Monsanto: some activities under investigation

The Financial Times reports that Monsanto the world’s biggest seedmaker by revenue is being investigated by the Securities and Exchange Commission over its use of cash incentives – up to $20 per acre – to persuade distributors to buy Roundup glyphosate, the world’s leading herbicide, and Roundup Ready seeds.

Monsanto’s herbicide division has suffered serious financial losses in the face of low-cost competition from China and it is seeking to recoup these and reinstate profits. 

Almost a year ago the Rajasthan government signed memorandums of understanding (MoUs) with Monsanto and six other biotech seed companies but after a series of protests by farmers’ organisations, the government has decided not to execute the MoUs. 

Monsanto: secretive and undemocratic? 

Academic activist Bharat Dogra criticised the secretive, undemocratic nature of the MoU with Monsanto: 

The least people can expect from such an agreement with its wide-ranging impact on public interest is that it should be widely debated at all levels. But amazingly this agreement is based on high levels of secrecy.  

“As the document signed by the Rajasthan Government with Monsanto and quoted above says, “The contents of this MoU shall be kept confidential (“Confidential Information”) and the parties shall not make, use, disclose or disseminate, or in any way share any Confidential Information to any person without the prior written consent of the other party. Each party shall treat all Confidential Information with the same degree of care as it accords to its own confidential information and shall not disclose the same except where it is required to be so disclosed by Law. 

“In other words, before the Rajasthan Government gives information about this agreement to the people, it has to take the “prior written consent” of Monsanto!” 

The agreement: of questionable legality? 

A former chief justice of the Rajasthan High Court, Panachand Jain, has questioned the legality of the agreements on several grounds: 

  • Were all those who signed the MoUs authorised to do so?
  • Being institutions providing education, can universities enter into PPPs with private companies?
  • The rules say that all government property or anything related to government needs to be auctioned. So how could the PPPs give away their land to private companies without going through due process? 

Avoid high cost, water and chemical-guzzling seeds 

G V Ramanjaneyulu, executive director of the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, a research organisation in Hyderabad, said “In a poor state like Rajasthan using public exchequer to habituate farmers to high-cost seed is a mistake . . . Introducing water- and chemical-guzzling seeds in a state where most of the cultivation depends on rain without a proper environment impact assessment will have serious consequences for farmers.”  

Bihar and Madhya Pradesh – GM-free states 

In May, farmer groups demanded that Rajasthan be declared a genetically modified (GM) organisms-free state like Madhya Pradesh, which recently – following the stand by Bihar – decided to prohibit any environmental release, including field trials, of GM seeds and crops because their safety and impact on human beings and environment is still in doubt.

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