23 June 2010

Haitian farmers are burning Monsanto's hybrid seeds

In an open letter sent May 14, Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, the executive director of MPP and the spokesperson for the National Peasant Movement of the Congress of Papay (MPNKP), called the entry of Monsanto seeds into Haiti "a very strong attack on small agriculture, on farmers, on biodiversity, on Creole seeds ... and on what is left our environment in Haiti."  Haitian social movements have been vocal in their opposition to agribusiness imports of seeds and food, which undermines local production with local seed stocks. They have expressed special concern about the import of genetically modified organisms (GMOs)...

Monsanto is known for aggressively pushing seeds, especially GMOs seeds, in both the global North and South, including through highly restrictive technology agreements with farmers who are not always made fully aware of what they are signing. According to interviews by this writer with representatives of Mexican small farmer organizations, they then find themselves forced to buy Monsanto seeds each year, under conditions they find onerous and at costs they sometimes cannot afford...

The hybrid corn seeds Monsanto has donated to Haiti are treated with the fungicide Maxim XO, and the calypso tomato seeds are treated with thiram. Thiram belongs to a highly toxic class of chemicals called ethylene bisdithiocarbamates (EBDCs)... The EPA determined that EBDC-treated plants are so dangerous to agricultural workers that they must wear special protective clothing when handling them... The EPA also barred marketing of the chemicals for many home garden products, because it assumes that most gardeners do not have adequately protective clothing. Monsanto's passing mention of thiram to Ministry of Agriculture officials in an email contained no explanation of the dangers, nor any offer of special clothing or training for those who will be farming with the toxic seeds...

Haitian social movements' concern is not just about the dangers of the chemicals and the possibility of future GMOs imports. They claim that the future of Haiti depends on local production with local food for local consumption, in what is called food sovereignty. Monsanto's arrival in Haiti, they say, is a further threat to this...

Together with Syngenta, Dupont and Bayer, Monsanto controls more than half of the world's seeds. The company holds almost 650 seed patents, most of them for cotton, corn and soy, and almost 30 percent of the share of all biotech research and development. Monsanto came to own such a vast supply by buying major seed companies to stifle competition, patenting genetic modifications to plant varieties and suing small farmers. Monsanto is also one of the leading manufacturers of GMOs...

The MPP has committed to burning Monsanto's seeds, and has called for a march to protest the corporation's presence in Haiti on June 4, for World Environment Day.
TYWKIWDBI offers kudos to the Haitian farmers.


  1. Haitians will be self-sufficient after enough of them starve to death that they can feed the remainder from Haitian seeds.

  2. Unlike BJ above, I agree with the kudos to the Haitian farmers.

    There have got to be better alternatives to mass starvation than effective indentured servitude to Monsanto.

  3. @Rich H - I guess that might be true if you are not one who starves to death.

    OTH, the damaging chemical additives are, indeed, irresponsible. Whereas, the hybrid stuff is not.

  4. These 'altruistic' actions by Monsanto during a particularly vulnerable time in Haiti echoes similar attempts on their part to push their Bt cotton in India as a way to 'combat' spates of farmer suicide. I hate this poison chalice approach-why don't they just come out and say, 'We'd like to get richer and in order to do so, we need to change the entire agricultural profile of your country (for the worse) and as you're particularly vulnerable at the moment, the conditions appear to be ideal, so here are some free magical seeds!'

    That would be a refreshing change.

    (Read Kumbamu (2006) article 'Ecological Modernization and the Gene Revolution: the case of Bt cotton in India' for more info).


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