In protest over the 475 tons of hybrid corn and vegetable seeds that Monsanto donated to Haitian farmers they burnt their land, while 10,000 people took to the streets on June 4 to voice their anger against the corporate giant in agricultural biotechnology. It’s time that global leaders listened and acted to support these farmers attempts to save their land and their future.
To keep up with the problems facing Haiti see Al Jezeera English
Monsanto’s response to the protests against their hybrid seed donation to Haiti:
On May 13, Monsanto announced a donation of conventional corn and vegetable seeds to farmers in Haiti, to help increase food production and aid long-term earthquake recovery. A small group, utilizing online media, protested. At first they claimed Monsanto was donating genetically modified seed. Then they backed off and attacked the donation of hybrid seed. Then they claimed it was some kind of effort to slip GM seed into the country.
Imaginative, yes. Accurate, no.
Well if it’s accuracy we’re looking for, then that statement is not entirely true. Understandably there were concerns expressed – not just online but via broadcast and print media – that the seeds were genetically modified; Monsanto is the leading producer of genetically engineered (GE) seed (selling 90% of the US’ genetically engineered seeds), they are also openly experimenting in the use of terminator seeds. Is it no wonder that hundreds of people globally expressed their concern.
More importantly, this argument implies there is nothing wrong with introducing hybrid seeds into Haiti. Hybrids have been bred with an emphasis on yield at the expense of hardiness and resistance. Reliance on hybrid seeds enforces the use of chemical inputs; their required fertilisers, pesticides and irrigation systems have trapped many of the world’s poorest farmers into a cycle of debt. The suicides in India are a devastating example of this. Yet Monsanto claim:
Our donation of hybrid seed to Haiti is about farmers, people and food. Haiti’s farmers need good quality seed, because the better the seed, the better the chances for more food from the same land. Haiti’s people need food — better quality food, more food and more nutritious food. We learned in Malawi that a donation of hybrid seed turned a region from a food aid recipient to a food exporter. Malawi farmers were given a chance to show what they could do with good seed. And they did it.
Haiti’s farmers can do the same thing.
That’s what the protesters aren’t saying.
No-one denies the improvements in Malawi’s agriculture, yet what conservationists across the world recognise – and what Monsanto refuses to acknowledge – is that hybrid seeds can be a short-term solution that causes devastating long-term consequences.
For an interesting article on the problems that face Malawi farmers see GRAIN (a small international non-profit organisation that works to support small farmers and social movements in their struggles for community-controlled and biodiversity-based food systems). Their support takes the form of independent research and analysis, networking at local, regional and international levels, and fostering new forms of cooperation and alliance-building.