November 15, 2013

Charkha: the Seed & Revival of the Sharecropper.

Charkha, also a symbol for dharmic justice, the spinning wheel, embodies the creation myth and threads of precious consciousness that are woven through the ether into our beings from the beginning of time.

An eternal thread through the timeless folds of our hridayim into the great halls of saints and angels.

It could be suggested that the charkha of today would be the movement for sovereignty with our agriculture and the earth. Our ability to feed our world population and our organic seeds are threatened by the burgeoning movement for genetically modified or biopirated seeds.

The biopiracy of our seeds in the form of patents disable farmers from saving seeds and determining biodiversity expressing itself as sovereignty of the farmer.

Seeds that are genetically modified affect the human body in ways that are unknown. It could be surmised that some genetically modified seeds whose DNA is altered to create a pesticide in the structure of the plant could cause a naturally occurring pesticide to grow in the gut of human or animal when ingested.

Our primary medicine is our food supply.

The lynchpin of our survival is our food and water. Survival often conjures images of walking through a desert with the needed supplies to subsist; however, survival includes wellness. In the United States, we have been acculturated to believe that wellness is external to a system of every day care of the body.

Perhaps wellness might mean going to a yoga class, receiving a massage once a month, eating vegetables or taking vitamins. Integrating the care of a daily body rhythm that considers meditation, yoga, food choices, bathing, exercise, stimulating the nervous system correctly and spiritual practices to cultivate your hridayim.

To consider the fundamental experience of food in our lives allows us to consider the benefits of wellness that arise from a diet that supports our body and constitution. We may also consider how improper foods divide, or dampen our wellness.

When big agriculture creates a monopoly of our seeds, it is a call to become aware of the origins and integrity of all of our grown foods.

Big agriculture and pharmaceutical industry share a documented lobbying history in the United States, notably with antibiotic use in meats and produce. Companies like Monsanto / Bayer are international forces of biopirating with sophisticated agendas about conquering the world seed market, transforming agrarian communities into commercialized revenue streams for their desire to collect royalties from seeds used by farmers.

The history of the pesticide industry, a sector of the pharmaceutical industry and intermeshed with GMO farming, reveals that pesticides were developed originally during World War I and World War II to kill people.

Now, these same chemical compounds are used on a daily basis throughout the planet to purportedly assist in crop growth and are paired with GMO crops systemically, or externally.

Our United States healthcare system that is structured to treat disease after it is fully expressed and symptomatic rather then proactively addressing root causes of disease, such as diet and lifestyle, to prevent the spread of disease in the body.

If our food source is biopirated and no longer has the Creator’s blessing, and our medicine system is profit driven, then our ability to cultivate wellness is severely hindered by our socio cultural infrastructure, and our government organizations.

How do we create wellness within these structures and in the framework of a stressed and unstable economic infrastructure? How do we imagine wellness as a culture, when our pivotal government and socio-cultural agencies are marketing a healthcare model that is based off of an approach to medical welfare derived from economic gain, rather than proactive vitality and true health?

Some questions to consider:

What message are we being given by those who wish to patent our seeds? What is their business model based on since they occupy space in both agribusiness and pharmaceuticals? What is the relationship between agribusiness and pharmaceuticals?

Is there a cause and effect relationship between eating biopirated seeds, GMO produce or produce altered with systemic pesticides and pharmaceuticals? If profit based businesses are responsible for seeds, agricultural products and healthcare products, can I assume that the things that they are selling have a relationship with one another?

Accordingly, what is their cash based business model and how do you measure Return on Investment? Is ROI measured from both sectors? Are both sectors cross referenced?

Big Agriculture, Biopiracy & The Road to Sharecropping

There is a startling trend of Indian farmers who have taken their own lives by drinking the very pesticide that they purchased from Monsanto to assist in growing BT Cotton.

Since 1997, more than 250,00 farmers in India from Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Punjab have taken their lives. The drinking of the pesticide to commit a ritual act may also suggest that the pesticide is in the water system locally.

The first Green Revolution in the 1960’s in India was public sector driven with the purported agenda of food security and a hidden agenda of selling agricultural chemicals. The second “green revolution” which has been occurring since approximately the early 1990’s in India is “not at all about food security,” (Vendana Shiva, ), but about profit returns for Monsanto whose research agenda, which is public domain, includes a testing cycle for over twenty crops with BT genes; these crops include: mustard, cauliflower, okra, bringh oil and rice.

When the seed is proprietary, it can be owned and therefore, royalties can be collected. In 1997, Monsanto began acquiring over fifty seed companies worldwide.

Examining the whole picture will allow us to hypothesize the trajectory of the current agricultural cycles to understand the how the trends in cotton farming in India might impact the agricultural patterns and seed sovereignty in India at large.

If the cotton worker in India cannot earn a wage, then they cannot purchase food. If the cotton worker cannot purchase food, then they are starved with their wallet. If the grain worker has no one who can afford to purchase their crop, then the cost of grain can be driven down which over time will cause the grain worker / grain farmer to go out of business.

In this hypothetical model: there will be no fertile ground to grow the cotton and no farmers to do it correctly, and there will be no grain farmers to feed the population.

Monsanto leads the effort for seed biopirating in India. The best way to control a population, better than guns or bombs, is with food distribution.

Monsanto’s wish to “own life” will dominate our world if action is not taken to prevent the ability of any corporate entity from patenting and owning the blueprint of a living organism.

If a corporate entity owns the seed, the very origin of all food on the planet, then this allows a provocative monopoly on our food and plant-derived medicine supply to occur. How many patents does Monsanto own worldwide and are there patterns in patent ownership that can necessitate weights and measures in a judicial system, controls around the farmer’s planting cycle, parameters about the farmer’s choices about what they will grow, and decisions about freedoms regarding what seed stock the farmer will save or plant that is not proprietary?

Non-proprietary stock may be contested by the proprietary seed company and the proprietary seeds may contaminate the organic, non-proprietary seeds.

Assertions about the incompetence of India’s farmers, the antiquated equipment that is used for cultivation and the defense of Monsanto’s business efficacy are flagrant, backhanded and incorrect premises about the genocide which is occurring to India’s cotton farmers and workers.

Over 270,000 farmers have committed suicide, many or most of them drinking the pesticides sold to them to apply to their BT Cotton to kill the Bollworm that the GMO crop was unable to repel systemically.

There are a number of vague articles that cite some academic and some colloquial references to surmise the cause of the deaths of over 270,000 cotton farmers in India.

The following article attempts to debunk the assertion that there is a genocide occurring with BT Cotton farmers in India: Myth of India’s ‘GM genocide’:  Genetically modified cotton blamed for suicides.

A Greenpeace report about BT Cotton in China discusses the ineffectivity of the BT Cotton strain in repelling Bollworm and the resulting super-bug that is caused by the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is a family of over “200 different proteins which naturally produce chemicals harmful to selective insects, most notably the larvae of moths and butterflies, beetles, Helicoverpa armigera and flies, and harmless to other forms of life (Umt.edu, 2013).” Another article discusses that organic cotton farming is more profitable.

Bacillius Thuringiensis is a bacteria that is bread into the hybrid cotton gene to create a genetically modified cotton gene that deposits BT into the soil where the BT Cotton is planted.

The BT cotton plant’s deposits in the soil causes the earth to lie fallow.

Most of the 270,000 farmer deaths were growers of BT Cotton.

The gene coding for Bt toxin has been inserted into cotton, causing cotton to produce this natural insecticide in its tissues.

Cotton is a “backbone of the textile industry” in India.

If the cotton industry were to falter, the ramifications could include a large scale economic depression that would disable the large textile workforce of approximately 35 million and estimated to be approximately 60 million by the year 2022.

There is a great deal of controversy around the BT Cotton use in India and other locations. The tremendous number of farmer deaths in India are a red flag of a genocide that can be tied to farmers of genetically modified BT Cotton, and especially to farming conventions that are required by Monsanto / Bayer, an international seed, pesticide and pharmaceutical company.

It is unsubstantiated reason to attribute antiquated farming methods or weather conditions as a reason why a rich historical lineage of farming would be interrupted when then only “new” factor in the mix of India’s rich agrarian history with the land is the Monsanto company.

Monsanto’s farming conventions are highly suspect if hundred of thousands of the land stewards with whom they do business are dying.

Cotton & Charkha: Dharmic Power

The charkha, or (spinning) wheel, was the physical embodiment and symbol of Gandhi’s constructive program. It represents localism (swadeshi), self-sufficiency, but at the same time interdependence, as the wheel only had meaning in the center of a network of cotton growers, carders, weavers, distributors, and users. It also embodied the dignity of labor, equality and unity (as all volunteers were pretty much required to spin each day), and finally independence, as British control of India was rooted in control of her indigenous industries. For this reason, Nehru called khadi the homespun cloth ”the livery of our freedom.”

Khadi formed the “sun” in the “solar system” that was Gandhi’s Constructive Programme. Every person, regardless of age, social class or gender was involved in spinning and sometimes elsewhere in the chain of cloth production, from sowing the seeds of cotton to wearing khadi.

Khadi was both symbolic and quite real, as it gave employment to millions and produced a basic need (the second of ‘food, clothing, and shelter.’) What would be the charkha of the movement today? While meditation can be regarded as our “inner charkha,” we have been discussing at length what outer, constructive activity could unite and represent the movement as brilliantly as charkha did in India.

Gandhi also made the following observations about the economics of Indian cotton and the systematic exploitation of Indian for her raw materials under British rule.

Step 1: English people buy Indian cotton in the field, picked by Indian labor at seven cents a day, through an optional monopoly.

Step 2: This cotton is shipped on British ships, a three-week journey across the Indian Ocean, down the Red Sea, across the Mediterranean, through Gibraltar, across the Bay of Biscay and the Atlantic Ocean to London. One hundred percent profit on this freight is regarded as small.

Step 3: The cotton is turned into cloth in Lancashire. You pay shilling wages instead of Indian pennies to your workers. The English worker not only has the advantage of better wages, but the steel companies of England get the profit of building the factories and machines. Wages; profits; all these are spent in England.

Step 4: The finished product is sent back to India at European shipping rates, once again on British ships. The captains, officers and sailors of these ships, whose wages must be paid, are English. The only Indians who profit are a few lascars who do the dirty work on the boats for a few cents a day.

Step 5: The cloth is finally sold back to the kings and landlords of India who got the money to buy this expensive cloth out of the poor peasants of India who worked at seven cents a day.”

Enmeshed in the rich spiritual and devotional traditions of the farm and the earth, the cotton farmer wields the legacy of Indian Sovreignity and Swadeshi.

The wheel and legacy of Charkha must continue spinning and not in the hands of an international corporate monster with the intention of turning it’s back to the cultural history of wellness and health. It is ironical that the seeds of health and wellness, rooted in the traditions of Ayurveda, the science of life, is inextricably linked to the tradition of the Charkha.

The cotton thread of India’s independence cannot be bound by a monetary wish to dominate a tradition that has no limits in a financial past time.

Biopiracy & India’s Medicine

The emerging trend of biopiracy is a startling reality in our current environmental landscape. The biopiracy of important medicine plants grown throughout the world should be cause for alarm.

Biopiracy is another word for “the piracy of nature’s creativity and millennia of indigenous innovation;” the piracy of our planet’s vast and perfect resources to eliminate biodiversity, multi cropping, and nature’s inherent discernment that creates powerful resilience.

In india, there have been three notable precedents of biopiracy that have been overturned in both the European Patent Office and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

A United States company attempted to patent Basmati (Patent No. 5663484) of a U.S. company RiceTec. On August 14th, 2001, Dr. Vedana Shiva’s organization Navdanya achieved another victory against biopiracy and patent on life when the United States Patent and Trademark Office revoked a large section of the patent on Indian Basmati rice by the US corporations RiceTec Inc.

“These included:
1. The generic title of the RiceTec patent No. 5663484, which earlier referred to Basmati rice lines;
2. The sweeping and false claims of RiceTec having ‘invented’, traits of rice seeds and plants including plant height, grain length, aroma which are characteristics found in our traditional Basmati varieties and claims to general methods of breeding which was also piracy of traditional breeding done by farmers and our scientists (of the 20 original claims only three narrow ones survived).”

What would cause farmers in India to relinquish their sovereignty of the seed by joining in implicit contracts with those who control the distribution and usage of seed?

Companies like Monsanto either sell the seed directly or work with Indian companies who will go into contract with them, resigning their sovereignty as well to be a secondary provider, simply because they will still receive significant income even as an intermediary for Monsanto to farmers.

BT Cotton appears to be the dominant GMO crop in India currently (Dr. Vedana Shiva) with over 90 percent of the cotton in the country originating now from BT Cotton seeds. Incidently, BT Cotton is the main crop of the 270,000 Indian farmer suicides.

A media piece produced by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) that begins with a short vignette exploiting the symbology of Charkha and Gandhi to gain the trust of the viewer to impart a false hope about the possibilities of BT Cotton as a crop. It would appear that this powerful symbology and the icon of the Charkha has been used by Monsanto and other government and corporate entities to win the favor of the people and the farmer in support of Genetically Modified crops and farming.

In the mid 1980’s, several government agencies were established to usher in India’s first genetically modified seeds. These organizations include:

1. The Review Committee on Genetic Manipulation,

2. Genetic Engineers Approval Committee,

3. Institutional Bio-Safety Committees.

Monsanto’s Win-Win

The corporate rhetoric of Monsanto seems to stay consistent regardless of which international market they are targeting. Monsanto / Bayer’s business model includes a farm to hospital solution.

That is, genetically modified seeds are used to grow plants that structurally integrate pesticide into their plant structure. Those foods cause dis-ease and imbalance in the gut of humans and animals, and then Monsanto / Bayer offers medical supplies and pharmaseuticals to treat the dis-ease that was created by their proprietary seed.

I call this satire,

Monsanto’s win-win is because this business model includes everything from the seed of disease recreated to fit the wallet of a man all the way to the hospital trip where you may be billed in excess of your deductible to remedy your cancer.

Food security is one of Monsanto’s advertising points.

That is to say: Monsanto claims to care about the booming population of the world and wishes to assist farmers in creating more food to feed everyone. However, Monsanto is a profit driven company so it would be safe to assume that they have little interest in saving people unless they pay the motherlode.

So when we hear an argument about Monsanto’s efficacy as a company who cares about farmers and people not going hungry, we can all remember that their revenue stream is positioned to exploit a sentiment that tugs on the heart strings of those who understand that eating is a human need.

We can all agree that without cash, no one will receive anything from Monsanto.

Let’s review the following claims to remember how Monsanto is really masking their profit driven marketing routine with rhetoric that denies the overarching needs of the planet and human kind.

Monsanto claims that:

1. Yield increases with GMO crop.

None of these claims can be substantiated by a person who is not on the Monsanto payroll, farmer, researcher, or government official. The claim that yield is increased is suspect because the cost per square foot is increased with a proprietary crop. Additionally, it cannot be supported that the quality of the yield is superior or stable because the systemic pesticide that is used to support the plant structure purportedly against a natural pest called the Bollworm may or may not be effective in accomplishing this mission.

2. Pesticide use is less because pesticide is systemically included in the plant structure.

Farmer’s who plant BT Cotton may or may not use less pesticide, as the increased incidence of Bollworm after thirty day cycles is not markedly different than without the pesticide in addition to the presence of BT Cotton.

3. Farmers will not be sued for planting non-GMO crops (though they are frequently).

If a Monsanto farmer were to have a problem with their seed or nonproprietary seed and they had financial troubles, the ability of such a farmer to sue Monsanto is unlikely. Monsanto’s proprietary relationships with the farmers who plant their seeds is relatively self-regulated if Monsanto ensures that there is a contract because once a farmer has relinquished sovereignty to a corporate revenue stream, the proprietary nature of their product is reinforced by the government through which the patent is registered.

Farmers also may not be at liberty to discuss their seed contracts because of non-disclosure agreements.

4. The cost of planting per square foot will decrease with GM crop (though it is increased with a higher cost per seed when the proprietary IP seed is planted).

The cost of proprietary seeds are more costly then organic seeds. Monsanto uses the concept of systemic pest resistance to market their proprietary seeds, though the efficacy of these genetically modified seeds is unsubstantiated by anyone who is not on the Monsanto payroll. Even some who are on the Monsanto gravy train are contentious about the efficacy of their own crop quality because the pest resistance that Monsanto claimed is not apparent.

5. Mono-cropping is beneficial for the soil.

Mono cropping is against the natural order and is highly risky as a farming approach. Multi cropping allows for nature’s natural order to support the strength of biodiversity. Minerals and vitamins in Soil are replenished though biodiveristy, and a myriad of critters in the top soil and above ground ensure that one creature will not overgrow the natural balance to destroy a crop.

Mono-cropping is risky because if there is an overgrowth of a particular creature that enjoys that particular crop, or if there is a natural phenomena like excessive rain, that particular crop will fail. If there are many crops, then one crop may be damaged with an early frost, while others may be resistant to this.

Let’s repeat again: We can all agree that without cash, no one will receive anything from Monsanto.

A Call for Satyagraha

Satyagraha is a vehicle of truth that embodies a divine force to transform the unjust holdings of humanity into working truths that we may stand on as faith.

Satyagraha (/ˌsætɪəˈɡrɑːhɑː/; Sanskrit: सत्याग्रह satyāgraha), a term created by Mahatma Gandhi, is loosely translated as “insistence on truth” (satya ‘truth’; agraha ‘insistence’) or “soul force”[1] or “truth force,” is a particular philosophy and practice within the broader overall category generally known as nonviolent resistance or civil resistance.

In his words:

“Truth (satya) implies love, and firmness (agraha) engenders and therefore serves as a synonym for force. I thus began to call the Indian movement Satyagraha, that is to say, the Force which is born of Truth and Love or non-violence, and gave up the use of the phrase “passive resistance”, in connection with it, so much so that even in English writing we often avoided it and used instead the word “satyagraha” itself or some other equivalent English phrase.”

~ M.K. Gandhi, Satyagraha in South Africa, Navajivan, Ahmedabad, 1928, pp. 109–10.

Gandhi proposed a series of rules for satyagrahis to follow in a resistance campaign:

1. Harbour no anger.
2. Suffer the anger of the opponent.
3. Never retaliate to assaults or punishment; but do not submit, out of fear of punishment or assault, to an order given in anger.
4. Voluntarily submit to arrest or confiscation of your own property if you are a trustee of property, defend that property (non-violently) from confiscation with your life.
5. Do not curse or swear.
6. Do not insult the opponent.
7. Neither salute nor insult the flag of your opponent or your opponent’s leaders if anyone attempts to insult or assault your opponent, defend your opponent (non-violently) with your life.
8. As a prisoner, behave courteously and obey prison regulations (except any that are contrary to self-respect).
9. As a prisoner, do not ask for special favourable treatment.
10. As a prisoner, do not fast in an attempt to gain conveniences whose deprivation does not involve any injury to your self-respect.
11. Joyfully obey the orders of the leaders of the civil disobedience action do not pick and choose amongst the orders you obey; if you find the action as a whole improper or immoral, sever your connection with the action entirely
12. Do not make your participation conditional on your comrades taking care of your dependents while you are engaging in the campaign or are in prison; do not expect them to provide such support.
13. Do not become a cause of communal quarrels.
14. Do not take sides in such quarrels, but assist only that party which is demonstrably in the right; in the case of inter-religious conflict, give your life to protect (non-violently) those in danger on either side.
15. Avoid occasions that may give rise to communal quarrels.
16. Do not take part in processions that would wound the religious sensibilities of any community.

What is Navdanya?

Navdanya means “nine seeds” (symbolizing protection of biological and cultural diversity) and also the “new gift” (for seed as commons, based on the right to save and share seeds In today’s context of biological and ecological destruction, seed savers are the true givers of seed. This gift or “dana” of Navadhanyas (nine seeds) is the ultimate gift – it is a gift of life, of heritage and continuity. Conserving seed is conserving biodiversity, conserving knowledge of the seed and its utilization, conserving culture, conserving sustainability.”

Bija Satyagraha founded by Navdanya is:

“A grass-roots campaign on patent issues, an assertion to people’s rights to biodiversity and a determination not to co-operate with IPR systems that make seed saving and seed exchange a crime. Navdanya spearheaded the movement to protect the farmer’s rights of seed saving and exchange.

Navdanya organized several seminars, yatras, signature campaigns to create awareness amongst the farmers and also to sensitize the policy makers and politicians of the country. In September 2000, over 400 farmers from all over the world came together at the unique Beej Panchayat (People’s Seed Tribunal) to give evidence of the crisis of seed and agriculture in the wake of globalization, that is pushing small farmers to suicide.

Today the Bija Satyagraha has spread through large number of communities and groups all the country.”


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Editor: Catherine Monkman

{Photo: Flickr.}

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