Family Farm Defenders, an organization of US family farmers included this statement in solidarity with protesting Indian farmers. They draw out the many parallels between what is being proposed by the Modi government, and what US farmers have had to contend with for over a century, with devastating results. You can find a copy of their newsletter with the solidarity statement here.
On this Jan. 18 2021 as India celebrates National Women Farmers Day and the U.S. celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Family Farm Defenders wishes to express solidarity with our sisters and brothers in India as they continue their struggle for food sovereignty and economic justice. Little did we believe that when the Modi government decided to railroad through such regressive farm legislation amidst a global pandemic that this would lead to the largest strike in human history – now over 250 million strong – and provide such an inspiration to others all around the globe.
Women have always shouldered the largest burden when it comes to feeding the world, and women of color in the global south remain the majority of the world’s farmers today. In India women have also been at the forefront of this latest grassroots protest in the world’s largest democracy. And for obvious reason. They will be the ones who will have to figure out how to sustain their family in the face of orchestrated commodity shortages and inflated food prices. They will be the ones left to defend their family’s land from contract forfeiture in the wake of so many farmer suicides and mounting rural debt.
Over half of India’s 1.3 billion people depend upon agriculture for their livelihood, and of those 85% farm under two acres and earn less than $1400 per year. Yet, the Modi government has staged a David versus Goliath fight by undermining access to basic essentials and expecting small farmers, low wage workers, and poor consumers to “negotiate” with massive corporate middlemen in a rigged market. If this sounds familiar it is because U.S. farmers, workers, and consumers have been engaged in a similar struggle to demand a parity price, living wages, and anti-trust action against elite corporate interests for well over a century now. In fact, this latest attempt to undermine the viability and autonomy of India’s small scale producers reflects the same “get big or get out” agenda that has been used so effectively for so long to cripple U.S. family farmers and then exported elsewhere with devastating consequences.
The neoliberal “free trade” agenda of the White House —under both Democratic and Republican administrations—has long been to force India to lift restrictions on food imports and pave the way for dumping, while also weakening environmental restrictions on toxic Family Farm Defenders th agrochemicals and enforcing the patent claims of biotech companies. Grassroots resistance has managed to safeguard the people of India from many of these threats for quite sometime, but one can never let down one’s guard as the dangerously brittle and exploitative state of today’s U.S. food/farm system clearly demonstrates.
No one – whether in the U.S. or India – should be compelled to consume unhealthy and objectionable rBGH-induced dairy products or chicken raised on “Mad Cow” byproducts like blood/bone meal and livestock manure. No one – whether in the U.S. or India – should end up exposed to carcinogenic pesticides like Bayer/Monsanto’s glyphosate without their knowledge and full product liability. No one – whether in the U.S. or India – should be “criminalized” for saving their own seed or growing their own medicine free of corporate intellectual property right claims. No one – whether in the U.S. or India – should be forced to “choose” between Walmart/Amazon as their only retail option to obtain food or other basic needs whether in-person or on-line. These are are all gross violations of food sovereignty and basic human freedom that must be opposed no matter where one lives.
Family Farm Defenders will never give up in our effort to bring about a more peaceful, just, and equitable world in which all people – and the earth itself – are treated with dignity and respect. We hope that our statement of solidarity will offer courage and strength to our farmer friends in India as they continue their own epic protest in this historic moment. As our food sovereignty allies with La Via Campesina would proclaim: “Globalize the Struggle and Globalize Hope!”