The Monsanto Company is learning a valuable lesson in Haiti: no good deed goes unpunished at the hands of radical anti-corporate elements of Western society.
Like so many other concerned citizens, Monsanto responded to the tragic January 12 earthquake that further devastated this impoverished country. It worked for months with Haiti’s Agricultural Ministry to select seeds best suited to local climates, needs and practices, and to handle the donation so as to support, rather than undermine, the country’s agricultural and economic infrastructure.
From Monsanto’s extensive inventory, they jointly chose conventionally bred hybrid (not biotech / genetically modified / GM) varieties of field corn and seven vegetables: cabbage, carrots, eggplants, onions, tomatoes, spinach and melons. Instead of giving the seeds to farmers, the company worked with the USAID-funded WINNER program, to donate the seeds to stores owned and managed by Haitian farmer associations. The 475 tons of hybrid seeds will then be sold to many thousands of farmers at steep discounts, and all revenues will be reinvested in local agriculture.
Other companies and donors are providing fertilizers, insecticide and herbicides that will likewise be sold at a discount. The companies, Agricultural Ministry, farmers associations and other experts will also provide technical advice and assistance – much as the USDA’s Cooperative Extension System does – on how, when and whether to use the various hybrids, fertilizers, and weed and insect-control chemicals.
The goal is simple. Help get the country and its farmers back on their feet, improve farming practices, crop yields and nutrition levels, and increase incomes and living standards.
The reaction of anti-corporate activists was instantaneous, intense, perverse, patronizing and hypocritical. Monsanto wants to turn Haiti back into “a slave colony,” ranted Organic Consumers Association founder Ronnie Cummins. Hybrid and GM seeds will destroy our diversity, small-farmer agriculture and “what is left of our environment,” raged Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, leader of the Peasant Movement of Papaye.
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