Plant breeders and researchers are among those who primarily utilize gene banks, and the world’s most ubiquitous plant breeders and plant-patenting GMO giants today are Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta and Dow Chemical.
Monsanto has effectively monopolized the seed market with a series of abrupt and unregulated acquisitions. Monsanto’s 2005 purchase of Seminis, along with Monsanto’s purchase of the Dutch breeding and seed company, De Ruiter Seeds, makes them the largest seed company on Earth, controlling 85 percent of the total market.
Monsanto acquired Delta & Pine Land (DPL), the world’s largest cotton seed company, which jointly holds three US patents on Terminator technology with the US Department of Agriculture.
As F. William Engdahl notes, “Monsanto holds world patent rights together with the United States Government for ‘Terminator’ seeds or Genetic Use Restriction Technology (GURT). Terminator is an ominous technology by which a patented commercial seed commits ‘suicide’ after one harvest. Control by private seed companies is total. Such control and power over the food chain has never before in the history of mankind existed.”
Since Terminator seeds have only one growth cycle, farmers are required to purchase seeds from Monsanto for every planting. There is also a concern that the ‘Terminator’ effect will be spread to indigenous crops through pollination, rendering many plants unable to reproduce fruit.
Rafael Alegría of Via Campesina, an organization representing over 10 million peasant farmers worldwide says “Terminator is a direct assault on farmers and indigenous cultures and on food sovereignty. It threatens the well-being of all rural people, primarily the very poorest.”
10,000 Haitians March Against Terminator Seeds
Last year, 10,000 peasants marched in Haiti to protest Monsanto’s donation of 475 tons of Terminator-type hybrid corn seeds and vegetable seeds, done in partnership with The United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The declining yield characteristic of hybrids forces farmers to buy seed every year in order to obtain high yields.
As Food Freedom notes, none of these crops will produce viable seeds for future plantings and all require massive chemical inputs.
“The foundation for Haiti’s food sovereignty is the ability of peasants to save seeds from one growing season to the next. The hybrid crops that Monsanto is introducing do not produce seeds that can be saved for the next season, therefore peasants who use them would be forced to somehow buy more seeds each season,” explains Bazelais Jean-Baptiste, an agronomist from the MPP who is currently directing the “Seeds for Haiti” project in New York City.
“Furthermore, these seeds require expensive inputs of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides that Haiti’s farmers simply cannot afford. This creates a devastating level of dependency and is a complete departure from the reality of Haiti’s peasants. Haitian peasants already have locally adapted seeds that have been developed over generations. What we need is support for peasants to access the traditional seeds that are already available.”
US Agency for International Development
Monsanto’s goal, with the help of USAID as a benevolent front man, is to render local farmers in poor and developing countries dependent on US agribusiness and petro-chemical companies.
The USAID provides economic, development and humanitarian assistance around the world in support of the foreign policy goals of the United States. It operates in Sub-Saharan Africa; Asia and the Near East, Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe, and Eurasia.
Rajiv “Raj” Shah is is currently the administrator of the USAID and led efforts to create the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) — a strawman used by Monsanto to spread GMO seeds across Africa under the pretext of “bio-technology”.
Shah was the agricultural programs director for the pro-biotech Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) and the Gates Foundation have been criticized for working closely with Monsanto and the Danforth Plant Center.
According to Tom Philpott, the Danforth Plant Science Center is nestled in Monsanto’s St. Louis home town, and is essentially that company’s NGO research and PR arm…the center ‘was founded in 1998 through gifts from the St. Louis-based Danforth Foundation, the Monsanto Fund (a philanthropic foundation), and a tax credit from the State of Missouri’.
Philpott notes that Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant sits on the center’s board of trustees, along with execs from defense giant McDonnell Douglas and pharma titan Merck. Another notable board member is Alfonso Romo, a Mexican magnate who cashed in big during his country’s notoriously corrupt privatization /liberalization bonanza in the early ’90s, says Philpott.
According to Alexis Baden-Mayer with the Organic Consumers Association, links and collaborations between Monsanto and the Danforth Plant Center include project partnerships, hiring one another’s employees and making donations to one another’s projects.
At the Gates Foundation, explains Alexis, Shah supervised Lawrence Kent, who had been the director of international programs at the Danforth Center, and Monsanto vice president Robert Horsch, a scientist who led genetic engineering of plants at the seed giant.
Alexis adds: “The Gates Foundation partners with Monsanto and the Danforth Center on projects that seek to find technological solutions to the problems of hunger in poor countries. These projects have generated a lot of publicity for the idea that genetic engineering could be the solution to world hunger, but they have not produced even a single genetically engineered plant that is proven to offer stress-resistance, increased yields or improved nutrition.”
And so Engdahl asks (as should all of us): “What leads the Gates and Rockefeller foundations to at one and the same time back the proliferation of patented and soon-to-be Terminator patented seeds across Africa, a process which, as it has in every other place on earth, destroyed the plant seed varieties as monoculture industrialized agribusiness is introduced; and at the same time invest tens of millions of dollars to preserve every seed variety known in a bomb-proof doomsday vault near the remote Arctic Circle ‘so that crop diversity can be conserved for the future’ to restate their official release?”