A movement of Haitian farmers and other small-scale producers, have rejected a donation by US agricultural giant Monsanto. The Peasant Movement of Payaye has said it will burn 60,000 sacks of vegetable and corn seeds totaling 475 tons at a value of $4 million that the company donated, in partnership with USAID, following the deadly January earthquake.
Other farmers´ groups have long-protested the use of genetically-modified seeds, arguing they threaten the poor nation´s biodiversity.
Several thousand farmers and activists marched in Hinche in Central Haiti on June 4 against the donation.
Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, leader of the Peasant Movement of Papaye and spokesperson for the National Peasant Movement of the Congress of Papaye, 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.”
The farmers argued that the seeds require large amounts of chemicals and would enslave the producers to buying more Monsanto products. Others said the seeds would contaminate native crops and over all, threaten Haiti´s precarious food security and sovereignty.
“The foundation for Haiti´s food sovereignty is the ability of peasants to save seeds from one growing season to the next,” said Bazelais Jean-Baptiste, an agronomist who directs the “Seeds for Haiti” project in New York City. “The hybrid crops that Monsanto is introducing do not produce seeds that can be saved for the next season, therefore peasants who use them would be forced to somehow buy more seeds each season.”
“Furthermore, these seeds require expensive inputs of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides that Haiti´s farmers simply cannot afford,” he continued. “This creates a devastating level of dependency and is a complete departure from the reality of Haiti´s peasants. Haitian peasants already have locally adapted seeds that have been developed over generations. What we need is support for peasants to access the traditional seeds that are already available.”
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