Haitian farmers reject Monsanto’s seeds of destruction
Published Jun 17, 2010 8:23 PM
Agribusiness giant Monsanto’s profits have been slipping recently, so it
saw the recent earthquake in Haiti as a chance to expand its market for the
seed-fertilizer-herbicide package it sells.
Hundreds of thousands of people — no precise figures are available
— fled the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, after the Jan. 12 earthquake
to take shelter with friends and family, mainly small farmers and peasants, in
rural areas of Haiti. Farmers had a hard choice — feed their families the
grain they had saved for the next planting, or see their families starve.
Now, when the time has come to plant for the next harvest, they are short of
seeds. Monsanto offered to donate 475 tons of corn seed and two tons of seeds
from a variety of vegetables. This “gift” was made under the
framework of the WINNER project (Watershed Initiative for National Natural
Environmental Resources), an operation the United States Agency for
International Development set up after the hurricanes in 2009 to
“improve” the productivity of Haitian agriculture.
Monsanto denied that its corn seeds were genetically modified, claiming that
they were just a hybrid produced for tropical climates. Haiti’s minister
of agriculture said genetically modified organisms are not against the law in
Haiti because the country has no laws concerning them.
Jean-Yves Urfié, a former professor of chemistry at the Collège Saint
Martial in Port-au-Prince, claims that Monsanto has already distributed seeds
in the Haitian areas of Gonaïves, Kenscoff, Pétionville, Cabaret,
Arcahaie and Croix-des-Bouquets et Mirebalais. He and others have pointed out
that the Monsanto seeds require Monsanto herbicides and fertilizers as well as
well-prepared fields. (www.labreche.ch)
Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, the leader of the Peasant Movement of Papay (MPP),
told Via Campesina, “It is a new earthquake, more dangerous in the long
term than the one that took place Jan. 12. ... It is a strong attack against
our agriculture, peasants, biodiversity and Creole seeds, which we are
defending and which must remain our environment.” Jean-Baptiste accused
the Haitian government of profiting from the earthquake to sell the country to
imperialism and transnational companies.
On June 4 more than 10,000 peasants gathered in Hinche, a small city in central
Haiti, and burned Monsanto seeds at a rally called by the MPP. The Haitian
Times reported that demonstrators chanted, “Down with [Haitian President
René] Préval!” “Keep Monsanto out of Haiti!” and
occasionally “Down with the occupation!”
Monsanto made its reputation producing Agent Orange, which poisoned hundreds of
thousands of people in Vietnam. According to the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign
Affairs, 4.8 million Vietnamese people were exposed to Agent Orange, resulting
in 400,000 deaths and disabilities and birth defects among 500,000
Monsanto’s representative in Haiti is Jean-Robert Estimé, who is
also the in-country director of the WINNER project. He was Haiti’s
foreign minister under Jean-Claude Duvalier in the 1980s, when USAID
“convinced” the Haitian government to wipe out the Creole pigs
indigenous to Haiti because they might be infected with the swine flu virus,
which could spread to the U.S.
The replacement pigs from Iowa were ecologically and economically unviable
— they got sunburned and required expensive feed and clean water.
According to exiled Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s book,
“Eyes of the Heart,” the campaign cost Haitian peasants $600
million and led to a 30 percent drop in enrollment in rural schools, since
parents could no longer sell pigs to pay school fees.
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