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Monsanto's Complicated Relationship with Agriculture in India

20:00 EDT 7 Aug 2017 | Meridian Institute

This article takes an in-depth look at the United States-based company Monsanto and its relationship with India, one of the largest markets in the world. Many of the company’s critics argue that Monsanto’s business practices have led Indian farmers to dependence, debt and suicide. On the other side, supporters say the company has helped increase crop yields and its technology is essential for the country’s rapidly growing population. Now, as Monsanto prepares to merge with Germany’s Bayer company, observers are wondering how this merger could affect the company’s reputation in India. Richard Oswald, the president of the U.S.-based Missouri Farmers Union, said Monsanto’s monopoly gives the company incredible control over the prices charged to farmers; he fears such power will only increase with a merger with Bayer. “Farmers don’t really seem to take that to heart,” says Oswald, adding that the public is also more and more concerned about the safety of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller. Many of these same concerns can be found in India. Vandana Shiva, an Indian environmental activist, argues that Monsanto is a “criminal” entity and claims that benefits for Indian farmers using Monsanto’s products have been largely exaggerated. She says the company’s merger with Bayer is an attempt to repair its reputation and fool the public and even, perhaps, the Indian government. Still, others, such as Bhagirath Choudhary, the founder director of the South Asia Biotechnology Centre, says Monsanto helped India via its Bt cotton technology, which allowed farmers to triple their yields from 2002 to 2015. India, he continued, should look for ways to benefit from the merger, instead of fighting it. “I am advocating for all those companies who have the technology that can help the Indian farmers, and Monsanto is one such,” Choudhary said.

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