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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

America doesn’t have solutions for Indian agriculture

Food as Political Weapon 04 March 2004 Acres U.S.A. Devinder Sharma is a journalist, writer, thinker, and policy analyst who plays a crucial role in the global effort to turn back ill-advised neoliberal trade policies and biotechnology.
We are very hopeful because more and more people are now coming out openly and onto the streets, and even the economists are now coming out against the WTO. India is a country that has shown remarkable resistance all through history, so we are very hopeful that we will be able to stand up to this...
In the last 10 years, we have been led to believe that we have practically invented something new called trade. Trade has existed ever since man began to domesticate agriculture. Why now? Why all this just now? I don’t think this kind of trade is what we need. What we need is for each country to be self-sufficient. Each country needs to evolve policies that ensure that its people can be fed by food that its own people grow. That’s the kind of sustainable model we need, not this kind of corporate agriculture under the garb of trade. Do you think India was not trading in agriculture 10 years ago? We were trading. When we needed food because we had a shortfall, we imported food. When we needed to export food, we exported food. There was no problem.
The problem comes from the way they are now trying to monopolize trade, forcing this model onto everyone until everyone falls into line. “If you are not with us, then you are against us.” That is the kind of paradigm that is in play today, which I think is very unfortunate. That was a remarkable era for India, when we were protecting our borders, our farmers were self-sufficient, and our country was self-sufficient. There were problems within the country that were tackled within the country. If American agriculture faces a problem, I think you will agree it has to be solved within America. I don’t think India has a solution for American agriculture. Similarly, America doesn’t have solutions for Indian agriculture. It has to be location-specific. That is what we need to work towards. I am sure we will get there again, and India will be able to resist this new kind of international trade, which is simply a process of takeover...
These are very serious developments in the history of intellectual property rights. What has happened here, again, is the same process. The first requirement of the WTO focus is, first, open borders. Now, having done that, there is still a threat to maximum profits. India and China have huge public-supported research infrastructures — India has the second-biggest agricultural research infrastructure in the world. We have 40 agriculture universities, and we have 81 national institutes. They are all funded by the public sector. We have 30,000 agricultural scientists in India, a huge bloc of scientific minds. This is something that can always negate the impact of agribusiness investment. Therefore the second requirement of the world trade focus is to destroy this agriculture research sector...
They bring in Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights, an agreement under WTO. All it says is that countries need to exercise intellectual property rights over the plant varieties and animal species. Now it has gone still further, and they want to draw up intellectual property rights over the processes of plant breeding or transformation, and also the processes of making products. What they are actually doing is this: because the biotechnology research is in this part of the world — the United States and Western Europe — the genetic makeup of plants is now being mapped, and their genes are being patented. He who has control over the genes will have control over the research. Devinder Sharma’s columns and books can be found at

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