Notorious agricultural giant Monsanto has teamed up with the Nepalese government to force GMO seeds on to the country's farmers. Protests in Kathmandu ensued.
In later news, it has been advised that the Nepal's Ministry of Agriculture has made NO formal agreement. In response to the deal proposed by USAID and public protests and debates on the issue, Hari Dahal the spokesperson of Ministry of Agriculture of Nepal has mentioned that the deal has not been signed and will not be signed by Nepal Government. Nepal has a temporary victory over Monsanto although it doesn't guarantee future efforts to push such deals.
RT has reported that the strain of GMO corn which is being forced on the farmers is banned in several EU countries and will be used in Nepal to substitute imports and "boost the starving nation’s maize production."
With corn being one of Nepal's biggest crops, the country still only produces approximately half of what it needs for the feed industry and have to import around 130,000 tons annually to cover this deficit. Even with the imports, over 40% of the Nepalese population is malnourished.
The United States Agency of International Development (USAID) announced in September last year that it wants to create a partnership between the Nepalese Government and Monsanto in order to boost maize production. This is to "lend the starving country a helping hand".
USAID Economic Growth Adviser, Rave Aulakh stated: “We have been trying to help the Nepalese farmer to increase his total production of the food crops,” making him “a little bit more competitive by bringing his costs down.”
However, with the agricultural giant Monsanto having such a notorious and controversial record, public anger has spilled out on the streets and the social media.
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Protesters against Monsanto in Kathmandu, Nepal
Hundreds of activists protested in front of the U.S. embassy in Katmandu to speak out against Monsanto.
One of the protesters, Sabin Ninglekhu stated: “You start buying seeds from them. Year one: it can produce a bit of yield. Year two: yield starts going down. And then it means you have to increase inputs. You have to annually buy seeds from this company because seed fertility keeps going down.”
As Monsanto seeds cannot be harvested and saved in the normal way used by farmers, the farmers would be forced to buy seeds for every crop, together with expensive pesticides and herbicides in order to grow the corn.
While critics agree that Nepal must urgently address the food security problems in the country, they state that the solution should come from within the country, not from abroad, and not with genetically modified crops.
The protesters aim was to pressure the government of Nepal to cancel its new agreement with Monsanto and the USAID before the consequences of this action hit. They state that the partnership will merely change the country's dependence on imported maize to yet another dependence on importing GMO seeds from overseas.
With allegations of monopolization of local farming markets, Monsanto has been sued by hundreds of thousands of farmers worldwide.
Digital Journal recently reported on the case of Argentinian farmers who are suing the company for not providing adequate training and protective equipment against Roundup, Monsanto's notorious herbicide. The farmers state that exposure to the chemicals has caused an array of defects in local children.
Many European countries are strongly opposed to the use of the GMO seeds with the MON 810 strain of maize last month being temporarily banned in France “to protect the environment.”
And just last week the European commission failed to obtain sufficient support to approve the cultivation of 3 Monsanto corn varieties.