulses,
millets, oilseeds, and vegetable crops. Enticed by promises that
cotton would be like "white gold," yielding high profits,
farmers in Warangal have nearly tripled the amount of land used
for cotton production in the past decade, while slashing production
of traditional food grains like jawar and bajra.
However, what these farmers have learned is that while cash
crops like cotton may fetch higher prices, they also demand a
higher level of expenditure. Under corporate pressure, farmers
have largely switched from planting open-pollinated seeds, which
can be saved by farmers, to hybrids that need to be purchased
every year at a high cost. Because hybrids are very vulnerable
to pest attacks, pesticide use has also increased. Expenditures
on pesticide in the district went up from $2.5 million for the
entire decade of the 1 980s to $50 million in t997-a 2,000 percent
increase. For poor peasants, this cost could be borne only through
Because trade liberalization had also led to budget cutbacks
on extension and withdrawal of low-interest credit from cooperatives
and public sector banks, peasants have had to take high-interest
loans from the same companies that sell them hybrid seeds and
pesticides. Thus, the corporations have become money lenders,
extension agents, seed suppliers, and pesticide salesmen rolled
into one. As a result, peasants have become buried under the weight
of unpayable debt. This financial stress is blamed for an epidemic
of suicides in Warangal district. More than 500 farmers took their
own lives in 1998, and the suicides have continued in 1999.
In the regions where high costs of industrial agriculture
introduced through globalization are already pushing farmers to
suicide, Monsanto has tried to introduce genetically engineered
cotton seeds. While the argument used to promote these crops in
the Third World is that they will increase yields, trials have
shown a decrease in yields and an increase in the use of pesticides.
In protest, farmers in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka have uprooted
the genetically engineered cotton, and the Research Foundation
for Science, Technology, and Ecology has filed a case in the Supreme
Court to stop the introduction of these genetically engineered
crops in Indian agriculture. The case is based on the belief that
genetic engineering would introduce new ecological and economic
risks that Third World peasants cannot afford.
The shift from a "food first" to an "export
first" policy is justified on grounds of food security, because
export earnings are supposed to pay for food imports. In fact,
export-oriented agriculture has reduced food security by encouraging
a shift from small-scale, sustainable production to large-scale,
non-sustainable industrial production. It also brings changes
in ownership over natural resources and means of production, from
small autonomous producer/owners to large corporate and commercial
interests. Peasants are displaced from farming, while commercial
interests take over land for industrial-scale production of export
commodities such as shrimp, flowers, vegetables, and meat. These
enterprises often have negative environmental impacts, creating
further hardship for local communities.
The transformation of shrimp farming in India is a prime example
of the social and environmental costs of industrial agriculture.
While small-scale, indigenous shrimp farming has been sustainable
over centuries, shrimp exports require the establishment of factory
farms for shrimp production. Each acre of a shrimp farm needs
200 "shadow acres" for absorbing the ecological costs
of factory farming of shrimp. "Shadow acres" are the
units required to supply resources to and absorb the waste from
a particular economic activity.
Shrimp farming is so damaging because it requires enormous
quantities of fish to be caught at sea for shrimp feed, most of
which is converted to waste that is poured into the sea, polluting
the water and damaging mangroves. Shrimp farming also destroys
coastal agriculture because the shrimp factories require the pumping
of seawater into the ponds for shrimp production. This causes
salinization, reducing drinking water supplies and destroying
trees and crops near the factories.
These costs undermine the claims that shrimp exports are a
major source of economic growth. For each dollar earned by corporations
through exports of shrimp to consumers in the United States, Europe,
and Japan, an estimated $10 worth of damage is done to India's
natural resources and local economic income. This includes the
destruction of mangroves, water, agriculture, and fisheries.
Shrimp factories have met with stiff resistance in India.
In December 1996, local communities and environmental groups won
a case in the Indian Supreme Court to ban industrial shrimp farming.
However, the shrimp industry received a stay order, and continues
to operate. On May 29, 1999, four fishermen were killed when they
protested against the commercial shrimp operators called the "shrimp
mafia" in the Chilka lake in Orissa.
This tragedy illustrates how the inequalities aggravated or
generated by export-oriented agriculture can also lead to violations
of human rights and subversion of law and order. Trade can only
be increased by taking resources away from people's subsistence
and survival. When people attempt to defend their human right
to work and live, commercial interests that gain from exports
often work with the state apparatus to crush people's movements.
Many people lose what little they have. In the most extreme cases,
such as that of the Orissa fishermen, they pay for exports with
Other Export Crops Costs Exceed Earnings
Like shrimp exports, flower, meat, and vegetable exports have
costs that often far exceed the earnings generated. Large scale
meat exports, for example, have an external "shadow"
cost that is ten times higher than export earnings. This is due
to the former ecological contribution of livestock in small-scale
agriculture, now on the wane.
Particularly in developing countries, livestock are not just
meat on legs. Animals are the primary source of fertilizer in
the form of organic manure. They also generate energy for farm
operations, by plowing, and by helping with agro-processing; for
example, with edible oil extraction via animal-driven "ghanis."
Livestock in India help produce $17 million worth of milk, and
$1.5 billion worth of food grain; they also provide $17 million
worth of energy. If the animals are slaughtered, all of these
benefits are lost. In the case of one export-oriented slaughterhouse
alone, meat exports earned $45 million, whereas the estimated
contribution of the slaughtered animals to the economy if they
had been allowed to live was $230 million.
In the case of flowers, countries must import plant material,
pesticides, greenhouse equipment and pay for consultants. India
spent Rs. 13.7 billion in foreign exchange to import inputs for
floriculture and earned only Rs. 0.3 billion from flower sales,
thus having a net drain of Rs. 10 billion on scarce foreign change.
If the resources used for floriculture had been allocated
for food production, India would have produced four times more
food than it could buy on global markets using earnings from flower
sales. In terms of national food security, export-oriented agriculture
therefore destroys more than it creates.
Under the pressure of so-called "liberalization"
policies, food prices have doubled and the poor have had to cut
their consumption in half. Prices have increased because food
has been exported, creating domestic scarcity, at the same time
that food subsidies have been withdrawn. As a housewife in Bombay
stated "we are eating half of what we used to after food
prices doubled in the last year. Even dal is a luxury now. After
milk prices increased, I stopped buying milk as well."
Export-oriented agriculture is also creating an agricultural
apartheid, with the Third World being asked to stop growing food
staples and instead grow luxury products for the rich North. Production
of food staples is now concentrated in the United States, and
in the hands of a few multinational seed companies and grain trading
B. IMPORTS: DIVERSITY DESTROYED
As countries are forced to destroy their agricultural systems
to grow and export commodities, both cultural diversity and biological
diversity disappear. Diverse cereals, oilseeds, and legumes are
displaced by soybeans from the United States. While exports destroy
local food systems by diverting resources and changing ownership
patterns, imports also destroy food systems by hijacking markets.
In August 1999, there was a case of mustard oil adulteration
that was restricted to the city of Delhi, but affected all local
brands of oil. In response, the government banned mustard oil,
the main cooking oil in North India, and removed all restrictions
on edible oil imports. Soybean and soy oil imports were liberalized
or deregulated. Within one growing season, millions of oilseed-producing
farmers growing mustard, groundnut, sesame, and niger had lost
the market for their diverse oil seed crops. Liberalized imports
of soybeans have destroyed the entire edible oil production and
processing in India. Millions of small mills have closed down.
Prices of oilseeds have collapsed and farmers cannot even recover
what they have spent on cultivation. Sesame, linseed, and mustard
have started to disappear from the fields as cheap, subsidized
imports of soybeans are dumped on the Indian market. These imports
totaled three million tons in one year (a 60 percent rise compared
to earlier years) and cost nearly $1 billion, thus worsening the
country's balance of payments situation.
U.S. soybeans are cheap not because of cheap production but
because of subsidies. The price of soybeans is $155 a ton, and
this low price is possible because the U.S. government pays $193
a ton to U.S. soybean farmers, who would not otherwise be able
to stay in production given the low commodity prices. This government
support is not really a farmer subsidy; it is an indirect corporate
subsidy. As heavily subsidized soybeans flooded India's domestic
market, prices crashed by more than two thirds. The local oil
processing industry, from the small-scale "ghanis" to
larger mills, started to close down. Domestic oilseed production
declined, and domestic edible oil prices crashed. Groundnut prices
went down by 3 percent from Rs. 48 per kilogram to Rs. 37 per
kilogram. Meanwhile, some farmers protesting against the collapse
of their markets were shot and killed.
C. TRIPs AND BIOPIRACY
... the WTO threatens Third World food and agriculture through
the Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) agreement,
which was introduced during the Uruguay Round of GATT. This agreement
sets enforceable global rules on patents, copyrights, and trademarks.
TRIPs rules extend to living resources, so that genes, cells,
seeds plants, and animals can now be patented and "owned"
as intellectual property. As a result, developing countries are
being forced to reorganize their production and consumption patterns
to allow monopolies by a handful of so-called "Life Sciences"
corporations that are in reality peddlers of death
History of Intellectual Property Rights
To understand the flaws of TRIPs, it is important to know
that this agreement is essentially the globalization of western
patent laws that historically have been used as instruments of
conquest. The word "patents" derives from "letters
patent"-the open letters granted by European sovereigns to
conquer foreign lands or to obtain import monopolies. Christopher
Columbus derived his right to the conquest of the Americas through
the letter patent granted to him by Queen Isabel and King Ferdinand.
In the United States, patent laws were originally a patchwork
of state laws that did not offer protection for the patentee outside
the state in which it had been granted. This changed in 1787,
when members of the Constitutional Convention institutionalized
a national statute. The politicians were convinced that a single
federal patent law would serve the fledgling nation and its inventors
far more effectively than the existing state patents. One outcome
was that broad patents were granted in the United States for steamboats-in
spite of the steam engine having been invented and patented by
James Watt in Scotland fifteen years before.
The United States has continued to ignore the pre-existence
and use of inventions in other countries when granting patents.
Thus, paradoxically, a legal system aimed at preventing "intellectual
piracy" is itself based on legitimizing piracy. This system
is codified in Section 102 of the U.S. Patent Act of 1952, which
denies patents for inventions that are in use in the United States
but allows patents for inventions in use in other countries unless
they have been described in a publication. If, for example, someone
in Europe were operating a machine and you, in good faith, independently
and without knowledge of its existence, developed your own invention
that was essentially the same machine, that fact would not prevent
you from obtaining a patent in the United States.
In addition, the United States has created unilateral instruments
such as clause Special 301 in its Trade Act to force other countries
to follow its patent laws. Thus, a country that depended on borrowed
knowledge for its own development of industrial power has acted
to block such transfer of knowledge and technology to other countries.
Introduction of TRIPs
During the Uruguay Round of the GATT, the United States introduced
its flawed patent system into the WTO, and thus imposed it on
the rest of the world. U.S. corporations have admitted that they
drafted and lobbied on behalf of TRIPs. As a Monsanto spokesman
said, "The industries and traders of world commerce have
played simultaneously the role of patients, the diagnosticians,
and prescribing physicians."
TRIPs not only made intellectual property rights (IPR) laws
global geographically, but also removed ethical boundaries by
including life forms and biodiversity into patentable subject
matter. Living organisms and life forms that are self-creating
were thus redefined as machines and artifacts made and invented
by the patentee. Intellectual property rights and patents then
give the patent holder a monopolistic right to prevent others
from making, using, or selling seeds. Seed saving by farmers has
now been redefined from a sacred duty to a criminal offence of
stealing "property." Article 27.3 (b) of the TRIPs agreement,
which relates to patents on living resources, was basically pushed
by the "Life Science" companies to establish themselves
as Lords of Life.
The chemical companies of the world have bought up seed and
biotechnology companies and reorganized themselves as Life Science
corporations, claiming patents on genes, seeds, plants and animals.
Ciba Geigy and Sandoz have combined to form Novartis; Hoechst
has joined with Rhone Poulenc to form Aventis; Zeneca has merged
with Astia; Dupont has bought up Pioneer HiBred; and Monsanto
now owns Cargill seeds, DeKalb, Calgene, Agracetus, Delta and
Pine Land, Holden, and Asgrow. Eighty percent of all genetically
engineered seeds planted are Monsanto's "intellectual property."
And Monsanto owns broad species patents on cotton, mustard, soybean-
crops that were not "invented" or "created"
by Monsanto but have been evolved over centuries of innovation
by farmers of India and East Asia working in close partnership
with biodiversity gifted by nature.
There are three perversions inherent in patents on living
1. Ethical perversion
This refers to the claim that seeds, plants, sheep, cows,
or human cell lines are nothing but "products of the mind"
"created" by Monsanto, Novartis, lan Wilmut or PPL.
Living organisms have their intrinsic self-organization, they
make themselves, and hence cannot be reduced to the status of
"inventions" and "creations" of patent holders.
They cannot be "owned" as private property because they
are our ecological kin, not just "genetic mines."
2. Criminalization of Saving and Sharing Seeds
The recognition of corporations as "owners" of seed
through intellectual property rights converts farmers into "thieves"
when they save seed or share it with neighbors. Monsanto hires
detectives to chase farmers who might be engaging in such "theft."
3. Encourages Biopiracy "Biopiracy" is the theft
of biodiversity and indigenous knowledge through patents. Biopiracy
deprives the South in three ways
* It creates a false claim to novelty and invention, even
though the knowledge has evolved since ancient times. Thus, biopiracy
is intellectual theft, which robs Third World people of their
creativity and their intellectual resources.
* It diverts scarce biological resources to monopoly control
of corporations, depriving local communities and indigenous practitioners.
Thus, biopiracy is resource theft from the poorest two thirds
of humanity who depend on biodiversity for their livelihoods and
* It creates market monopolies and excludes the original innovators
from their rightful share of local, national, and inter-national
markets. Instead of preventing this organized economic theft,
WTO rules protect the powerful and punish the victims. In a dispute
initiated by the United States against India, the WTO forced India
to change its patent laws and grant exclusive marketing rights
to foreign corporations on the basis of foreign patents. Since
many of these patents are based on biopiracy, the WTO is in fact
promoting piracy through patents.
Over time, the consequences of TRIPs for the South's biodiversity
and southern people's rights to their diversity will be severe.
No one will be able to produce or reproduce patented agricultural,
medicinal, or animal products freely, thus eroding livelihoods
of small producers and preventing the poor from using their own
resources and knowledge to meet their basic needs of health and
nutrition. Royalties for their use will have to be paid to the
patentees and unauthorized production will be penalized, thus
increasing the debt burden.
Indian farmers, traditional practitioners, and traders will
lose their market share in local, national and global markets.
For example, recently the U.S. government granted a patent for
the anti-diabetic properties of karela, jamun, and brinjal to
two nonresident Indians, Onkar S. Tomer and Kripanath Borah, and
their colleague Peter Gloniski. The use of these substances for
control of diabetes is everyday knowledge and practice in India.
Their medical use is documented in authoritative treatises like
the "Wealth of India," the "Compendium of Indian
Medicinal Plants" and the "Treatise on Indian Medicinal
If there were only one or two cases of such false claims to
invention on the basis of biopiracy, they could be called an error.
However, biopiracy is an epidemic. Neem, haldi, pepper, harar,
bahera, amla, mustard, basmati, ginger, castor, jaramla, amaltas
and new karela and jamun have all been patented. The problem is
not, as was made out to be in the case of turmeric, an error made
by a patent clerk. The problem is deep and systemic. And it calls
for a systemic change, not case-by-case challenges.
Some have suggested that biopiracy happens because Indian
knowledge is not documented. That is far from true. Indigenous
knowledge in India has been systematically documented, and this
in fact has made piracy easier. And even the folk knowledge orally
held by local communities deserves to be recognized as collective,
cumulative innovation. The ignorance of such knowledge in the
United States should not be allowed to treat piracy as invention.
The potential costs of biopiracy to the Third World poor are
very high since two thirds of the people in the South depend on
free access to biodiversity for their livelihoods and needs. Seventy
percent of seed in India is saved or shared farmers' seed; 70
percent of healing is based on indigenous medicine using local
If a patent system that is supposed to reward inventiveness
and creativity systematically rewards piracy, if a patent system
fails to honestly apply criteria of novelty and non-obviousness
in the granting of patents related to indigenous knowledge, then
the system is flawed, and it needs to change. It cannot be the
basis of granting patents or establishing exclusive marketing
rights. The problem of biopiracy is a result of Western-style
IPR systems, not the absence of such IPR systems in India. Therefore,
the implementation of TRIPs, which is based on the U.S.-style
patent regimes, should be immediately stopped and its review started.
The survival of the anachronistic Art. 102 of the U.S. Patent
Law thus enables the United States to pirate knowledge freely
from other countries, patent it, and then fiercely protect this
stolen knowledge as "intellectual property." Knowledge
flows freely into the United States but is prevented from flowing
freely out of the United States. If biopiracy is to stop, then
the U.S. patent laws must change, and Article 102 must be redrafted
to recognize prior art of other countries. This is especially
important given that U.S. patent laws have been globalized through
the TRIPs agreement of the WTO.
Upcoming Review of TRIPs
In 1999, Article 27.3 (b) of the TRIPs agreement is scheduled
to come up for review. This is the article that most directly
impacts indigenous knowledge because it relates to living resources
and biodiversity. In the year 2000, countries can also call for
an amendment of TRIPs as a whole.
The review and amendment of TRIPs should begin with an examination
of the deficiencies and weakness of western-style IPS systems.
Instead of being pressured, as India has been, to implement a
perverse IPR system through TRIPs, developing countries should
lead a campaign in the WTO for review and amendment of the system.
In the meantime, these countries should freeze the implementation
of TRIPs. While TRIPs implementation is frozen, they should make
domestic laws that protect indigenous knowledge as the common
property of the people, and as a national heritage.
The implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity
(CBD) enables us to do this. Because CBD is also an international
treaty, protecting indigenous knowledge via a Biodiversity Act
does not violate international obligations. In fact, removing
the inconsistencies between TRIPs and CBD should be an important
part of the international campaign for the review and amendment
Piracy of indigenous knowledge will continue until patent
laws directly address this issue, exclude patents on indigenous
knowledge and trivial modifications of it, and create sui generis
systems for the protection of collective, cumulative innovation.
The protection of diverse knowledge systems requires a diversity
of IPR systems, including systems that do not reduce knowledge
and innovation to private property for monopolistic profits. Systems
of common property in knowledge need to be evolved for preserving
the integrity of indigenous knowledge systems on the basis of
which our everyday survival is based.
Neither TRIPs nor the U.S. patent law recognize knowledge
as a "commons," nor do they recognize the collective,
cumulative innovation embodied in indigenous knowledge systems.
Thus, if indigenous knowledge is to be protected, then TRIPs and
U.S. patent laws must change. Nothing less than an overhaul of
western-style IPR systems with their intrinsic weaknesses will
stop the epidemic of biopiracy. And if biopiracy is not stopped,
the every day survival of ordinary Indians will be threatened,
as over time our indigenous knowledge and resources will be used
to make patented commodities for global trade. Global corporate
profits will grow at the cost of the food rights, health rights,
and knowledge rights of one billion Indians, two thirds of whom
are too poor to meet their needs through the global market place.
Patents on indigenous knowledge and uses of plants is an "enclosure"
of the intellectual and biological commons on which the poor depend.
Robbed of their rights and entitlements to freely use nature's
capital because that is the only capital they have access to,
the poor in the Third World will be pushed to extinction. Like
the diverse species on which they depend, they too are a threatened
"No patents on life" movements and movements against
biopiracy are already strong in the North and South. These citizens
initiatives need to be the basis of the TRIPs to exclude life
from patents and IPR monopolies. In India, Navdanya (the movement
for conservation of native seeds) has catalyzed broad-based alliances
for food freedom and seed freedom with farmers' groups, women's
groups, and environmental groups. The Bija Satyagraha or Seed
Satyagraha is the non-cooperation movement against patents on
life, genetic engineering of crops and corporate monopolies in
agriculture. The "Jaiv Panchayat" movement or the Living
Democracy movement focuses on the protection of all species and
for local democratic control on biodiversity and indigenous knowledge.
During Freedom Week, August 9-15, 1999, the Living Democracy
movement from more than 500 village communities sent notices to
biopirates such as W.R. Grace, which has claimed the use of neem
as pesticide as its invention; Monsanto, whose subsidiary Calgene
has patents on mustard and castor; and RiceTec, which has a patent
on basmati. Notices have also been sent to the WTO for overstepping
its jurisdiction because under traditional legal systems and under
the Indian Constitution, the local community (gram sabha) is the
highest competent authority on matters related to biodiversity.
Another peoples' organization, Hamara Roti, Hamara Azadi (Our
Bread, Our Freedom), brings together environmentalists, women
farmers, workers, and students. The coalition is increasing awareness
of corporations such as Monsanto and Cargill, which are trying
to control Indian agriculture and are destroying millions of livelihoods
in food production and food processing destroying the rich biological
and cultural diversity of our agricultural and food systems, and
destroying the ecologically sustainable consumption patterns.
On August 13, 1999, protestors at the Delhi offices of Monsanto
and Cargill demanded that the corporations divest from India and
stop their ecocide and genocide.
The TRIPs agreement has an impact on biodiversity and thus
subverts our democratic rights to our biodiversity and indigenous
knowledge. Biodiversity should stay in the hands of local communities.
This is a right recognized in our traditions and enshrined in
our Constitution. The WTO is destroying our democratic decision-making
structures by forcing the government to undo the Panchayati rights
of the people in decentralized democratic structures through the
implementation of TRIPs. Our campaign for the review of TRIPs
will be to designate the gram sabha, or local community, as the
competent authority for the defense of biodiversity and the protection
of indigenous knowledge as collective and cumulative innovation.
The real millennium round for the WTO is the beginning of
a new democratic debate about the future of the earth and the
future of its people. The centralized, undemocratic rules and
structures of the WTO that are establishing global corporate rule
based on monopolies and monocultures need to give way to an earth
democracy supported by decentralization and diversity. The rights
of all species and the rights of all peoples must come before
the rights of corporations to make limitless profits through limitless
Free trade is not leading to freedom. It is leading to slavery.
Diverse life forms are being enslaved through patents on life,
farmers are being enslaved into high-tech slavery, and countries
are being enslaved into debt and dependence and destruction of
their domestic economies.
We want a new millennium based on economic democracy, not
economic totalitarianism. The future is possible for humans and
other species only if the principles of competition, organized
greed, commodification of all life, monocultures and monopolies,
and centralized global corporate control of our daily lives enshrined
in the WTO are replaced by the principles of protection of people
and nature, the obligation of giving and sharing diversity, and
the decentralization and self-organization enshrined in our diverse
cultures and national constitutions.
The WTO rules violate principles of human rights and ecological
survival. They violate rules of justice and sustainability. They
are rules of warfare against the people and the planet. t Changing
these rules is the most important democratic and human rights
struggle of our times. It is a matter of survival.
from the South