FREE! Trade & the Globalised Dictatorship of Standardisation
– Dr Vandana Shiva
“The only way to counter globalisation, just a plot of land in some central place, keep it covered in grass, let there be a single tree, even a wild tree.”
In one of her last talks, dear friend and eminent writer, Mahasweta Devi, who passed away on 28th July 2016 at the age of 90, had in the words above, quietly laid out her imagination for freedom in our times of corporate globalisation.
Our freedoms, she reminds us, are with grass and trees, with wild- ness and self organisation (swaraj), when the dominant economic systems would tear down every tree and Roundup the last blade of grass.
From the days we jointly wrote about the madness of covering our beautiful biodiverse Hindustan with monocultures of eucalyptus plantations which were creating green deserts, to the work we did together on the impact of globalisation on women, Mahaswetadi remained the voice of the earth, of the marginalised and criminalised communities.
She could see with her poetic imagination how globalisation, based on free trade agreements written by and for corporations, was taking away the freedoms of people and all beings. And reclaiming freedom was predicated on our oneness with the last person and the last species.
‘Free trade’ is not just about how we trade. It is about how we live, and whether we live. It is about how we think, and whether we think. In the last two decades, our economies, our production and consumption patterns, our chances of survival, and the emergence of a very small group of Parasitic Billionaires, have all been shaped by the rules of deregulation in the WTO agreements.
In 1716, the first global corporation, the East India Company, signed a Free Trade agreement with Farukhshir, called the Farukhshir Firman. This free trade agreement allowed the East India Company to take over India’s economy and colonise our beautiful land. In 1994, in Marrakesh, Morocco, we signed the GATT agreements which led to the creation of WTO in 1995. Like the Farukhshir Firman, the WTO agreements are written by corporations, for corporations, to expand their control on resources,production, markets and trade, establish monopolies and destroy both economic and political democracy.
Monsanto wrote the TRIPS agreement of WTO – which is an attempt to claim seeds as Monsanto’s invention, and own seeds as “intellectual property” through patents, with only one aim – to own and control seed and make super profits though the collection of royalties. We have seen the consequences of this illegitimate corporate-defined “property” rights in India; with extortion of “royalties” for GMO seeds leading to high seed prices. 300,000 dead farmers is evidence of the institutionalised genocide.
Cargill wrote the Agriculture Agreement of WTO. The result has been that India – the largest producer of oilseeds and pulses – has emerged as the biggest importer of both. The edible oils being imported are GMO soya oil and palmoil – both extracted with Hexane through Solvent Extraction; both leading to massive deforestation in Argentina, Indonesia and Brazil. We are importing dals from Canada and Mozambique, while our fertile pulse growing lands are being handed over to foreign corporations for growing Biofuel. This is a model of destruction of agriculture and food systems everywhere. We are thus destroying our health as well as the health of the planet.
The junk food industry including Coke and Pepsi wrote the SPS agreement of WTO. Our Prevention of Food Adulteration Act was dismantled, and replaced with the FSSAI, which is being used to shut India’s rich and diverse, small scale, home and cottage industry based food businesses, under pseudo-safety laws. Even Gandhi’s ghani was served notice under the FSSAI.
All new free trade agreements take away the sui generis option in TRIPS in WTO and are aimed at giving fangs to UPOV 91. UPOV establishes rules of uniformity, at a time when we know that diversity is vital to nutrition as well as climate resilience. It is dictated standardisation.
TPP and RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership) are two free trade agreements that will destroy what remains of our agriculture, our farmers, our democracy.
12 countries including Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US and Vietnam signed the TPP in February 2016. RCEP, is a trade agreement between the Association of Southeast Asia Nations and six of its trading partners: India, China, Korea, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. Since these countries are the most populated regions, RCEP will affect higher numbers than other agreements. And through RCEP, there is every potential that these countries will be dragged into TPP through the pressure of harmonisation, specially on issues related to seed.
The TPP requires all states that are signatories to join UPOV 1991. TPP allows patents on “inventions derived from plants” which would open the flood gates of Biopiracy as in the case of neem, basmati, wheat. TPP has sections on “biologicals” which covers biological processes and products, thus undoing the exclusions in the WTO TRIPS agreement. Given how there is a rush to patent and impose untested and hazardous vaccines and new GMO technologies like gene editing and gene drives, it is clear that the TPP is the instrument for the next stage of BioImperialism.
Corporations had aimed at forcing all countries to grant patents seeds and plants, and to impose the UPOV 91 agreement on seeds and plant varieties.
In WTO we had managed to ensure countries could exclude plants and animals from patentability which translated into article 3j in our Patent laws. We ensured that UPOV could not be ensured through WTO and countries had a sui generis option for plant varieties. This translated into the Plant Variety and Farmers Rights act, for which I was a member of the expert drafting group.
Not having achieved total monopoly on seeds through WTO , the war chemical corporations which are the biotechnology and seed corporations are now trying to impose patents on all living organisms and all production systems based on living organisms through new free trade treaties . They are also trying to further destroy our local food systems and replace them with industrial junk food by changing food and health safety, and biosafety , through “harmonisation“.
Finally, global corporations and those who own and control them are trying to define corporations as having personhood through Investor State dispute settlement systems (ISDS), which are secret tribunals in which corporations and investors can sue governments which act according to their constitutional obligations to protect the interest of their citizens.
In effect, the new free trade agreements are an attempt to substitute real human beings with the fiction of corporate personhood. They are trying to replace our constitutions with dispute settlement systems they control. They are trying to replace are democracies with secret agreements and secret courts controlled by the .01% super wealthy who hide behind corporations as their masks to take over our lives and freedoms.
The time is ripe for a planetary freedom movement that defends and protects the freedoms of all beings from the .01% who would expend with life on earth and humanity, and extinguish our freedoms to live and thrive.