“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.”
This is how dear friend and eminent writer Mahasweta Devi, who passed away on July 28, at the age of 90, quietly laid out her imagination for freedom in our times of corporate globalisation in one of her last talks.
Our freedoms, she reminds us, are with grass and trees, with wildness and self-organisation (swaraj), when the dominant economic systems would tear down every tree and round up 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 (FTAs), written by and for corporations, was taking away the freedoms of people and all beings. “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.
“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 1994, in Marrakesh, Morocco, we signed the GATT agreements which led to the creation of WTO in 1995. 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 Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) agreement of WTO — which is an attempt to claim seeds as Monsanto’s invention, and own seeds as “intellectual property” through patents. It has only one aim — to own and control seed and make super-profits through the collection of royalties. We have seen the consequences of this illegitimate corporate-defined “property” right in India; with extortion of “royalties” for genetically modified (GMO) seeds leading to high seed prices.