Haitian Farmers Refuse Monsanto Hybrid Seeds: Yes! Magazine

Posted today on Yes! Magazine, BEVERLY BELL reports:

(…) In an open letter sent May 14, Jean-Baptiste, both 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 of our environment in Haiti.”

(…) “A new earthquake” is what peasant farmer leader Chavannes Jean-Baptiste of the Peasant Movement of Papay (MPP) called the news that American agribusiness giant Monsanto will be donating 60,000 sacks (475 tons) of hybrid corn and vegetable seeds to Haiti—some of them treated with highly toxic pesticides. 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, World Environment Day.

Haitian social movements have been vocal in their opposition to imports of seeds and food from agribusinesses, which they say undermine local production and local seed stocks. They have expressed special concern about the import of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

For now, without a law regulating the use of GMOs in Haiti, the Ministry of Agriculture rejected any offer of genetically modified Roundup Ready seeds. In an email exchange, a Monsanto representative assured the Ministry of Agriculture that the seeds being donated are not genetically modified.

(…) The concern of Haitian social movements is not just about chemical dangers and the possibility of future GMO imports. They claim that the future of Haiti depends on local production with local seeds for local consumption—otherwise known as food sovereignty. Monsanto’s arrival in Haiti, they say, is a further threat to such a future.

“People in the U.S. need to help us produce, not give us food and seeds. They’re ruining our chance to support ourselves,” said farmer Jonas Deronzil of a peasant cooperative in the rural region of Verrettes.

(…) 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. [3] Thiram belongs to a highly toxic class of chemicals called ethylene bisdithiocarbamates (EBDCs). Results of tests of EBDCs on mice and rats caused concern to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which then ordered a special review. 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 ruled that pesticides containing thiram must contain a special warning label. The EPA also barred marketing of the chemicals for many home garden products, based on the assumption that most gardeners do not have adequately protective clothing. [4] 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. (…)

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