By Jeff Stier, Esq.
Posted: Thursday, June 3, 2010
Publication Date: June 3, 2010
First published on National Review Online's The Corner , June 3, 2010.
Four months after a devastating earthquake ripped apart their country, the people of Haiti are still suffering, so you’d think a multi-million-dollar donation of vegetable seeds would be welcome news. But two Haitian groups, backed by the activist group Grassroots International, are urging farmers to do the unthinkable: burn the donated seeds.
This evil campaign puts politics ahead of humanity, and it is sad that charities like the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the New York Community Trust are funding Grassroots International’s perversely named “social justice” campaign.
The two groups, the Peasant Movement of Papay (MPP) and the National Peasant Movement of the Congress of Papay (MPMKP), argue that the hybrid seeds donated by Monsanto will somehow undermine the “food sovereignty” of Haiti. They also assert, without any scientific basis, that the donated seeds are somehow unsafe. Nothing could be further from the truth, as seeds like those donated have been used safely for generations.
At first blush this might seem like just the latest battle over the use of genetically modified (GM) crops, similar to Zambia’s 2002 decision to let its citizens starve rather than accept GM wheat. But the donated seeds aren’t even GM. Rather than invite a challenge, Monsanto worked with the government of Haiti to arrange the donation of hybrids seeds, similar to seeds backyard gardeners use regularly. Both GM and hybrid seeds are safe, although Haiti doesn’t have the regulatory infrastructure to use GM seeds. But that didn’t stop these “sustainable agriculture” zealots from interfering.
It isn’t the crop they’re against, it’s the corp — they just don’t like private companies. They’re convinced that “agri-business” is a bad thing, as if private companies shouldn’t be in the business of innovating and selling agricultural products to people trying to grow food.
“We must defend the use of safe agricultural technologies to improve the human condition.” That’s what Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Norman Borlaug told me on the phone just weeks before he passed away last year. Dr. Borlaug saved an estimated one billion lives by greatly increasing crop yields in developing countries, earning him the monicker “Father of the Green Revolution.” Among other accomplishments, he popularized the very types of seeds that the sustainable food movement wants Haitian farmers to burn in a public protest on June 4.
The group behind the campaign, Grassroots International, is backed by a long list of shadowy foundations, such as the Tides Foundation, which support radical left-wing causes. They wrap their advocacy in the cloak of social justice — but the Haitian people have suffered enough.
All of us who are concerned about the well-being of the Haitian people should stand up against the radical “sustainable agriculture” movement, which seeks to turn back the clock on Dr. Borlaug’s lifesaving work.
— Jeff Stier is associate director of the American Council on Science and Health.