Friday, May 28, 2010

Monsanto and Haiti

Added June 20, 2010.
Via daysmp at Huffington-Post, there's a great article to read Hybrids in Haiti.

The following is a response to Monsanto's Poison Pills for Haiti at Huffington-Post, which argues that Monsanto is evil, non-organic seeds are evil, hybrids are evil and anybody who doesn't support organic agriculture is evil.

It is adapted from comments by myself and others at  Huffington-Post blog entry Haitian Farmers Commit to Burning Monsanto Hybrid Seeds.

Monsanto offered 475 tons of carefully selected seed to Haiti. Some of it is open pollination vegetable seed. The rest is hybrid maize (corn) seed. If you have open pollination seed, when you harvest your crop, you keep some and use it to grow the next crop. The seed you use for the next crop will be the same as used for the previous crop.

With hybrid seed, you get one good harvest because of hybrid vigor. I don't understand it. Maybe you can do better. The seed from that harvest isn't the same as the hybrid seed. It won't give the same results if you use it for the next crop. Farmers understand this. Monsanto understands this. The NGOs Monsanto is working with know this.  Hybrids are used worldwide.

One of the comments was apparently from an official in the Haitian government.  Prophete wrote:
In Haiti we currently grow less than 50% of the food we eat. The rest is either imported through commercial companies or distributed as food aid. Being a net food importer calls for modernization of Haitian agriculture, and Hybrid corn seed is one of the ways to reach that modernization. Hybrid corn has been planted in Haiti since 1958, always on small acreages. The Department of Agriculture, as we were called then, was promoting its use on irrigated lowland in order for the hybrid corn to better express its yield potential. This is still our policy, now that we are called Ministry of Agriculture. The donation of this Hybrid corn seed was to increase the areas under Hybrid corn and improve food security.
Believe it or not, there is even an NGO in Hait that is working to produce hybrid seeds.  The horror, the horror.
Currently the majority of [Haitian] farmers are planting food grains bought in the market and crop yields are at subsistence levels. Improved seeds, selected for local conditions, offer farmers a better chance to harvest lucrative crops. The program is working with both newly developed hybrid and open-pollinated varieties of corn, selected black bean varieties, sorghum and pigeon peas. ORE has set up a seed processing facility in Camp Perrin where we produce approximately three hundred tons of commercial seeds a year, using material from our ongoing seed research and improvement program. The benefits are increased yields, higher income and improved nutrition." See.
There are even horror of horror or horror, organizations in the United States of America that actually sell --- hybrid--- organic seed and win prizes.

Monsanto is working with NGOs in Haiti to ensure that it makes sense to use the seeds. Here is who they brought on board. A group is connected with the US government. But it doesn't sound like your typical foreign aid project. It sounds awfully lefty to me. And an initiative connected with New York's Columbia university, home of the GMO lovers ---- yeah, right.

Here is what Monsanto says:
Monsanto contacted the Haitian Ministry of Agriculture and offered specific non-GMO seed varieties and quantities suited for Haiti’s growing conditions. The Ministry reviewed the offer and asked some questions, including whether we intended to include GMO seed because Haiti does not have the legal framework in place to approve or use biotech seeds today.
We clarified that Monsanto’s offer was only for conventionally bred hybrids. The Ministry let us know what crop seeds would be acceptable to their farmers. In a letter to Monsanto, the Ministry said: “Thank you for Monsanto’s generous offer to donate Vegetable seeds and Hybrid maize seeds to benefit the Haitian farmers. The vegetable seeds have been tested in Haiti previously and are well accepted by the farmers. They will definitely contribute to an increase in vegetable production in Haiti.”
Monsanto notified the Ministry that the donated seeds would have fungicide treatments. The Ministry continued to be supportive, offering the following:“Let me also thank you for the information about the seed treatments for the Monsanto Hybrids. The products listed are used everyday in Haitian agriculture and should pose no problem.”

See also which includes more details.

The commenter Whatevah discussed the fungicides used:
Folks, the scary language used to describe the way these seeds are treated with fungicide is extremely misleading. From the posts below it is clear that most people don't realize that there is nothing at all unusual or dangerous about fungicidal treatments.
The chemicals used to treat the donated seeds are popular with farmers all around the world, including Haiti and the USA. There is no reason these seeds couldn't be sold and used here. These chemicals help young seedlings survive fungal infections long enough to get a decent start. The fungicide decomposes into harmless compounds long before the plants begin to bear fruit. Saying these seeds are "contaminated" or dangerous is kind of like saying that the fungal ointments used to treat athletes' feet are dangerous. Well, yeah - if you gargle with it. Used properly, fungicides are completely benign. Harvests would be much smaller without them. Here's a link that describes this class of chemicals:

To cut down on the inevitable:  I am not a shill for Monsanto or any part of Big Agra.  My comments at Huffington-Post are almost all on vaccines and vaccinations, that's a picture of Dr. Jonas Salk beside my name. I learned of this topic because I'm a fan of Whatevah.


  1. Hybrid produce is lacking in minerals and vitamins. GMO food is NOT a wise choice if you value your health. GMO corn is the worst...and cotton too. That's what led to all of the suicides by Indian farmers who were forced to buy Monsanto cotton. Even the flocks of sheep who normally eat the cotton stalks after the harvest dropped dead after eating Monsanto Cotton.

    Do you work for a government agency?

  2. Guess what, the Haitians are developing a new hybrid corn that has a lot more nutrition in it. I have no idea why hybrid produce should have fewer minerals and vitamins in it. It's a food crop, you can breed for what you want.

    As to the shill idiocy. Read the article above this.

  3. Non-Hybrid or Open-Pollinated seeds allow the gardener to collect seeds from a crop for future planting. Hybrid seeds do not. Once food has been modified to the point that it can no longer reproduce from it's own seeds, it's so compromised that the nutritional value drops. Bananas have seeds. Did you know that? So does pineapple. But not the hybrid garbage they sell in grocery stores in America. See, if it can't reproduce, it's DNA is screwed.

  4. You don't understand. I think the problem may be the web sites you visit. If you want to understand these subjects better, you should start over with these simple google searches

    growing bananas
    cavendish bananas
    hybrid vigor


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