US Aid To El Salvador Came With Strings Attached: Monsanto Seeds Required
SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador — Farmers and activists for natural agriculture in El Salvador successfully resisted efforts by the U.S. government to tie foreign aid to the use of GMO seeds, in the latest attempt to link relief money with profits for Monsanto, the controversial multinational agribusiness giant.
In 2013, the U.S. offered El Salvador $277 million in aid through the Millennium Challenge Corporation, a foreign aid agency established under President George W. Bush. Then, in 2014, Dahr Jamail reports for Truthout, U.S. officials started putting increased pressure on the Central American country to make “economic and environmental policy changes” in return for receiving the next phase of the aid package. A key part of the disagreement involved programs to provide locally produced seeds to poor farmers, which officials argued violated the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement by favoring local products over those produced by multinational corporations.
For his 2014 article, Jamail interviewed Nathan Weller, policy director for the NGO EcoViva, who argued that when Salvadoran farmers are allowed to grow traditional crops, they outproduce modern GMO alternatives. “Domestic producers have proven their ability to cultivate a quality product to government standards, offered at a significantly lower price than what the government had historically paid for conventional seed supplied, by-in-large, by a singular Monsanto affiliate,” Weller explained. Efforts to encourage use indigenous corn seeds locally put millions into the local economy and produced record corn yields in 2013, he also noted.
Armed with evidence of the effectiveness of traditional agriculture when supported by the government, El Salvador successfully pushed back against the U.S. government, allowing it to continue to provide non-GMO seed to subsistence farmers while still receiving the valuable aid. According to Jamail’s latest report, published last week, the most recent round of contracts to provide seeds for farm aid programs relies exclusively on these local producers.
Juan Luna Vides, director of diversified production at Mangrove Association, a local NGO devoted to environmental conservation, told Jamail why local seeds work better:
“Vides said that native seeds are also far better adapted to local conditions like droughts and floods in his country, as well as the climate and soil.
‘[Native seeds] don’t need a great injection of agrochemicals in comparison to other seeds…. Seeds coming from different places, we don’t know if those seeds are GMO or modified in some way,’ he said. ‘You can reuse native seeds and create a full cycle; you can use your own seeds for the next planting. That’s not the case with hybrid seeds.’”
Even when genetically engineered seeds are used, farmers are increasingly turning to “H-59,” a hybrid produced by a government-run institute.
The struggle against Monsanto’s attempts to profit off this impoverished country is an ongoing one: In 2013, El Salvador agreed to ban glyphosate, a key ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide that may cause cancer. And this isn’t the first time that foreign aid has been tied to Monsanto’s profits. Andrey Panevin, writing in February for MyMPN, MintPress News’ blog, explained how Monsanto and other corporations used the massive 2010 earthquake in Haiti and the recent NATO-supported chaos in Ukraine as opportunities to rake in massive profits.
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