Wednesday, November 10, 2010

President Obama in India: Just What Was He Doing There? No Good, That's What. Read this account by Dr. Vandana Shiva

Beware the price of a handshake, when you shake hands with a U.S. President: It'll cost you more than you'd ever imagine. Image is from here.

U.S. presidents only have a few things to offer the world: self-interest is high on the list. Corporate interest is another. What the U.S. cannot and will not offer is freedom from the U.S. economy and it's standards and practices, which are gynocidal, genocidal, and ecocidal. How it is that President Obama could utter the words "Be the change you want to see in the world" (Mahatma Gandhi) with a straight face is beyond me. Globalisation is disaster, disease, and death to poor people globally. What will it take for President Obama to wake up and realise that?

What follows is from the Deccan Chronicle, and is being cross-posted here. Please click on the title below to link back to the source website.

Obama and the US corporate takeover

November 10th, 2010
By Vandana Shiva

The main focus of US President Barack Obama’s three-day visit to India was to firm up business deals for US corporations that would create jobs in the US. Trade deals worth over $10 billion were finalised, with a focus on defence, energy and agriculture. In fact, Mr Obama’s speech at St. Xavier’s College, Mumbai, focused almost entirely on how India owed it to the US to open its markets to US companies and agribusiness. What Mr Obama failed to mention, however, is that India has already been forced to give market access to the US in the areas of oilseeds, pulses and genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) at the cost of the Indian farmers, and India’s biodiversity and environment.

India’s imports of edible oils are growing disproportionately: Since 2008, edible oil imports from the US to India have jumped 2,666 per cent and are expected to reach 9.3 million tonnes in 2010-11, while returns to Indian farmers are declining.

The flooding of domestic markets with artificially cheap imports is challenging the livelihood of local farmers and food processors. This upsurge in imports has also destroyed the rich diversity of indigenous oilseeds, including mustard, sesame, linseed, groundnut, coconut etc. The reliance on imported oilseeds can easily trigger violence and instability, as Indonesia’s food riots illustrate.

The destruction of India’s pulse diversity through the Green Revolution has led to pulses, the only proteins in a vegetarian diet, becoming completely unaffordable in most Indian households, with the US now dumping subsidised “yellow pea dal” which is no substitute for our indigenous flavoursome pulses.

US-based Monsanto’s monopoly in the Indian seed market has allowed the US corporation to harvest huge royalties through Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) while Indian farmers are pushed into debt and suicide. Two lakh farmers, mostly in the cotton belt, have committed suicide in India since 1997, the leading cause being debt linked to crop failure of the Monsanto Bt cotton, the spread of monocultures and of highly expensive, capital-intensive inputs that made cultivation economically unviable.

Mr Obama is also trying to pursue President George W. Bush’s agenda of unleashing Walmart on India’s retail economy. The argument used is reduction of waste and creation of jobs. However, Jonathan Bloom’s recently published book, American Wasteland: How America Throws Away Nearly Half of its Food, puts the blame on the Walmart model for the destruction of food. India cannot afford such an expensive mistake. Further, retail generates 400 million jobs through self-employment. Instead of exporting unemployment to India from the US, Mr Obama should be importing innovative ideas of employment generation by learning from India’s small-scale entrepreneurs.

With regard to agriculture, too, Mr Obama is carrying on Mr Bush’s legacy with the Agriculture Knowledge Initiative (AKI) of 2008. At a time when the world recognises the productivity and ecological sustainability of small farmers, the US-India AKI is pushing India to adopt hazardous technologies such as GMOs and capital-intensive commercial agriculture, all of which benefit US agribusiness.

It is no coincidence that at the time of signing the AKI, US multinationals on the negotiating table — Monsanto, Walmart, Syngenta — lobbied for a change in India’s IPR laws so to claim exclusive ownership and extract royalties on agricultural inputs, leading to the creation of a stronger technological monopoly.

Instead of learning lessons from the ecological and social non-sustainability of the Green Revolution, Mr Obama is attempting to push the AKI beyond India, by making India join the US initiative for a Green Revolution in Africa.

A recent newspaper report stated that “India and the US may team up to tap farm opportunities in Africa. The proposal is a spin-off from the India-US agriculture dialogue”. Ben Rhodes, US’ deputy national adviser for strategic communication, said, “The US has been part of food security initiative in Africa, where we are trying to apply technology, innovation and capacity building to help African farmers lift their countries and their standard of living. We see great potential for the US and India to cooperate, not just within India but in African countries as well”.

The takeover of Africa’s land and agriculture by a global alliance — led by US agribusiness — is being pitched as a new model of food security. But it is, in fact, the globalisation of a failed model that creates food insecurity.

African movements have staunchly rejected the Green Revolution model for Africa: what the stakeholders want is a sustainable, inclusive and indigenous solution that increases food sovereignty — not dependency on markets, expensive chemical inputs and GMOs.

The UN’s International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development, which engaged 400 scientists for four years to assess the performance of different models of agriculture, has concluded that neither the Green Revolution nor genetic engineering can offer food security. Only ecological agriculture has the potential for increasing food production.

Mr Obama — with his roots in Africa — needs to listen to the voices of his ancestors. It might also help if he spread the model Michelle Obama has introduced in the White House: Organic Gardens.

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