Haitians burn Monsanto seeds, reject USAID

Haitian farmers are calling the news that Monsanto is donating 475 tons of pesticide-treated hybrid seeds a “new earthquake,” and members of the Peasant Movement of Papay (MPP in Creole) have committed to burning the seeds. MPP Executive Director and National Peasant Movement of the Congress of Papay (MPNKP) spokesperson Chavannes Jean-Baptiste called Monsanto’s seeds “a very strong attack on small agriculture, on farmers, on biodiversity, on Creole seeds… and on what is left our environment in Haiti.” The country’s Ministry of Agriculture originally rejected Monsanto’s offer of Roundup Ready seeds, because the country has no policy in place to regulate GMO’s, but consented to accept the donation after being assured in an email that the seeds were not genetically modified. The 60,000 sacks of corn and vegetable seeds are, however, patented hybrid varieties – meaning farmers will have to purchase new seeds next year instead of being able to save them – and have been treated with toxic chemicals. The tomato seeds were doused in thiram, a highly hazardous pesticide whose home and garden use has been banned in the U.S. because most consumers don’t have access to sufficient protective equipment.

Monsanto failed to mention any of the dangers or necessary safety precautions of thiram to Haiti’s Ministry of Agriculture. The seeds will be distributed by the by the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID), a tax-payer funded agency infamous for promoting U.S. agendas while offering development assistance. A Monsanto representative also told Business Week that, while Monsanto won’t be receiving any of the profits, farmers will have to pay for the seeds, “to avoid flooding the local economy with free goods.” The U.S. hasn’t had any qualms about flooding Haiti’s markets in the past. Haiti was forced to open its markets to foreign agricultural imports by the International Monetary Fund in order to qualify for a much-needed loan. Haitian farmers couldn’t compete with heavily subsidized rice from the U.S., and farmers lost their only source of income. In 2008, 78% of Haitian people were living on less than $2 a day. Farmers involved in the MPP’s agroecological projects recognize Monsanto’s ploy to force chemical-reliant industrial agriculture on a struggling economy; Jean-Baptiste said earlier this year, “We need to establish seed banks and have silos where we can store our Creole seeds. Local, organic seeds are the basis of food sovereignty…. It’s urgent that Haitians buy local seeds…. What’s the danger we face today? It’s that food aid from USAID and others is getting dumped in the country."

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