LINK to main Campaign page
Nature has given us a cornucopia of biodiversity rich in nutrients. The destruction of our biodiversity has resulted in Malnutrition and nutrient deficiency. As industrial agriculture based on monocultures spread, biodiversity from our farms and food disappeared. It is the destruction of biodiverse rich cultivation and diets that has led to a malnutrition crisis. The Green Revolution in India spread monocultures of chemical rice and wheat, driving out biodiversity from our farms and diets. And what survived as spontaneous crops — like amaranth greens (chaulai) and chenopodium (bathua) that are rich in iron — were sprayed with poisons and herbicides. Instead of cherishing them as iron- and vitamin-rich gifts, these vegetables were treated as “weeds”.
The latest insanity is the controversial projects funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation: the development and testing of a biofortified GMO banana developed to boost its iron, Vitamin E and proVitamin A content. The declared purpose is to roll out nutritional benefits across the tropics, but initially to India, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda. (http://sustainablepulse.com/2013/05/02/campaign-launched-to-stop-bill-gates-funded-gmo-bananas/#.VWG8dot5efQ)
In 2013, Navdanya started an international campaign on GMO banana exposing the perverse urge among the biotechnology brigade to declare war against biodiversity in its centre of origin. No to GMO Bananas – Protect Indigenous Biodiversity and Knowledge.
“There has been a media blitz about Bill Gates funding Dr. Dale of Queensland University with $15 million to develop GMO Bananas for saving Indian women from childbirth death due to iron deficiency. One rich man, Bill Gates, financing one Australian scientist, Dale, who knows a few aspects of one crop, the banana, are trying to impose inefficient and hazardous GM bananas on millions of people in India who have grown hundreds of banana varieties in additional to thousands of other nutritionally rich crops over thousands of years.
There need be no iron defi- ciency if we intensify biodiver- sity in our farms and gardens and food.
On May Day , 2013 Navdanya/Mahila Anna Swaraj/Diverse Women for Diversity/Initiative for Health & Equity in Society/ Guild of Services/ CISSA/ Azadi Bachao Andolan/ Appiko/Save Honey Bees Campaign / Gene Ethics, Australia, launched the campaign “No to GMO bananas” and the associated “creation myth” that Bill Gates and James Dale are imposing by claiming their GMO bananas are an “innovation” to save Indian Women from childbirth deaths due to iron deficiency anemia.
At the same time we recognize and celebrate the labour and creativity of nature, of women, of farmers, of our culture by promoting indigenous biodiversity and knowledge as the real solution to hunger and malnutrition.”
The campaign was launched petitioning the PM of India urge him to cancel the project and the agreement between the Department of Biotechnology and the University of Queensland in Australia, and instead use the money to support a national movement of community gardens and kitchen gardens in women’s hands. This petition has collected over 50000 signatures till date.
In August 2014, Dr Shiva was invited by farmers of Indonesia to both support farmers for their right to save and make seed, and to start a seed saving initiative Benih Bali in Bali . Between 2002 – 2007, thirteen farmers in Kediri, East Java were jailed from making their own corn seed. Almost all multinational seed companies, including Monsanto, Syngenta, Dupont, Bayer establish their factory in this small city. Dr Shiva met the farmers of Kediri who served her yellow and red bananas, which inspired Dr Shiva to ask the the Indonesian activists to research on Vit A rich indigenous bananas and explore from where the developers of GMO bananas got the vit A traits.
This led to the GMO banana Biopiracy research and campaign.
Since then Navdanya partners in Indonesia found that the beta Carotene rich traits were pirated from an indigenous micronesian banana (http://seedfreedom.info/why-is-bill-gates-backing-gmo-red-banana-biopiracy/).
“First the GMO industry said they would reduce chemical use through Bt-Ht GMOs that were supposed to control pests and weeds. Chemical use increased, and GMO Bt cotton is plagued by pests, herbicide tolerant crops are being overtaken by super weeds.
The industry is now trying to save itself with the promise of GMO “super bananas” to deal with Vit A deficiency. As Mantasa’s research* has shown, the super banana is based on Biopriracy of Vit A rich indigenous bananas.
We don’t need more false claims of GMOs based on piracy of indigenous biodiversity and knowledge.
The GMO banana project based on biopiracy must stop”.
On October 2 2014, Navdanya launched the campaign internationally – No GMO Banana Republic – Stop banana Biopiracy at Bhoomi Festival, New Delhi along with An Open Letter to QUT’s Dr James Dale, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Convention on Biological Diversity. (http://seedfreedom.info/no-gmo-banana-republic-stop-banana-biopiracy/).
The Campaign Song We don’t want no Pirate Banana recorded in English, Hindi, Spanish, Swahili and many more went viral and translated in Urdu, Tibetan, Kashmiri, Punjabi and many more: http://seedfreedom.info/we-dont-want-no-pirate-banana-feat-new-delhi-peacejam-conference-attendees/
At the same time, news spread about the banana feeding trials using students from Iowa State University as guinea pigs. The GMO Banana and the human trials are being funded by the Gates foundation. Besides the ethical violations involved in Biopiracy of Banana, there is also an ethical violation in the form of human trials on GMO Bananas on students at the University of Iowa. The international campaign connects the issues of GMOs, Biopiracy, human trials by connecting movements in Asia, Africa, and the US.
A group of graduate students at Iowa State attended the Robert Fraley lecture on Oct. 15 2014 to listen to his speech that was given in celebration of the World Food Prize. Out of the six students that came to silently protest, 5 wore gas masks and signs over their bodies that read messages like “Support Food Democracy.” The sixth student wore a banana costume with a sign that read “keep me GMO-free.”
“Our inspiration for doing the silent protest is in reaction to the recent email to Iowa State students in April of 2014 that offered volunteers $900 in return for consuming GMO bananas that were supposed to help increase vitamin A levels. Students have gathered together to discuss this topic, and are looking forward to doing other events in opposition of Iowa State’s involvement in this GMO banana research.”(http://seedfreedom.info/fraley-lecture-opposition-iowa-usa/)
Following the launch of the international campaign against the research at ISU testing transgenic banana, students at ISU Sustainable Agriculture Student Association invited Dr. Vandana Shiva to speak about the Future of Food.
“A diverse, local and non-toxic food production system can produce twice as much food as the world needs.” She cited many examples in India of how a variety of vegetables and fruit can offer more full and balanced nutrition than the monocultures generated by the “Green Revolution” and patented GMO crops.” (http://ns2.baileyscomputerservices.com/index.php/iowa-state-lecture-by-vandana-shiva-packs-great-hall)
Angie Carter PHD Candidate in Sociology and Sustainable Agriculture from ISU writes “On March 11th, to an audience of 700 at Iowa State University, Dr. Vandana Shiva called our food system as it currently functions “a robbery of the soil and a robbery of nutrition.”
Contrary to the rhetoric of many, Iowa does not feed the world. As Shiva aptly pointed out, diverting grain to fuel production and factory farms is not a food system. This monoculture of the mind presents dangers to our science, our democracy and our futures. Its consequences are both local and global: soil erosion, nitrate pollution, challenges to academic freedom and biopiracy. (http://www.iowastatedaily.com/opinion/article_91c6a9f0-d196-11e4-ac0e-3fb606492377.html)
“Nature isn’t deficient, we create deficiency through subjugation. By making the soil deficient, we are making ourselves deficient in vital trace minerals. Whatever the issue is, the answer is in the soil. We must save our soil.” (https://www.mum.edu/students-visit-iowa-city-for-vandana-shiva-lecture/)
Following the Dr. Shiva’s lecture, ISU SASA and ISU ActivUs hosted a critical dialogue exploring the ethics, impacts, and alternatives to this controversial technology on March 25th at the ISU Memorial Union. The dialogue brought together community members as they explored the implications of first human trials of a Gates Foundation- funded transgenic banana. (http://www.isutransgenicbanana.com)
Iowa State University has delayed the research and human trials on GMO Banana citing quality problems with the bananas shipped to ISU. However, the university refuses to engage publicly or respond to questions from students at ISU. In response students have launched a petition on the Gates Funded transgenic human trials of banana at ISU. (http://www.isutransgenicbanana.com/sign-the-petition-2/)
The international campaign against GMO Banana will continue to focus on connecting the dots as well connecting people to focus on how unnecessary the GMO Banana is and how there are more effective solutions to nutritional deficiency in addition to promoting Vitamin A rich foods.
We don’t need irresponsible and wasteful experiments like GMo bananas,imposed by powerful men in distant places, who are ignorant of the biodiversity in our fields and thalis (plates), and who never bear the consequences of their destructive power by creating new threats to our biodiversity, our seed sovereignty, knowledge sovereignty, and our health, We need to put food security in women’s hands so that the last woman and the last child can share in nature’s gifts of biodiversity.