Dr Krishan Bir Chaudhary is President of Bharatiya Krishak Samaj (Indian farmers organization), former Chairman of State Farms Corporation of India (Government of India undertaking), former Chairman of Indian Sugarcane Development Council (Ministry of Agriculture, Govt. of India), former Director of National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation (NAFED), founder-member of Small Farmers Agribusiness Consortium (Ministry of Agriculture, Govt. of India), in addition to having held or presently holding several other positions.

Dr Chaudhary stood up for the farmers in India in the National Seed Association of India (NSAI) to challenge seed makers such as Monsanto, Bayer, Syngenta, et al for their role in agrarian distress. He demands that seed corporations respect the laws of India and stop the collection of illegal royalties from Indian farmers.

The Citizen’s Indra Shekhar Singh speaks to Dr. Chaudhary about recent developments.

TC: Why did seed companies such as Monsanto and Bayer spilt from the National Seed Association of India? What happened?

KBC: First we must understand that companies such as Monsanto have looted Rs 5000 crore from the Indian farmers through a system of illegal royalties collections. Their claims of higher yields, pest control and more income for the farmers have also been debased. Bollgard 1 and Bollgard 2 have already become redundant as the bollworm have evolved and developed resistance to them. Monsanto’s lie of Bt Cotton and Bayer ineffective pesticide “Oberon” has costed Punjab Rs 70000 crore and loss of 2/3rd of Bt cotton in 2015 October. While the input costs to the cotton farmers have increased by 6 times, the yields are only up by 3%. Bt cotton has failed everywhere.

In the meeting, I raised objection on the issue of royalties for as per the Indian constitution (Plant Varieties Protection and Farmers’ Rights Act) does not allow patents on seeds and plants.

The royalty taken by Monsanto is illegal under Indian law. We asked the government and the Parliamentary standing Committee on Agriculture to control the price of seeds, as they are an essential to the rural economy. I strongly support the government’s decision to regulate the price of the Bt cotton seeds under the Essential Commodities Act and even further have asked the government for the formation of a new authority to regulate and balance out the price of seeds.

I had only asked the NSAI to respect Indian laws and act in the interest of the Indian farmers,

But the seed companies such as Monsanto, Dupont Pioneer, Syngenta, et al found this to be objectionable. They along with a few others have formed a so-called “Federation”. This group of International racketeers aim to control the food security of India. India has a large population and to feed our country we need seeds, by controlling the seeds they want to create a new “Seed Raj”.

I urged the NSAI to not only shun the illegal royalty collection but to demand compensation from Monsanto for its failed technology to be given to the widows and kins of cotton farmers that have committed suicide due to Monsanto’s Bt cotton.

I also raised the issue of GM mustard and said that why praise GM mustard when Indian varieties such as RH-749, Rohini, Urvashi, et al produce about 30 quintals per hectare against the 25 quintal claim of GM mustard?

I have requested the panel and am working to get “white papers” out in the Parliament so that India can know which all official, scientists, bureaucrats, media persons and so called “farmers’ leaders” are in the pockets of Monsanto. Monsanto over a decade now has been manipulating India’s laws by putting influential people on its payroll paying them with foreign trips, etc.

TC: First the Pharma companies and now the seeds companies spilt away, do we see a pattern and what effect will it have on the Indian farmers?

KBC: Yes,there is a pattern here, and it is one that will create a monopoly in the market of these companies. Just compare the prices of essential medicines used to treat cancer, diabetes, et al. The salts that cost only Rs 5 to make are being sold at Rs 50 by these companies. Review the price of ‘stens' used in heart surgery in the US and in India with their actual production costs and you will know, about their exploitative practices.

They are also attacking the generic medicines companies for patent violations. We cannot allow health of India’s poor to be manipulated by the MNCs. The poor also have the right to a life and essential medicines should be made available at affordable prices to every Indian.

The seed companies have created monopolies all over the world and are cheating farmers world over. We cannot let that happen in India. The Public sector along with the government should join hands to protect Indian farmers’ right to seed and seed sovereignty.

Indian farmers right to grow, breed, exchange and sell seeds is a basic right.

TC: At the FSII press conference, Sharad Khurana, Country Manager DuPont Pioneer said, “ Forceful licensing stifles innovation. Nobody would want to invest,” could this be a threat/challenge to PM Modi’s ‘Make in India’ scheme, especially that John Kerry is in India now?

KBC: It is a planned and pre-meditated statement made by the Seed corporations only because John Kerry is visiting India. They are misguiding Indians as the issue is not about licensing, it is about illegal royalties and transgression of Indian laws. The Indian constitution does not allow patents on seeds and plants. They are making futile attempts to put pressure on the Indian government to bow to the illegal demands of Monsanto. But I will like to remind them that India had one of the largest R&D public sector. It is has collapsed only because of the GM propaganda and the manipulation of government by companies such as Monsanto. If today India is importing pulses and edible oils and oilseeds it is because of the policies of the last government.

And as for the threat/challenge we are no bothered, India is a country of strong character. We will defend our people and farmers and stay strong.

TC :While the Competition Commission of India(CCI) India’s Anti-trust/monopoly regulator is probing Mahyco-Monsanto for “unfair business practises” FSII has asked for “market governed seed prices”. What should we make of this “Free trade” or “Seed Raj”?

KBC: Let me first make it clear that Monsanto already has an unfair market monopoly as 95% of Bt cotton seed is the “property” of Monsanto. They are the only market! and have been so for a decade now. Until now Monsanto freely decided the trait and royalty fees with no bars. This has resulted in over 300,000 farmers committing suicide in the last twenty years most of which have happened in the Bt cotton areas. In my opinion, Seed is an essential commodity and should be regulated under the Essential Commodities Act. Indian Farmers have paid enough with their sweat and blood for Monsanto’s market profits. It is time, the government acts and end this Seed Raj of Monsanto. We have requested the NSAI and parliament for the same and the NSAI agrees with us and is working to “end seed monopolies”.

TC: What is the future of seed in India?

KBC: Our R&D have picked up and should be working more efficiently especially to make improvements in our native varieties to make them more productive. The government Soil health card and irrigation schemes will also bolster agricultural productivity. Then there is strong push to promote natural farming in India. In fact, the plan for Organic Himalaya has been announced.

Plus the government is planning to convert 1 lakh villages to natural farming as the chemical-industrial model of agriculture has destroyed the Indians small farms.

We cannot adopt the industrial model of agriculture practised in countries such as USA, because 85% of Indian farmers have land holdings below 2 acres. Large farms like in the US, means death and unemployment of millions of Indians, we cannot afford that.

Plus Indian also cannot afford to give huge subsidies like the US to its chemical-industrial farmers. India cannot have such a large farm bill as the USA does.

We Indian should understand the situation in our country and strive for sovereignty in food and seed and not blindly accept unscientific and failed technologies of promoted by Industrial agriculture.