Food Production In The Modern World

A few multinational companies like Monsanto, Syngenta and DuPont Pioneer own most seeds available in retail stores.  Sometimes these seeds are genetically modified through a process of genetic engineering, ostensibly to meet the huge global food demand. Genetically modified seeds are apparently produced to withstand harsh weather related conditions as a result of climate change.

Research has shown that genetically modified organisms can be toxic to microbes in the soil and when planted, these  GMO seeds can compete with and destroy  indigenous weeds that usually grow naturally next to the planted seeds. Therefore such GMO seeds  can affect the biodiversity adversely. Among these indigenous weeds that grow naturally we find stinging nettle (tllaba), and many others. The GMO and hybrid seeds can also attract a lot of harmful insects during crop production. The introduction of these GMOs and hybrid seeds are rendered uneconomical since it makes farmers dependent on buying pesticides and herbicides. The prices of pesticides and herbicides keep on increasing through inflation that keeps on hiking prices.

In the 19th century a large numbers of farmers were using non-GMO/hybrid seeds which are simply called open pollinated and heirloom seeds. The open pollinated and heirloom seeds species are those that have been pollinated openly and naturally by pollen from other plants of the same species. Traditionally, people used to call those seeds heritage seeds because they used to get them from their grandparents. But now that US based multinational companies like Monsanto controls those seeds and modify traditional seed to be hybrid and genetically modified seeds, farmers suffer a lot in practicing sustainable farming through seed saving banks. They are dependent on buying seeds that fail to produce seeds that are productive for the next season.

Monsanto is a clear demonstration of how capitalism controls natural resources such as seeds.  Farmers are faced with a huge challenge and another terrain of struggle because Monsanto patents the majority of the world’s seeds; suing farmers who save seeds or don’t farm using certified seed.  A recent case in Tanzania showed how local farmers could face up to 12 years prison sentences for being unable to prove the seeds they used  were not an infringement of Monsanto’s “intellectual property.”

Even the Department of Agriculture in South Africa is providing hybrid seeds to households who practice small scale gardening in Khayelitsha, located in Cape Town. The generation of heirloom seeds is approaching a stage of extinction particularly for the farmers who have minimum education about seed evolution.

Monsanto is a very powerful multinational company that has a long history spanning 110 years and its effect is global. They have extended their influence in the education system because at high school level, colleges and universities there is a Monsanto crop breeding programme in the curriculum. There are many organisations that are resisting and who are vocal about the corporate control of seed and the forced use of GMO seeds.  Organisations such as Tyisa Nabanye and many others have joined the struggle against corporate driven agriculture.

Agro-ecology, as an alternative to the dominant corporate agriculture model, promotes seed saving and the creation of natural pest control methods which is the only way to advance sustainable agriculture. This requires the complete smashing of the corporate controlled agricultural sector whose primary objective is profit and not the feeding of the population.

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