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Synthesis/Regeneration 17   (Fall 1998)


Vandana Shiva Responds to the Grameen Bank

In response to the recent announcement of a "partnership" between Monsanto Corporation and Bangladesh's Grameen Bank for the creation of a Grameen Monsanto Centre, Vandana Shiva sent the following open letter:

July 4, 1998

Prof. Mohammad Yunus, President
Grameen Bank, Bangladesh

Dear Prof. Yunus,

When a few decades ago you gave a few hundred Takas from your pocket to rural women in Bangladesh who were in the grip of a famine, you started a movement called "the Grameen Bank" which used microcredit to enable women to use their skills, their knowledge, their resources to build local markets for their products, rejuvenate their livelihoods and hence improve their food entitlements.

When you announced your Joint Venture with Monsanto on June 25 in New York at the Micro-credit Summit, you reversed that movement and took a step to betray the interests of the women you have served so far. The microcredit scheme linked to the Grameen Monsanto centre will create markets for Monsanto's products, not the products based on the creativity of Bangladesh peasants. They will not build on the skills and knowledge and resources which women of Bangladesh have; they will wipe out their knowledge and resources and destroy their livelihoods and food security.

Monsanto's skills in agriculture are in the field of genetically engineered crops. These crops are designed to use more agrichemicals like Round-up which is a broad spectrum herbicide that kills anything green. Your microcredit venture with Monsanto will directly finance the destruction of the green vegetables that women collect from the fields. Round-up also has negative impacts on fish which provide 80% of the animal protein in Bangladesh.

This rising indebtedness of farmers is intrinsic to industrial agriculture and is the reason why only 2% of farmers survive in the U.S. and thousands of farmers have commited suicide in India.

Initiatives on Sustainable Agriculture which are promoting agriculture without agrichemicals show an increase of 11% in yields and 52% in farm incomes when agrichemical use is stopped—as a result of which fish can thrive in the small ponds which scatter the rural landscape of Bangladesh. These are the initiatives you should be supporting for promoting an environmentally friendly agriculture which provides livelihoods and food security to the poor.

Contrary to your announcement, Monsanto's technologies are not environmentally friendly, or sustainable. They pose a threat to ecosystems and agriculture. Monsanto's technologies will push Bangladeshi peasants into debt as they have to spend more money on herbicides, seeds, royalties and technology fees. This rising indebtedness of farmers is intrinsic to industrial agriculture and is the reason why only 2% farmers survive in the U.S. and thousands of farmers have committed suicide in India.

Grameen Monsanto Centre will become a partner in the destruction of biodiversity and farmers, livelihoods supported by free access to biodiversity. You will have contributed to the establishment of monopolies on seeds through patents with Monsanto collecting rents every year from farmers for saving seed or through technologies like the "Terminator" which are designed to prevent the germination of future generations of seed so that farmers are forced to buy seed every year. Your microcredit support to the spread of Terminator seeds or patented seeds will not liberate the poor; it will enslave them irreversibly. Monsanto controls the Terminator technology through its recent purchase of Delta and Pine Land. Monsanto has also bought up Cargill seeds, MAHYCO, Holden, DeKalb, Agracetus, Calgene, Asgrow and is emerging as a global monopoly which threatens food security worldwide.

People around the world are concerned and are questioning this monopoly and fighting it.

Your microcredit support to the spread of Terminator seeds or patented seeds will not liberate the poor; it will enslave them irreversibly.

You have made a name for yourself in the annals of history through your innovation and commitment to the poor in setting up the Grameen Bank to serve rural women in Bangladesh.

I am sure you will not want your efforts to be hijacked as a marketing strategy by Monsanto. The US$150,000 that Monsanto is giving to start the Grameen Monsanto Center is a miserable 0.6% of the US$1.6 billion that it is spending in an advertising campaign against the consumers in Europe who have rejected Monsanto's genetically engineered foods. I am sure you do not want to go down in history as the man who took the side of a corporation against citizens worldwide and who introduced destructive technologies and corporate monopolies in Bangladesh and robbed rural women of their resources, their knowledge, and their right to life.

We call on you to withdraw from this partnership with Monsanto and invite you to join the growing world wide movement of people against Monsanto and against genetic engineering and patents on life.

Yours sincerely,

Dr. Vandana Shiva
Director, Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology,
Founder, Diverse Women for Diversity

Update from Beth Burrows, Director, The Edmonds Institute

The outcome of Vandana's letter and the letters and calls and demands of many others, particularly of activists in Bangladesh, was that Dr. Yunus decided to withdraw from the microcredit arrangement with Monsanto. On July 27 Muhammad Yunus, managing director of the Grameen Bank of Bangladesh was reported by the BBC to have canceled the Bank's planned relationship with Monsanto Corporation.

Unfortunately, however, Monsanto was undaunted in its apparent desire to penetrate the Bangladeshi seed market.

Urgent Alert Message —from Farida Akhter, UBINIG

Dear all,


Today (August 30) we came to know that Mr. Horacio Mavarretti, Vice-President (Development) is coming to Bangladesh on a three-day visit. He is coming from St. Louis, USA.

We do not yet know what his exact plans are. They have not publicized the visit prior to his arrival because of several protests against the Monsanto-Grameen Center. Monsanto has already registered the Company in the name "Monsanto Bangladesh Ltd." There is a temporary office located in Hotel Mid Way, Paltan, Dhaka with an Indian person in charge. His name is Mr. F. Ahmed. He will be here for a few days and then go back to India. However, he will come back, as Monsanto is going to start the office very soon. Tomorrow we are going to organize a demonstration in front of the Sonargaon Hotel -- the Pan-Pacific Hotel where Mr. Horacio will be staying for next three days.

Please raise alarm all over to stop them from establishing Monsanto Business in Bangladesh.

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