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Ana Joanes

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The Fight Against Monsanto in Haiti

Posted: 06/17/10 04:25 PM ET

Creating and distributing a movie is teamwork and FRESH has been blessed with the most wonderfully talented and dedicated people. Since all of us at FRESH are deeply engaged in changing our food system, in and out of the office, we started a blog called "FRESH Gets Personal", where we share what's on our minds and what we're up to, as it relates to food, of course!

This blog is part of that series and is written by Lisa Madison. For the past year, Lisa Madison has lead our grassroots distribution efforts and started our action campaigns. Her hard work and vision has allowed us to organize hundreds of screenings around the country and to organize activist campaigns around important sustainable food issues. Let us know what you think! - Ana, Director of FRESH

On June 4th, 10,000 peasant farmers gathered in protest in Haiti to burn more than 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 roadkill, and not even roadkill 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. "


I received a handout at this event that I can't seem to find online that has a number of important and informative facts regarding Monsanto and Haiti. I've scanned it and made it available -- you can VIEW HERE.

There were also three letters that we were asked to sign. Please feel free to download, sign and send.

  • To: Bill Clinton, urging him to ensure that farmers have a central role in deciding how to boost food production in Haiti, so that the country may feed itself.
  • To: His Excellency Raymond Joseph, Haiti Ambassador to the US, urging him to reject hybrid seeds and to engage organizations of small farmers about how to move forward in ways that support sustainable food systems.
  • To: Rajiv Shah, Administrator, US Agency for International Development, urging USAID to decline the use of Monsanto's hybrid seeds in the WINNER Project and to support small farmers in their efforts to restore sustainable small scale agriculture.


Thank you for listening, eat safe!

Lisa Madison
FRESH
Distribution & Outreach Coordinator

photo from Ian Hayhurst on Flickr

 

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