Hinche, Haiti– An estimated 10,000 peasants gathered for a massive march in Central Haiti on June 4, 2010, to protest what has been described as “the next earthquake for Haiti” – a donation of 475 tons of hybrid corn seeds and vegetable seeds by the US-based agribusiness giant Monsanto, in partnership with USAID. While this move comes at a time of dire need in Haiti, many feel it will undermine rather than bolster the country’s food security.
According to Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, leader of the Peasant Movement of Papaye (MPP) and spokesperson for the National Peasant Movement of the Congress of Papaye (MPNKP), the entry of Monsanto seeds into Haiti is “a very strong attack on small agriculture, on farmers, on biodiversity, on Creole seeds… and on what is left our environment in Haiti.”
While Monsanto is known for being among the world’s largest purveyors of genetically modified seeds, the corporation’s spokespeople have emphasized that this particular donation is of conventional hybrid seeds as opposed to GMO seeds. Yet for many of Haiti’s peasants, this distinction is of little comfort.
“The foundation for Haiti’s food sovereignty is the ability of peasants to save seeds from one growing season to the next. 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,” explains Bazelais Jean-Baptiste, an agronomist from the MPP who is currently directing the “Seeds for Haiti” project in New York City.
“Furthermore, these seeds require expensive inputs of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides that Haiti’s farmers simply cannot afford. 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.”
From June 11-14, 2010, Chavannes Jean-Baptiste will travel from Haiti to the US for a series of meetings in Washington, DC and at the United Nations in New York to share the concerns of Haitian peasants regarding Monsanto’s seeds and to share alternative proposals for Haiti’s food security and food sovereignty developed by the Haitian peasants themselves.
During his stay, Jean-Baptiste will also have a series of meetings with food security advocates and others in New York City, including the following public events:
Saturday June 12 at 5PM: Community meeting at Lafayette Ave Presbyterian Church, 85 South Oxford St, downtown Brooklyn, near Brooklyn Academy of Music
Monday June 14 at 6 PM: Press conference followed by a community meeting at the 1199SEIU Martin Luther King Labor Center, 310 West 43rd Street, near 8th Ave, Midtown Manhattan
Contact: Bazelais Jean-Baptiste, Seeds for Haiti, 917-378-2192, firstname.lastname@example.org