This video of environmental activist Dr. Vandana Shiva explains how a seed monopoly in India creates poverty and destroys farming’s previous self-reliance on seeds.

First, a big corporation comes into a community and tells the local farmers that their seed is no good, “primitive,” and that they offer a better option. Companies even pay farmers to try the new seed – thus seed replacement starts. Gradually they go to every farmer in the area and do the same. The farmer no longer uses their own seed, the local small companies that did sell seed no longer have customers and go out of business, and now the corporation has a monopoly on providing seeds for an entire region.

Monsanto, the cotton seed supplier in this one case, then increases the cost of the seed by 8,000%. Of course a small farmer cannot afford these prices. The corporation then promises to provide seed that will make the farmer rich by producing huge harvests. The farmer barrows the money from the corporation to buy this new seed, mortgaging their land against the loan. And when the crop does not produce as promised, the farmer goes into debt and eventually loses her/his land – no income, no assets, no home, extreme poverty.

This is why Dr. Shiva started Navdanya, a network of seed keepers and organic producers, spread across 17 states in India. They have set up 111 community seed banks, trained over 5,000,000 farmers in seed sovereignty, food sovereignty and sustainable agriculture over the past two decades. They have helped set up the largest direct marketing, fair trade organic network in the country, and run a learning center on biodiversity conservation. Navdanya is a women-centered movement actively involved in the rejuvenation of indigenous knowledge and culture. They keep the power of self-reliance in the hands of the farmer.

– Mary Purcell

Source: Vimeo, Navdanya