| In the past few days since I've returned from the Land of No Internet, there's been much buzz about Monsanto's "generous" donation of hybrid seeds to Haitian farmers. I have just witnessed agricultural success in Haiti's nearest neighbor - Cuba - and I saw firsthand that in most cases, farmers use open-pollinated (not hybrid) seeds, and they save their own seeds from one season to the next. I'd imagine it may be different on large sugarcane or tobacco operations, but those places would be growing crops for export. The places I saw grew food to feed their communities, which will be of the utmost importance in Haiti.
I must admit I'm quite pleased to see this headline: "Haitian Farmers Commit to Burning Monsanto Hybrid Seeds. Hybrid seeds cannot be saved, and saved seeds have a limited shelflife, particularly in a humid, tropical environment. Thus, a donation of hybrid seeds can be like a donation of an addictive drug from a drug dealer. You get your first bit for free, and then you're hooked. You need to buy the next batch yourself. Of course, Haitians can accept the donation and then buy open-pollinated seeds the next year, but that doesn't negate the fact that hybrid seeds are a very short term gift because they don't produce seeds you can save.
Here's the key paragraph from the HuffPo piece, which tells of Haiti's rejection of genetically engineered seeds but acceptance of hybrid seeds treated with rather potent pesticides:
Haitian social movements' concern is not just about the dangers of the chemicals and the possibility of future GMO imports. They claim that the future of Haiti depends on local production with local food for local consumption, in what is called food sovereignty. Monsanto's arrival in Haiti, they say, is a further threat to this.
"People in the U.S. need to help us produce, not give us food and seeds. They're ruining our chance to support ourselves," said farmer Jonas Deronzil of a peasant cooperative in the rural region of Verrettes.
Thus, Haiti's Peasant Movement of Papay has called on Haitian farmers to burn Monsanto's seeds and march in opposition to Monsanto on June 4, World Environment Day. All I can say (besides hallelujah!) is that I hope Haiti's next door neighbor Cuba comes through with agricultural help, both open pollinated seeds adapted to the local climate and technical expertise. Haiti is truly lucky to be located next door to one of the world's best example of food sovereignty in the making.