Various farmers' bodies led by Bhartiya Kissan Union (BKU) factions and environmental organisations like Kheti Virasat Mission (KVM), besides experts, demanded on Friday that the Punjab government scrap its memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Monsanto "that was signed in the name of agricultural diversification.
The state's pact with the company that manufactures genetically modified (GM) crop seeds allows Monsanto to set up research and development centres.
But the groups came expressed "shock and dismay" at the signing of the MoU, asserted, "True improvement in Punjab's farming cannot be done by Monsanto, which has no expertise in diversification or ecological restoration. Their technologies are simply a repetition of those that brought Punjab into the present ecological disaster in the first place" said Umendra Dutt, executive director of KVM.
The unions pointed out that even in India, the National Biodiversity Board has filed a "bio-piracy case" against Monsanto.
Among various groups that came together on the issue were KVM, BKU (Sidhupur), BKU (Dakaunda), Kirti Kisan Union, Kisan Sanghrash Samiti, Punjab Kisan Union, Internationalist Democratic Party, Nature Human Centric People's Movement, Punjab Manch, Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, Indian Doctors for Peace and Development, Cancer-Free World Foundation, and Eco Sikh.
Several eminent citizens including eye surgeon Dr Daljit Singh, former vice-chancellor of Baba Farid University of Health Sciences Dr LS Chawla, former Takht Damdma Sahib jathedar Giani Kewal Singh, senior journalists Satnam Singh Manak and Gobind Thukral, economist Dr Sucha Singh Gill, Prof Jagmohan Singh of Association for Democratic Rights, Dr Inderjit Kaur of Pingalwara Foundation and Adesh University vice-chancellor Dr GPI Singh also joined in.
The Bharat Jan Vigyan Jatha, Scientific Awareness Forum, Azaadi Bachaao Andolan and Swadeshi Jagran Manch also extended their support.
"Today, the problems faced by Punjab are not those that can be solved by a big monopolistic corporate like Monsanto. Punjab is facing the ill-effects of the chemical-intensive agriculture that is diminishing fertility, depleting waters, [spreading] environmental pollution, [leading to] large number of species becoming extinct," the joint statement said.
"Both pesticides and GM crops come from the same school of thought and the same labs that aim at profiting at the cost of farmers, public health and environment. This should not be allowed to continue," it added.