November 20, 2011
The southeast Asian country of Nepal is once again having to fight against foreign interests that are trying to take over its agricultural system. Biotechnology giant Monsanto apparently has its sights set on bringing genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) to this sliver of a country just north of India, and it is allegedly working with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), a so-called humanitarian group, and officials in Nepal to make it happen.
USAID issued a statement on Sept. 13, 2011, saying that it had partnered with Nepal’s Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MoACs) and Monsanto to “promote hybrid maize (corn) seeds among 20,000 farmers of Chitwan, Nawalparasi and Kavre districts and provide training to them.” Media across Nepal quickly picked up on the story, and massive public outcry ensued.
GMOs are not widely cultivated in Nepal, and the country has always taken a very cautious approach to adopting them. In fact, when it was discovered that some GMO ingredients had potentially already contaminated the nation’s food supply back in 2003, government officials quickly made precautionary recommendations at the time to require GMO labeling on all food items.
But with multinational corporations and the US government working overtime to force GM corn on Nepali farmers, Nepal appears to be getting pushed to the brink of no return. Though Nepal still imports some of its corn from elsewhere, the country is having no problems with the conventional, organic, and heirloom varieties it currently cultivates, and has no need whatsoever for GM varieties.
Since the controversy erupted, Nepali officials have reportedly backed off from the plan. Hari Dahal, joint secretary at MoACs, told reporters recently that his agency had “no idea why USAID issued the statements saying that the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives was partnering with Monsanto” because “no agreement had been signed.”
USAID was a little more ambiguous about whether or not MoACs was specifically involved in the matter, but the agency did make it very clear that it is working with Monsanto to promote GMOs around the world, including in Nepal. And based on the way Monsanto continues to thrust GMOs on the people of India just to the south, there is no doubt that the biotech giant is doing the same thing to people of Nepal as we speak.
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