By Andrew Kang Bartlett (son Julian in the background)
What is karma anyway? Well, the word karma goes way back – 3,500 years or so – to karman, as found in the Rigveda. Literally, it means ‘deed’ or ‘act’.
I used to think it was similar to a bank account, where you deposited moral or malicious acts. Your balance could be positive or negative depending on how the actions accumulate. Karmic effects could be good if your balance was in the black or bad if it was in the red. (How nice that in accounting at least black is the preferred color, unlike so much of our language.)
As I become more certain that reincarnation is part of the life-death journey, karma now can extend beyond a single lifetime, much as the Hindus believe. Recently, as I dive into the rich philosophy, or cosmology, of Rudolf Steiner – called Anthroposophy – the concept comes up a lot. Steiner uses human karma and human destiny almost interchangeably. His take accounts for the fact that there is a much wiser person within us, and so this wiser self seeks out challenging, sometimes painful experiences to spur growth.
Steiner said in a 1912 lecture entitled “Facing Karma,” that
“…all pain that hits us, that all suffering that comes our way, are of such a nature that they are being sought by our shortcomings. By far the greater part of our pain and suffering is sought by imperfections that we have brought over from previous incarnations.”
If you even allow for the possibility that Monsanto is subject to the laws of karma, I’m not sure if any of the above matters – but I figured you might be curious to explore karma a bit, since growing up most of us did not know we were subject to its legal framework, if in fact we are…
When I was 5 years old, in 1965, Monsanto started producing Agent Orange and did so until I was 9. If karma exists, the generations of Vietnamese children born with partial brains, downs syndrome, spinal bifida and various other abnormalities, not to mention five types of cancer, must produce negative effects. On top of that, if Dr. Vandana Shiva has you in her cross hairs, it is time for some serious soul searching. Alas, this may prove to be impossible because, despite your corporate personhood, there is no soul to search.
Right now in India, Monsanto is being investigated for anti-trust activities and is being sued by state governments and domestic seed companies. “Eager to establish a monopoly in India based on the smuggled MON531 gene, Monsanto-Mahyco started large scale, multi-centric, open field trials of Bt cotton in 40 locations spread across nine states, again without GEAC approval,” said Shiva.
Knowing some history is important to understanding why Monsanto is hated so much in India, and some of it isn’t Monsanto’s fault. In a nutshell, cotton farmers in India had some rough years and suffered greatly until hybrid cotton was introduced. The pesticides were expensive, but production increased with the new seeds, and all was well. Temporarily. After a number of years, the pests grew resistant to the toxins and farmers suffered for years trying to survive. Many committed suicide. Then Genetically Modified (GM) cotton came to the rescue. Same story. Expensive, but did well, until pests gained resistance and productivity dropped. Great poverty, suffering, suicides, and many farmers now have cancer from the toxins used in ever heavier doses.
That is why Vandana Shiva says,
“For arrogantly breaking Indian laws and corrupting our regulatory systems, Monsanto must be held accountable. For the failure of Bt cotton, Monsanto must be made to pay damages to the farmers and seed companies that have had to pay “technology fees” for a failed technology. The land that our farmers have lost to the agents selling Monsanto seeds and chemicals must be returned to the farmers’ families. All the illegal royalty collected from our farmers and India’s seed companies must be returned to India.”
When I was in India last year, I learned of a ‘Cancer Train’ that the government pays for, which regularly runs Rajasthani farmers from the north down to Udaipur hospitals for treatment of their cancers.
Contrast all this ugliness with Indigenous ‘Adivasi’ and Dalit farming groups who are reviving and sharing sorghums, millets, many rice varieties and more. They are using organic and agroecological farming to preserve their agriCULTURE and increasing the prosperity of their communities. They are developing small value-added operations and trying to figure out other ways to compel the younger generation to stay in the villages and work the land. They are restoring biodiversity, regenerating the life-giving power of the land, and building food sovereignty.
In sum, the best advice I can give you Monsanto is to admit that you have reneged on your responsibility and hand in your corporate charter, which traditionally were granted for large operation resulting in a public good. This might help halt the accumulation of bad karma, and more importantly, maybe even get Vandana off your back.
On reading this last paragraph, I realized how unfair this is to Monsanto. Monsanto deserves much worse. Actually, Monsanto is a despicable poison-pushing company which has repeatedly committed predatory acts of monopoly building, hoarded intellectual property, deliberately contaminated non-GM seeds with GM pollen, sued thousands of farmers, lied to the public, squashed inconvenient research and bought off public and private researchers and politicians, and all for the sake of market share and profit. So I join the Indian farmer above and say, Go Back Monsanto. And may Syngenta, Pioneer and the others follow suit.
Andrew participating in a seeds festival in Nijayappana Doddi village in Andhra Pradesh, India, 2015. Photo: Thomas John