Sharad Joshi is the founder of the 'farmer unions' Shetkari Sanghatana and Kisan Coordination Committee, both of which have been used to promote GM crops not just in India but in Europe and at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. Sharad Joshi is also the leader of a grouping called Farmers for Freedom and of a political party, the Swatantra Bharat Party, of which he was also National President.
Both Shetkari Sanghatana and Kisan Coordination Committee are described as 'peasant' organisations. Joshi is the author of a book, 'Organisation of Peasants - Thought and Practice' and he describes himself as a 'Peasant Leader'. However, his background does not suggest peasant roots.
He was a lecturer in Economics and Statistics at the University of Poona (1957-58) before joining the Indian Postal Service (1958-68) from where he moved to the International Bureau of the UPU - the intergovernmental organisation for postal services . During this period (1968-77), Joshi was resident in Bern, Switzerland, where the UPU is based.
All the groups with which Joshi is connected claim to be 'non-political' but have an ultra-libertarian stance. They emphasise not just freedom of access to markets, but freedom from state regulation and from any state economic intervention. In recent years, the freedom to use GM crops without any restriction has been added to the list.
Joshi has pursued his goals via 'a number of agitations', even being arrested on one occasion. IN 2002 he threatened to lead a campaign of civil disobedience if Monsanto's GM cotton was not approved by India's regulatory body. However, the level of popular support for Joshi and his views is open to question.
According to Corporate Observatory Europe, the 'marginal position' of Joshi's groups and their ideology was revealed 'when Joshi ran for the Indian parliament in the mid-90s and received only a few hundred votes.'
Similarly, although Shetkari Sanghatna and KCC are presented as 'mainstream' farmers' movements, in reality Joshi and his organisations have had an increasingly small constituency and typically represent only large local landowners growing cash crops, rather than India's numerous subsistence farmers.
Despite this tiny following, Joshi is a Member of the Advisory Board of the Monsanto-backed World Agricultural Forum (WAF), in St. Louis, USA, and Chairman of the WAF India Chapter and South Asia Chapter. He is also Chairman of Shivar Agroproducts Ltd., an agroproducts processing and marketing company, and of Bhama Constructions Ltd.
More on the pro-GM stance and activities of Joshi's organisations.