The National Movement for the Protection of Sri Lankan Farmers and Seeds on Tuesday held a meeting attended by representatives of scores of farmer organisations which unanimously decided to reject the proposed new Seed Act under which tens of thousands of farmers will be compelled to buy their seeds from trans-national corporations (TNCs). They decided to send a petition meet or President Mahinda Rajapaksa to request him to withdraw the proposed legislation under which farmers—who have been part of the very heart of our civilisation for thousands of years—will become slaves or beggars of TNCs which will have patent rights over the seeds. Sri Lanka also will lose millions of dollars in foreign exchange annually to import these so-called high yielding seeds.
Representatives of the Movement for National Land and Agriculture Reforms (MoNLAR), people-friendly nutritionists and other advocates of traditional agricultural methods also pointed out that the proposed bill would give virtual dictatorial powers to the Agriculture Director General who will be able to impose big fines on farmers who do not buy the imported seeds. In terms of the proposed bill the farmers would have no recourse to courts of law— a violation of their fundamental rights.
While Tuesday’s meeting was packed with farmers from distant parts of the country, the rich and ruling elites in the cities and suburbs are probably even not aware that such draconian legislation is being planted to allow economic neo-colonialists to take control of our farmers and agriculture. Using the imported seeds will also mean using imported chemical fertilisers, weedicides and pesticides for which the farmers would have to pay a big price while the country will waste more millions of dollars to import these agro-chemicals.
Independent agriculture and nutrition specialists warn this will also lead to degradation of our soil or Mother Earth and the pollution of our ground water. What is happening in the North Central Province—where tens of thousands of farmers and their families are suffering from kidney failure—might then spread to other parts of the country including the Western Province. Perhaps only then will the rich or ruling elite and other influential individuals or groups become aware of the catastrophe that has befallen our country. But by then it may be too late. The TNCs, other economic neo-colonialists and some of their agents here who are like traitors in patriotic clothing had earlier tried to introduce the so-called golden rice in Sri Lanka. When that failed they came with their genetically modified or hybrid seeds. If the new Seeds Act is approved, they are also likely to come with the so-called fortified rice which even the nutrition society of Sri Lanka has not objected to, with some insiders asking whether this is because its various events are being sponsored by TNCs with vested interest. For thousands of years agri-culture as the word itself shows, has been part of Sri Lanka’s culture and civilisation. Until the 1980s, there was no need to import any seeds or agro-chemicals because our farmers knew how to produce high yielding seeds and used only traditional or organic fertiliser or pesticides. Our farmers were so wise that the famous author Robert Knox said that if the mud was washed off the back of a farmer, he was fit to be a king.
Then why, oh why are we trying to turn this king into a beggar of TNCs while we degrade our Mother Earth and spend millions of dollars to do so.