Ana Joanes, Huffington Post, June 17, 2010
On June 4th, 10,000 peasant farmers gathered in protest in Haiti to burn over 400 tons of hybrid corn and vegetable seeds donated to the country by Monsanto. This was a hugely symbolic gesture and one that the rest of the world needs to listen to. Haiti is asking for our help in establishing a local, sustainable food system from the rubble that the country currently lies in. This is our opportunity to raise our voices in protest against Monsanto's involvement in the fragile beginnings of true food sovereignty in Haiti.
This past Saturday, I was lucky enough to attend a Brooklyn church's community meeting. I heard peasant farmer Leader Chavannes Jean-Baptiste of the Peasant Movement of Papay (MPP) share the concerns of Haitian peasants regarding Monsanto's donation hybrid seeds. I was greatly moved by his words and I want to share them with you. Below are the highlights from his speech. Please note that the quotes are not exact as Jean-Baptiste was speaking in Creole and his words were translated into English.
Hybrid seeds are a poison gift. They don't reproduce, and therefore cannot be shared among a community. Haiti does not yet view seeds as a commodity like the US does. These hybrid seeds threaten the cultural fabric in Haiti because they break the cycle of food sharing.
Jean-Baptiste believes that Monsanto has taken the opportunity of the recent earthquake in Haiti to intentionally introduce the seeds and destroy Haitian agriculture, creating a dependency on Monsanto each season for new seeds.
If the Haitian government accepts Monsanto's seeds, rather than trying to build a system of food sovereignty, the Haitian farmer will become a day laborer, working for industrial farms. This would completely transform the economy to an industrial system instead of working to support farmers through a local economic system.
"We are an occupied country and want to recover our freedom, starting with food sovereignty. The struggle against Monsanto is not a small thing - they are extremely powerful. We need to unite ourselves - this is a global struggle."
"Haiti is essentially road kill, and not even road kill that can serve as proper food. We are at the point that the dogs and vultures are tearing us apart. Companies like Monsanto are devouring what is left of us at this point."
"This is a country that is used to struggle. We will fight and have the capacity for resistance, particularly when the threat is to the very fabric of our country. A large population of Haitians do not yet understand the implications of the relationship with Monsanto, many have never heard of the company before. The first task is to educate. "