October 29, 2023

AIKS Demands Withdrawal of MOUs Signed by ICAR with Corporate Giants

Below we publish the statement issued by the All India Kisan Sabha on  October 26

THE Modi regime’s penchant to facilitate greed of profit of big business houses by creating a conducive atmosphere for looting and exploitation of farmers is evident in the recent Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed between Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and Bayer, a leading multinational agri big business house. ICAR, the apex public sector research organisation in agriculture, is creating a spurious narrative that this MOU and the resultant institutional partnership is an earnest attempt to “empower smallholder farmers”. Interestingly, this account of empowering small farmers by collaborating with corporate giants is a self-plagiarism of the ICAR narrative created in June 2023, when ICAR signed an MOU with Amazon Kisan, the e-commerce giant “for guiding the farmers on scientific cultivation of different crops for optimum yield and income”.

According to the MOU, the collaborative agreement with Bayer is meant to “develop resource-efficient, climate-resilient solutions for crops, varieties, crop protection, weed and mechanisation. The collaboration will focus on working together agriculture sustainability program efforts by providing quality agricultural inputs and advisory services to farmers in a systems approach”.

This was preceded by similar research collaboration MOUs between ICAR and Bayer on Pomegranates Cultivation and “Development of Drone based Potatoes Crop Management Technologies". A close look into the trajectory of the MOUs and the documents made available reveals that this is designed for deeper penetration of the corporate tentacles into the agrarian economy by manipulating ICAR’s accumulated public credibility, network and resources. This is also a shrewd attempt to bring the desired effect of pro-corporate draconian farm laws – maximise corporate profits – through the back door.

Prime Minister Modi who loves flaunting “Atma Nirbhar Bharat” as a testimony of his aggressive nationalism is decimating the self-reliance of ICAR and the peasantry by drastically reducing funds to public agricultural research.

For instance, in the financial year 2020-21, the union government allotted a meager Rs 7,762 crore to ICAR. The Modi years also witnessed decreasing fund allocation to the agrarian sector in general and state agricultural universities and other public institutions in particular in tune with the neoliberal mantra of “minimum government, maximum governance”. It is very clear that inadequate State funding is strangulating the functioning of ICAR.

Instead of addressing this serious lacuna, the Modi government has opted to collaborate with Bayer, notorious for promoting toxic chemicals that can cause cancer and other diseases, and is facing several litigations. Sale of toxic, disease-causing agrochemicals has been at the core of Bayer's business. With acquisition of Monsanto, it has also come to dominate the global seed market. Collaboration with ICAR will give tremendous opportunities to build legitimacy and open a huge market for making profits.

All India Kisan Sabha demands that the union government should immediately cancel MOUs signed by ICAR with all corporate giants and prevent the corporates from using public institutions for marketing their products. Instead, public funding for agricultural research should be stepped up to deal with serious challenges that Indian agriculture faces today. The union government should address all concerns raised by peasantry, the scientific community and public intellectuals. All attempts to corporatise agriculture will be resisted tooth and nail.

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