Community Rights and Food Justice

Mari Margil, Associate Director of CELDF, writes into the New York Times:

Communities are asking whether we really have democracy if we don’t have the authority to decide how our food is grown and what food we eat. They are no longer willing to wait for answers from the top. Instead, they’re planting the seeds of a new democracy movement beginning at the grass roots.

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Agricorporations worldwide comprise the new face of colonialism.  The British East India Company — a virtual corporate subsidiary of the English government — had the responsibility of stripping India of its industrial independence and strength, just to make the colony completely dependent on British textiles.  To accomplish this, East India Company thugs raped, pillaged and plundered.  This included cutting off the hands and thumbs of Indian Master Weavers (which led to the disappearance of one of the world’s finest fabrics, muslin), and, in one case, raping, pillaging, plundering and sacking an entire town of 5,000 people, and then subsequently erasing that town from the historical record.

As John Oliver says,

Being British is a bit like being an alcoholic…when someone says you did something aweful, you find yourself going, ‘honestly, i don’t even remember doing that, but probably…sorry, sorry’

So what does this have to do with Monsanto, per se?  Thanks to its colonial legacy of resource and wealth extraction (a benefit that Great Britain enjoys to this day), the Indian subcontinent remains largely impoverished and bereft of its incredibly rich small-scale artisan community.  Part of the British strategy was to transform India from an industrial power into an agricultural colony completely dependent on the English economy:

In 1813, the British decided that India should no longer be an industrial nation (which it had been a leader since the earliest records) but an agricultural nation and colony of an industrialized England! British goods were sold in India and Indian goods were gradually replaced.


They took raw materials from Bangla and sold industrial products from Britain back to the Bengali people. The Muslin still caused a threat for sale of British fabric and so the weavers were forced to stop producing Muslin or passing on their skill to their children. To enforce these thumbs of the weavers were cut off.

So, here we stand, today, with India serving largely an agricultural export nation and virtual economic colony of the Global North, but not by its own designs.  This, apparently, wasn’t good enough, though.  US multinational corporations have found a way to intensify the exploitation and resource extraction.  Vandana Shiva writes about how Monsanto now controls 95% of India’s cotton seed:

The entry of Monsanto in the Indian seed sector was made possible with a 1988 Seed Policy imposed by the World Bank, requiring the Government of India to deregulate the seed sector.  Five things changed with Monsanto’s entry:

  1. First, Indian companies were locked into joint-ventures and licensing arrangements, and concentration over the seed sector increased.
  2. Second, seed which had been the farmers’ common resource became the “intellectual property” of Monsanto, for which it started collecting royalties, thus raising the costs of seed.
  3. Third, open pollinated cotton seeds were displaced by hybrids, including GMO hybrids. A renewable resource became a non-renewable, patented commodity.
  4. Fourth, cotton which had earlier been grown as a mixture with food crops now had to be grown as a monoculture, with higher vulnerability to pests, disease, drought and crop failure.
  5. Fifth, Monsanto started to subvert India’s regulatory processes and, in fact, started to use public resources to push its non-renewable hybrids and GMOs through so-called public-private partnerships (PPP).


Monsanto’s seed monopolies, the destruction of alternatives, the collection of superprofits in the form of royalties, and the increasing vulnerability of monocultures has created a context for debt, suicides and agrarian distress which is driving the farmers’ suicide epidemic in India. This systemic control has been intensified with Bt cotton. That is why most suicides are in the cotton belt.

So we see that Monsanto’s current activities in India piggyback on and further intensify the exploitation that started with British colonialism.  The final kicker:  Monsanto, having completed its “proof of concept” for a colonial model of industrialized agricultural resource extraction, now has turned its sights back to the US and has began targeting domestic farmers:

Monsanto dedicates $10 million a year and 75 staffers for the sole purpose of investigating and prosecuting farmers, suing an average of 11 farmers per year.

93 percent of soybeans, 88 percent of cotton, and 86 percent of corn in the US are grown from Monsanto’s patented seeds.

Sound familiar?  The government and the US legal system (a system derived from English Common Law, coincidentally) all serve an elite few who use large, multinational corporations and corporate collusion with government to accomplish the exploitation and resource extraction that defines their business models.

Community Rights gives natural and human communities and persons a new form of democratic society and values that put the rights of people and planet before corporate profits wherever they conflict.  Sounds like it’s high time for a global democratic revolution!  Anyone who has found that their city, county, state and federal governments sabotage the health, safety and welfare of persons and communities in order to protect the commercial interests of an elite minority can benefit from rebel lawmaking to create a new democratic society where human rights and the rights of nature always have highest priority in the eyes of the law.