Haiti's Farmers Reject Monsanto Seed:
Action Today at Gates Foundation


Seattle Solidarity Action
For Immediate Release

Friday, June 4, 2010 - AGRA Watch, Seattle-based activist group challenging the Gates Foundation's role in agriculture in Africa, will demonstrate their solidarity with Haitian farmers today at 5pm, as they reject corporate control of their food systems and demand food sovereignty.

Activists will hold a rally at 5pm, where they will symbolically burn toxic "seed" in front of the Gates Foundation, calling on the Foundation to cut their ties to Monsanto, and then will march to University Bridge.

Haitian farmer groups, including members of the international peasant organization Via Campesina have recently rejected a gift from transnational giant Monsanto: 475 tons of hybrid corn and vegetable seeds, some of which have been coated with a highly toxic pesticide. Instead, they have decided to celebrate World Environment Day with a variety of actions: the planting of creole corn seeds, a march of thousands of farmers, and the symbolic burning of some of Monsanto's "gift" seeds. Hybrids, which cannot be saved at the end of the season, offer little in the way of ongoing food security. The pesticides harm the environment and human health.

Haitian farmer groups know what they need to do to restore Haiti to a country that can feed itself -- as it was only three decades ago when it produced eighty one percent of its food, and additional rice for export. "The policy we need for this to happen is food sovereignty, where the country has the right to define it own agricultural policies, to grow first for the family and then for local market, to grow healthy food in a way which respects the environment and Mother Earth, which is the mother of the generations" explains Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, Executive Director of the Movement of Papay (MPP).

"People in the U.S. need to help us produce, not give us food and seeds. They're ruining our chance to support ourselves" explains Farmer Jonas Deronzil of a peasant cooperative in the rural region of Verrettes.

"It would be good to have a fund to buy local seeds. It would best favor the Haitian peasantry to plant our own seeds on our own lands. It's up to us to say what type of seeds we want. We can’t accept these foreigners giving us GMO seeds which aren't good for health or land. GMOs will do us harm and aggravate the problems of our agriculture" states Marie Berthine Bonheur from Croix des Bouquets, an organizer with the National Coordinating Committee of Peasant Women, who is part of the Haitian National Network for Food Sovereignty and Security.

The seeds currently on offer are not genetically modified because the original offer of Round-Up Ready seeds was rejected by the Haitian Ministry of Agriculture on the basis that Haiti currently has no policy or procedure for evaluating the safety of GMOs. As in many parts of Africa where Monsanto is trying to create inroads, Haitians are concerned about the potential contamination of biodiversity, as well as risks to the environment and human health that could come from planting GMO seeds. In fact, they may easily have seen Monsanto's "gift horse" as a "Trojan horse" with the potential to stealthily unleash a hoard of destructive and invincible organisms.

Haiti is not the only country to receive a gift horse. "Today we are demonstrating our solidarity with Haitian farmers on Bill Gates's door-step, to call on the Foundation to sever all ties with Monsanto. Africa's farmers, like Haiti's, are strongly rejecting Monsanto" states Heather Day, Executive Director of Community Alliance for Global Justice (CAGJ). CAGJ founded AGRA Watch in 2008 out of concern that AGRA, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, which is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is funding unsustainable and detrimental agricultural practices on the continent. Many of AGRA's grant recipients are also funded by agribusiness giant Monsanto.

"If the Gates Foundation truly wishes to give a 'gift' to African farmers, it must be a gift that will support their food sovereignty" asserted Brenda Biddle, AGRA Watch member and participant in today's action.

4:00 p.m. - Members of AGRA Watch and others will gather in solidarity with Haitian farmers and citizens at Grand Central Bakery: 1616 Eastlake Ave. E
5:00 p.m. - Creative action at Gates Foundation
5:30 p.m. - March to Eastlake Bridge

Background Information:
AGRA Watch Research: “Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) Fund Distribution: Gates Foundation Links to Monsanto & GE Crops Development in Kenya”
Beverly Bell: “Haiti: The Clock is Set at Zero”
Beverly Bell: “Haitian Farmers Commit to Burning Monsanto Hybrid Seeds”
Beverly Bell: “Thinking About Ourselves and Our Future: Rural Haitian Women
Actions de mobilisation pour une Haïti verte et contre la transnationale Monsanto
US State Department vs. Critics of Biotechnology

Please contact:

Brenda Biddle
Resource faculty Evergreen State College, member AGRA Watch
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Heather Day, Executive Director
Community Alliance for Global Justice