Posted 2 weeks ago on July 8, 2014, 8:05 p.m. EST by LeoYo
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Salvadoran Farmers Successfully Oppose the Use of Monsanto Seeds
Tuesday, 08 July 2014 09:04
By Dahr Jamail, Truthout | Report
Farmers across El Salvador united to block a stipulation in a US aid package to their country that would have indirectly required the purchase of Monsanto genetically modified (GM) seeds.
Thousands of farmers, like 45-year-old farmer Juan Joaquin Luna Vides, prefer to source their seeds locally, and not to use Monsanto's GM seeds.
"Transnational companies have been known to provide expired seeds that they weren’t able to distribute elsewhere," said Vides, who heads the Diversified Production program at the Mangrove Association, a community development organization that works in the Bajo Lempa region of El Salvador.
"We would like the US embassy and the misinformed media outlets [that are pressuring the Salvadoran government to change their procurement procedure] to know more about the reality of national producers and recognize the food sovereignty of the country," he added.
During the last two months, the US government has been attempting to pressure the government of El Salvador to sign the second Millennium Challenge Compact with the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a US foreign aid agency created during the presidency of George W. Bush.
While the US government has not specifically requested the government of El Salvador or local farming coops there to purchase Monsanto products, it has tacitly looked the other way while Monsanto affiliates have raked in huge profits with highly priced, and less effective or less desired products.
The signing agreement was allegedly based upon the condition that El Salvador purchases GM seeds from Monsanto in conjunction with the Millennium Challenge Compact.
With Strings Attached
According to MCC, its role in El Salvador is a positive one.
"MCC is fueling economic growth in El Salvador's Northern Zone through technical assistance, rehabilitation of roads, credit, and investments in people, including vocational education, better water and sanitation services and an improved energy supply," according to the agency's website.
However, in late 2013, the US government made it clear that without "specific" economic and environmental policy changes, it would not provide the $277 million in aid funding it had promised to give El Salvador, via the MCC. In the following months, it became evident that these reforms included a policy change that would shift the country's current method of providing seeds to its farmers.
In stark contrast to what the US government is attempting to do by forcing farmers around the globe to purchase Monsanto GM seeds, Salvadoran farmers like Vides have been working with the government, alongside NGOs like the Mangrove Association, to provide certified corn seed for agricultural packets that are distributed to thousands of Salvadoran farmers. The program has been ongoing for more than five years in the country, and is continuing to expand.
"Before, small producers didn’t have the opportunity to participate in government seed procurement processes," said Vides, who farms coffee and vegetables, and raises cattle. "The program has generated employment and income for communities, inhabitants and cooperatives of the area, while producers have also greatly developed their capacity to produce certified seed. Catering to transnational companies could hurt these gains that the program has created."
Vides, along with hundreds of other farmers and their coops, has successfully produced high-quality seed that is adapted to the specific soil and climate conditions of their country. He notes that using indigenous seeds simply makes more sense agriculturally and economically.
Nevertheless, there has been an ongoing effort by the US government to work on behalf of multinational companies like Monsanto in pushing their GM products on the government of El Salvador.
In 2013, Food & Water Watch, a Washington, DC-based watchdog group, issued a report that detailed how the US State Department issued directives to US embassies to promote biotech products and be responsive to the concerns of the biotech industry.
"Between 2007 and 2009, the State Department sent annual cables to 'encourage the use of agricultural biotechnology,' directing every diplomatic post worldwide to 'pursue an active biotech agenda' that promotes agricultural biotechnology, encourages the export of biotech crops and foods and advocates for pro-biotech policies and laws," the report said.
"The State Department views its heavy-handed promotion of biotech agriculture as 'science diplomacy,' but it is closer to corporate diplomacy on behalf of the biotechnology industry," the watchdog group added.
Monsanto, which describes itself as "A Sustainable Agriculture Company," is a massive multinational corporation well known for deleterious practices like suing small farmers when Monsanto seeds have blown into their crops, using "suicide seeds" (also referred to as terminator technology, these are seeds that have been genetically-engineered so that when the crops are harvested, all of the new seeds produced from these crops are sterile, which then forces farmers to buy seeds annually from Monsanto in order to continue growing their crops)and altering the genetic structure of natural organisms and then patenting these seeds.
The company's concentrated control over the seed sector in India, as well as much of the rest of the world, has caused tens of thousands of farmers to go out of business, and triggered a spate of related suicides.
Farmers in Brazil are suing Monsanto for $2.2 billion for unfair collection of royalties - and this is just one among countless lawsuits against the company, which maintains extremely close ties with the US government.