Monsanto has donated $4 million in seeds to Haiti, sending 60 tons of conventional hybrid corn and vegetable seed, followed by 70 more tons of corn seed last week with an additional 345 tons of corn seed to come during the next year. Yet the number one recommendation of a recent report by Catholic Relief Services on post-earthquake Haiti is to focus on local seed fairs and not to introduce new or “improved” varieties at this time.
Some tough questions need to be asked and answered before we’ll know whether or not Monsanto’s donation will help or hurt long-term efforts to rebuild food sufficiency and sovereignty in Haiti. Here are five of them:
- What do Haitians think? Do rural organizations representing Haiti’s farmers actually want these seeds from Monsanto or not? We know at least one spokesperson for Haitian farmers isn’t interested. Chavannes Jean-Baptiste of the Peasant Movement of Papay and the National Peasant Movement of the Papay Congress said in a recent article published by Grassroots International that “if people start sending hybrid, NGO seeds, that’s the end of Haitian agriculture.”
- Will Haitian farmers be able to use existing farming methods with these seeds or do they require a completely different set of techniques – for example, is it possible for these seeds to be banked year to year for use in more than one planting cycle? Hybrid seeds don’t have a great track record for re-planting, which means that farmers typically must buy new seeds every year.