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Free Basics' corporate agenda "revealed": Top 12 investors in Monsanto are also top investors in Facebook

Vandana Shiva
By Our Representative
Top environmentalist Vandana Shiva, one of the world’s leading campaigners against genetically modified organisms (GMOs), has alleged that what Monsanto, the chief promoter of GMO in the world, has “done by pushing Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) laws and patents on seeds, Facebook founder mark Zuckerberg is attempting to do to Internet freedom in India.”
Revealing the relationship between Monsanto and Facebook, Shiva says, “The top 12 investors in Monsanto are almost the same as the top 12 investors in Facebook, including the Vanguard Group. The Vanguard Group is also a top investor in John Deere, Monsanto’s new partner for ‘smart tractors’, bringing all food production and consumption, from seed to data, under the control of a handful of investors.”
Suggesting that this reveals the real face of Facebook’s Free Basics Shiva says, Facebook’s Free Basics will “limit what the Internet is to a vast majority of India.” She adds, “Already at its outset Free Basics has said it won’t allow video content on the basis that it will interfere with the telecom companies’ services (read: profits).”
Shiva comments, Facebook is doing this “despite the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI’s) own recommendation that video content is more accessible to different parts of the population.”
“Once allowed as a free service, what is to stop telecom companies from redefining the Internet to suit their own interests, and those of their corporate partners?”, asks Shiva, adding, “After all, the ban on Free Basics has not stopped Reliance from carrying on with the service to its huge user base, a large proportion of who are farmers.”
Shiva wonders, “Why should Zuckerberg decide what the Internet is to a farmer in Punjab, who has just lost 80% of his cotton harvest because Monsanto’s Bt Cotton and the chemicals he was told to spray completely failed?”
She asks, “Should the Internet allow him to see how GMO technology has failed everywhere in the world and is only kept afloat through unfair market and trade policies, or should the internet suggest the next patented molecule he should spray on his crop?”
Pointing towards how Internet in recent years has begun to change things for rural India, Shiva says, “Recently India has seen an explosion in e-retailing. From large corporations to entrepreneurs, people all over the country are able to sell what they make to a market that was earlier unreachable to them. Craftsmen have been able to grow their businesses, farms have found consumers nearby.”
It is against this backdrop, says Shiva, “Zuckerberg wants not just a slice, but the whole pie of the basic economy of the Indian people, especially its farmers and peasants.”
“What would Monsanto’s monopoly over climate data mean for farmers enslaved through a Facebook gateway to Monsanto data delivered through an Internet that is controlled by Facebook? What would this mean for Internet and food democracy?”, Shiva queries.
Just as the right to food is “the right to choose what we want to eat”, Shiva says, “The right to the Internet is the right to choose what spaces and media we access; to choose spaces that enrich us – not what companies think should be our ‘basics’."

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