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Environment

Haitian Farmers to Burn Donated Monsanto Hybrid Seed

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Tue, May 25, 2010 at 10:00 AM

click to enlarge Helpful diagram illustrating crop hybridization - MONSANTO
  • Monsanto
  • Helpful diagram illustrating crop hybridization

Missouri-based agribusiness multinational Monsanto's latest attempt to cultivate good press is being met with widespread reproach in earthquake-ravaged Haiti, where the GMO giant is donating 130 tons of pesticide-coated hybrid and conventional vegetable seeds to farmers' associations via the United States Agency for International Development's (USAID) WINNER program. More toxic seed will follow throughout the summer. Of its problematic hybrid seed, Monsanto's Beyond the Rows blog says:

Given the choice, farmers generally select hybrid seeds because they generate more food and grain per acre or hectare. Monsanto personnel consulted with the Ministry of Agriculture in Haiti and heard very clearly the ministry sees the opportunity for increased yields that hybrid seed creates for Haitian farmers.

Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, Executive Director of Haiti's Peasant Movement of Papay (MPP) called Monsanto's gift a "new earthquake" and "a very strong attack on small agriculture, on farmers, on biodiversity, on Creole seeds and on what is left our environment in Haiti." The MPP has promised to burn the seed and called for a march to protest the company's foray into Haitian agriculture on June 5th, World Environment Day. Monsanto's hybrid seed, in addition to bearing a poison payload of fungicides like Maxim XO and Thiram, is regarded as an egregious threat to food sovereignty by small farmers and food activists worldwide. Hybridized crops easily cross-pollinate and contaminate indigenous strains. Growers are often unwilling or unable to replant the seeds they yield the following season since they do not produce reliable copies of the original plant, resulting in a cyclical tithe to Monsanto to purchase new seed.

Closer to home, the Organic Consumers Association has launched their Millions Against Monsanto campaign as the nation awaits a Supreme Court ruling on genetically engineered alfalfa, routine fodder for beef and dairy cattle. Monsanto has appealed lower court rulings preventing the firm from selling Roundup Ready alfalfa--one of the nearly 650 patented plants they control--without government oversight. This is the first time the High Court will deliver a formal opinion on GMO seed, and Associate Justice Clarence Thomas has chosen not to recuse himself despite having been on the Monsanto payroll as a corporate lawyer from 1976-1979.

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