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June 2010 Updates

Supreme Court Ruling in Monsanto Case Is Victory for Center for Food Safety, Farmers

Center for Food Safety
June 21, 2010

High Court delivers ruling that leaves ban on planting of Roundup Ready Alfalfa in place in first-ever case on a genetically-engineered crop

Washington, DC June 21, 2010 - The Center for Food Safety today celebrated the United States Supreme Court's decision in Monsanto v. Geerston Farms, the first genetically modified crop case ever brought before the Supreme Court. Although the High Court decision reverses parts of the lower courts' rulings, the judgment holds that a vacatur bars the planting of Monsanto's Roundup Ready Alfalfa until and unless future deregulation occurs. It is a victory for the Center for Food Safety and the Farmers and Consumers it represents.

"The Justices' decision today means that the selling and planting of Roundup Ready Alfalfa is illegal. The ban on the crop will remain in place until a full and adequate EIS is prepared by USDA and they officially deregulate the crop. This is a year or more away according to the agency, and even then, a deregulation move may be subject to further litigation if the agency's analysis is not adequate," said Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of the Center for Food Safety. "In sum, it's a significant victory in our ongoing fight to protect farmer and consumer choice, the environment and the organic industry."

In the majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito, the Court held: "In sum\u2026the vacatur of APHIS's deregulation decision means that virtually no RRA (Roundup Ready Alfalfa) can be grown or sold until such time as a new deregulation decision is in place, and we also know that any party aggrieved by a hypothetical future deregulation decision will have ample opportunity to challenge it, and to seek appropriate preliminary relief, if and when such a decision is made." (Opinion at p. 22).

The Court also held that:

  • Any further attempt to commercialize RRA even in part may require an EIS subject to legal challenge.
  • * The Court further recognized that the threat of transgenic contamination is harmful and onerous to organic and conventional farmers and that the injury allows them to challenge future biotech crop commercializations in court.

USDA indicated at the Supreme Court argument that full deregulation is about a year away and that they will not pursue a partial deregulation in the interim. Any new attempt at deregulation in full or part will be subject to legal challenge.

"The bottom line is that the Supreme Court set aside the injunction because the vacating of the commercialization decision already gave us all the relief we needed, by forbidding RRA planting until a new decision is made by the agency. And at such time, farmers and consumers still have the right to challenge the adequacy of that process." said George Kimbrell, senior staff attorney for CFS. "The Court's decision affirmed that the threat of genetic contamination of natural plants posed by biotech crops is an issue of significant environmental concern now and in the future."

In this case, CFS faced off against powerful opposing entities, including the Department of Agriculture and the agricultural biotech giant, Monsanto Corporation. The Center and the other respondents were supported by a broad array of diverse interests, marshalling no less than seven amicus briefs in support. The amici included three states' attorneys general, leading scientific experts, legal scholars, former government officials, farmers, exporters, environmental groups, food companies and organic industry trade groups. The Organic Trade association and companies like Stonyfield Farms, Cliff Bar and Eden Foods voiced united concern over the threat a ruling for Monsanto would pose to the organic food businesses, the fastest growing sector in the American food industry. Attorneys general from California, Oregon and Massachusetts filed a brief on behalf of their citizens emphasizing "the States' interests in protecting the environment, their natural resources and their citizens' rights to be informed about the environmental impacts of federal actions." A full list of the more than sixty organizations, companies and individuals who filed briefs in support of CFS and opposed to Monsanto can be viewed at

Monsanto was supported by a bloc of powerful corporate interests and industry groups, including the American Farm Bureau, the Biotechnology Industry Organization, the American Petroleum Institute, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and CropLife America.

The environmental, health, cultural, and economic impacts of the genetically-engineered alfalfa seed, which is designed to be immune to Monsanto's flagship herbicide Roundup, and the USDA's plan to commercialize it, was at the heart of this dispute since 2006, when CFS filed a lawsuit against the USDA on behalf of a coalition of non-profits and farmers who wanted to retain the choice to grow non-GE alfalfa. Central to the issue is unwanted transgenetic drift: GE alfalfa can spread uncontrollably by way of bees that can cross-pollinate plants many miles away, contaminating both conventional and organic alfalfa with foreign DNA, patented by Monsanto.

"We brought this case to court because I and other conventional farmers will no doubt suffer irreversible economic harm if the planting of GE alfalfa is allowed," said plaintiff Phil Geerston. "It was simply a question of our survival, and though we did not win on all points of the law, we are grateful that the practical result of today's ruling is that Monsanto cannot take away our rights and Roundup Ready alfalfa cannot threaten our livelihoods."

Alfalfa is the fourth most widely grown crop in the U.S., and a key source of dairy forage. Organic and conventional farmers faced the loss of their businesses due to widespread contamination from Monsanto's patented GE alfalfa, and the foreseeable contamination of feral or wild alfalfa would ensure an ongoing and permanent source of transgenic pollution in wild places akin to that of invasive species. The New York Times (link) recently covered the epidemic of super-weeds Monsanto's Roundup Ready crops are causing across the country.

Further background information on the history of this case and scientific studies are available at


How the Media Got GM Alfalfa Wrong

By Lisa J. Bunin
June 24, 2010

The media got it wrong and let the public down when it erroneously reported Monsanto's wholesale victory in its Supreme Court appeal of the GM alfalfa case - the first-ever Supreme Court case on GMOs (Monsanto Co. v Geertson Seed Farms). Despite claims and headlines to the contrary, Monsanto is still prohibited from selling and planting its Roundup Ready GM alfalfa. The true victors in the case are farmers, consumers and environmentalists who have argued that planting GM alfalfa would contaminate conventional and organic crops and lead to spraying noxious pesticides in regions where over 90% of alfalfa farmers do not use or need them.

So, why did the press get it so wrong? Monsanto hit the press early and convincingly and the press failed to do its due diligence by corroborating Monsanto's facts with both sides in the case. It should have known better and acted more carefully despite the rush to get the first story published, but it didn't. Monsanto's Goliath PR machine succeeded in framing the Supreme Court decision as a slam dunk in its favor, to head off a drop in its stock market price. The real news - that it still can't sell its patented GM alfalfa - would surely have driven impatient investors to sell their stocks.

Not surprisingly, shortly after the publication of multiple stories announcing Monsanto's unequivocal win, an alternative narrative began to circulate on the web and people started asking questions about whether Monsanto actually "won" the case and what it meant to "win" the case anyway. Fulfilling the role of David against Goliath, bloggers exposed how the rightful victors had been unfairly slain by the press due to the unsavory alliance between the Goliath biotech giant and the major media.

The answer to the question of "who really won the case," requires examining on what grounds Monsanto appealed to the Supreme Court. Specifically, Monsanto asked the court to reconsider the lower court decision in the GM alfalfa case by: (1) lifting the injunction on GMO alfalfa, (2) allowing the planting and sale of GMO alfalfa, and (3) not allowing contamination from GMO crops to be considered "irreparable harm." In truth, the Court only ruled on Monsanto's first request, which it affirmed by stating that the injunction was too broad to be allowed to remain in place. However, it ruled in favor of the farmers and Center for Food Safety on the two other remaining issues, which in many ways are even more important. First, the Court did not overrule the lower court's ban on the planting and sale of GMO alfalfa and, therefore, the ban remains intact. Moreover, the Court's decision to set aside the injunction was based, in part, on the fact that a prohibition on GMO planting was already in effect, due to the lower court's ruling and, therefore, the injunction was duplicative overkill. Second, the Supreme Court agreed with the lower court that the threat of GMO contamination was a sufficient cause of environmental and economic harm to support future challenges on GMOs. Unfortunately, these critical details about the Supreme Court's decision were omitted in early press accounts, making it look as though Monsanto prevailed in its quest to deregulate GM alfalfa.

Two and three days later, the real story about the outcome of the GM alfalfa Supreme Court case has emerged in some press accounts. Yet, any analysis about the need for civil society to demand greater corporate accountability in the face of government inaction to halt threats of GMO contamination has yet to surface in the mainstream media. Clearly, the greatest significance of this case is that it shows how Goliath corporations, like Monsanto, BP and the rest, can be held accountable for their actions by members of civil society who have the courage to take on the role of David in the battle to protect our environment and food supply.


U.S. Supreme Court Issues Decision in Monsanto Case

Legal Planet (Berkeley Law/UCLA)
June 21, 2010

The U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision today in Monsanto v. Geertson Seed Farms, a case involving Monsanto's efforts to introduce Roundup Ready Alfalfa, a genetically modified crop engineered to tolerate the herbicide Roundup. The Court, on a 7-1 vote (Stevens dissenting, Bryer recused), held in favor of Monsanto but did so in a way that leaves standing a lower court decision preventing Monsanto from introducing the alfalfa crop until the government complies with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The Supreme Court decision has much less to do with environmental law and much more to do with the remedies the plaintiffs sought and whether an injunction issued by the district court was too broad. Here's the background.

In introducing a new type of plant, Monsanto must comply with the Plant Protection Act. The PPA gives authority to the Department of Agriculture to issue regulations "to prevent the introduction of plant pests into the United States or the dissemination of plant pests within the U.S." The Dept of Ag, through the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), has used its authority to regulate genetically engineeered plants by presuming that such plants are plant pests under the PPA. One provision of that regulation allows a person or company seeking to introduce a genetically engineered plant into the environment to petition to avoid regulation under the statute. That's what Monsanto did. The APHIS, under the Bush Administration, granted the petition after conducting a required environmental analysis under NEPA and finding that the introduction of the roundup ready alfalfa would have no signficant environmental impact.

Two conventional alfalfa farmers and environmental groups sued the Secretary of Agriculture challenging the decision to deregulate the genetically engineered alfalfa. The farmers' fears were that the genetically engineered crops could contaminate the conventional crops. In addition, conventional farmers point to evidence that crops engineered to tolerate herbicides are leading to a huge increase in pesticide use as weeds are developing pesticide resistance. While the case was intially pending in District Court, the RRA was commercially available and not regulated and was planted by about 3000 farmers across the country.

The district court found in favor of the farmers and environmental groups on the grounds that the Department of Agriculture violated NEPA. The court held that government should not have found that the introduction of the roundup ready seeds had no environmental impact. Importantly, that finding - that the government violated NEPA - remains in tact and was not challenged on appeal.

At issue on appeal were two main questions. One had to do with whether the conventional alfalfa farmers were the proper parties to sue - in legal parlance had "standing" under Article III of the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. Supreme Court said yes. Relatedly, the Court also said that Monsanto had standing to participate in the court case.

The second part of the decision involved a technical question about the scope of the district court decision to prevent the government from granting Monsanto's petition to deregulate its alfalfa seeds. The Supreme Court found that the district court had issued an injunction that was too broad: the injunction prevented the government from granting a petition without preparing a full environmental impact report (EIR) not only for complete deregulation (where Monsanto could sell and/or plant its crops nationwide) but also for partial deregulation for, say, a very limited pilot project nowhere near other conventional alfalfa crops. The Court said that it was possible that Monsanto could propose some limited "partial" deregulation that would not require a full blown EIR but that the District Court opinion would prohibit such a possibility.

Neverthless, the Court decision does not alter the current status quo, which is that "virtually no RRA can be grown or sold until such time as a new deregulation decision is in place." That's because the intial APHIS decision not to prepare a full Environmental Impact Statement was vacated by the district court. Until the APHIS completes its review under NEPA the genetically engineered alfalfa cannot be sold or grown.

In short, the decision issued today is really a narrow procedural win for Monsanto and the government and a victory for the plaintiffs on standing grounds. The real action will now be at the administrative level as the APHIS engages in its environmental review and decides whether to issue a decision deregulating the alfalfa seeds. Today's decision could also have an impact on cases challenging the introduction of other genetically modified crop. For example, genetically modified sugar beets are the subject of a case currently pending in Northern California. In that case the judge has held that APHIS vioated NEPA but has denied organic farmers and the Sierra Club a preliminary injunction banning the selling and growing of genetically engineered sugar beets. His decision about whether to issue a permanent injunction - which he has said he is inclined to grant - is still pending and could be affected by today's decision.


Roundup Resistant Weeds Pose Environmental Threat

By David Mercer
Associated Press
June 21, 2010

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. - When the weed killer Roundup was introduced in the 1970s, it proved it could kill nearly any plant while still being safer than many other herbicides, and it allowed farmers to give up harsher chemicals and reduce tilling that can contribute to erosion.

But 24 years later, a few sturdy species of weed resistant to Roundup have evolved, forcing farmers to return to some of the less environmentally safe practices they abandoned decades ago.

The situation is the worst in the South, where some farmers now walk fields with hoes, killing weeds in a way their great-grandfathers were happy to leave behind. And the problem is spreading quickly across the Corn Belt and beyond, with Roundup now proving unreliable in killing at least 10 weed species in at least 22 states. Some species, like Palmer amaranth in Arkansas and water hemp and marestail in Illinois, grow fast and big, producing tens of thousands of seeds.

"It's getting to be a big deal," said Mike Plumer, a 61-year-old farmer and University of Illinois agronomist who grows soybeans and cotton near the southern Illinois community of Creal Springs. "If you've got it, it's a real big deal."

When Monsanto introduced Roundup in 1976, "it was like the best thing since sliced bread," said Garry Niemeyer, who grows corn and soybeans near Auburn in central Illinois.

The weed killer, known generically as glyphosate, is absorbed through plants' leaves and kills them by blocking the production of proteins they need to grow. At the same time, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency considers it to have little toxicity to people and animals, and aside from the plants it's sprayed on, it's less of a threat to the environment because it quickly binds to soil and becomes inactive.

Monsanto's introduction of seeds designed to survive Roundup made things even better for farmers because they could spray it on emerging crops to wipe out the weeds growing alongside them. Seeds containing Monsanto's Roundup Ready traits are now used to grow about 90 percent of the nation's soybeans and 70 percent of its corn and cotton.

With increased reliance on Roundup, herbicide use on corn decreased from 2.76 pounds an acre in 1994 to 2.06 in 2005, the most recent year for which the U.S. Department of Agriculture has data. Spread that out over the 81.8 million acres planted in 2005, and it's a decrease of more than 57 million pounds of herbicides annually. Farmers also found they could cut back or in some cases eliminate tilling, reducing erosion and fuel use.

But with any herbicide, the more it's used, the more likely it'll run into individual plants within a species that have just enough genetic variation to survive what kills most of their relatives. With each generation, the survivors represent a larger percentage of the species.

St. Louis-based Monsanto maintains the resistance is often overstated, noting that most weeds show no sign of immunity.

"We believe that glyphosate will remain an important tool in the farmers' arsenal," Monsanto spokesman John Combest said.

That said, the company has started paying cotton farmers $12 an acre to cover the cost of other herbicides to use alongside Roundup to boost its effectiveness.

The trend has confirmed some food safety groups' belief that biotechnology won't reduce the use of chemicals in the long run.

"That's being reversed," said Bill Freese, a chemist with the Washington, D.C.-based Center For Food Safety, which promotes organic agriculture. "They're going to dramatically increase use of those chemicals, and that's bad news."

The first weeds in the U.S. that survived Roundup were found about 10 years ago in Delaware.

Agricultural experts said the use of other chemicals is already creeping up. Monsanto and other companies are developing new seeds designed to resist older herbicides like dicamba and 2,4-D, a weed killer developed during World War II and an ingredient in Agent Orange, which was used to destroy jungle foliage during the Vietnam War and is blamed for health problems among veterans.

Penn State University weed scientist David Mortensen estimates that in three or four years, farmers' use of dicamba and 2,4-D will increase by 55.1 million pounds a year because of resistance to Roundup. That would push both far up the list of herbicides heavily used by farmers.

Dicamba and 2,4-D both easily drift beyond the areas where they're sprayed, making them a threat to neighboring crops and wild plants, Mortensen said. That, in turn, could also threaten wildlife.

"We're finding that the (wild) plants that grow on the field edges actually support beneficial insects, like bees," he said.

In Australia, weed scientist Stephen Powles has been a sort of evangelist for saving Roundup, calling it a near-miraculous farming tool.

Australia has been dealing with Roundup-resistant weeds since the mid 1990s, but changes in farming practices have helped keep it effective, Powers said. That has included using a broader array of herbicides to kill off Roundup resistant weeds and employing other methods of weed control.

Those alternative methods, such as planting so-called cover crops like rye to hold back weeds during the winter and other times when fields aren't planted with corn, soybeans or cotton, are the key, said Freese, the Center For Food Safety chemist.

Otherwise, he said, "We're talking a pesticide treadmill here. It's just coming back to kick us in the butt now with resistant weeds."


Haitian Peasants March against Monsanto Company for Food and Seed Sovereignty

By Via Campesina
Via News
June 16, 2010

On June 4th about ten thousand Haitian peasants marched to protest US-based Monsanto Company's 'deadly gift' of seed to the government of Haiti. The march was seven kilometers from Papaye to Hinche, in a rural area on the central plateau, and was organized by several Haitian rural social movements that are proposing a development model based on food and seed sovereignty instead of industrial agriculture. Slogans for the march included "long live native maize seed" and "Monsanto's GMO & hybrid seed violate peasant agriculture."

The poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti shares the Caribbean island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic. About 65 percent of Haiti's population lives in rural areas and are subsistence farmers. On January 12 2010, a devastating earthquake leveled Haiti's capital city Port au Prince, and 800,000 urban refugees migrated to rural areas. According to Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, coordinator of the Papaye Peasant Movement (MPP) and a member of La Via Campesina's international coordinating committee, "there is presently a shortage of seed in Haiti because many rural families used their maizeseed to feed refugees."

With sales of $11.7 billion in 2009, US-based transnational corporation (TNC) Monsanto Company is the world's largest seed company, controlling one-fifth of the global proprietary seed market and 90 percent of seed patents from agricultural biotechnology. In May Monsanto announced that it had delivered 60 tons of hybrid seed maizeand vegetables to Haiti, and over 400 tons of its seed (worth $4 million) will be delivered during 2010 to 10,000 farmers. The TNC United Parcel Service is providing transport logistics, While Winner, a $127 million project funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and focused on "agricultural intensification", is distributing the seed.1 According to Monsanto, the decision to donate seed to Haiti was decided at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland: "CEO Hugh Grant and Executive Vice President Jerry Steiner attended the event and had conversations with attendees about what could be done to help Haiti."2 It is unclear whether any Haitians were included in the conversations in Davos.

Some have charged that the Monsanto representative in Haiti is Jean-Robert Estimé, who served as foreign minister during the brutal 29-year Duvalier family dictatorship.3 While Monsanto vehemently denies this claim4, Estimé is included in an email exchange about the donation between Elizabeth Vancil, Director of Global Development Partnerships at Monsanto and Emmanuel Prophete, a Haitian agronomist working for the Minister of Agriculture.5 The domain for Estimé's email address is for Winner (

Many Haitians consider Monsanto's seed donation to be part of a broader strategy of US economic and political imperialism. "The Haitian government is using the earthquake to sell the country to the multinationals," stated Jean-Baptiste. Vancil stated that opening up Haitian markets to Monsanto's products "would be good."7

Monsanto is emphasizing that the donated seed is hybrid and not genetically-modified (GM)8. However, hybrid seed will not increase Haitian farmers' food sovereignty or self-reliance; Monsanto acknowledges that they will be unable to save seed to plant in the future9, and that although the seed is being provided free of charge, farmers will pay for it. "Providing an outright donation of seed would undercut one of the basic pieces of Haiti's agricultural and economic infrastructure," says Monsanto10, which is donating the seed to the government to sell to farmers. Winner is distributing the seed through farmer association stores, which will use the revenue to reinvest in other inputs, and help "farmers decide whether to use additional inputs (including fertilizer and herbicides) and\u2026how to handle next year's planting season." 11

Haiti's agricultural sector has already been decimated by US interference. In 1991, Jean Bertrande Aristide, Haiti's first democratically-elected president, was removed in a US-supported military coup. As a condition for his return, the US, IMF and World Bank required that Aristide open up Haiti to free trade. Tariffs on rice (Haiti's staple grain) were reduced from 35% to 3%, government funding was diverted away from agricultural development to the nation's foreign debt, and subsidized rice from Arkansas (it was the Clinton administration) flooded the Haitian market. Haitian rice farmers were decimated12, and today almost all of the rice consumed in Haiti is imported. Sacks marked 'US Rice' are everywhere in the markets and neighborhood stores, on peoples' heads and the backs of mules.

The US is now undermining Haiti's food system from the ground. A letter from the Haitian Minister of Agriculture to Monsanto implies that GM seed may have been offered in addition to hybrid. "In the absence of a law regulating the use of genetically-modified organisms (GMO) in Haiti, I am not at liberty to authorize the use of Roundup Ready seed or any other GMO material," stated Juanas Gue, Haitian Minister of Agriculture, in a letter to Monsanto13, which has already proven the length it will go to open new markets in developing countries for its GM seed and toxic chemicals. In 2005, Monsanto was found guilty by the US government of bribing high-level Indonesian officials to legalize GM cotton. Evidence indicates that in Brazil in 2004, Monsanto sold a farm to a senator for one-third of its value in exchange for his work to legalize glyphosate, the world's most widely used herbicide (sold by the corporation as Roundup).14

According to Paulo Almeida, 31, a member of the Brazilian Movement of Landless Rural Workers who has been in Haiti since 2009 on a solidarity brigade organized by Via Campesina-Brasil, Monsanto also encouraged Brazilian farmers to illegally plant Roundup Ready soybeans. "They want to implant the technological package of the Green Revolution, which isn't possible here in Haiti. There is no way to survive with monoculture here."

The hybrid seed maize donated by Monsanto was treated with the fungicide Maxim XO, and the calypso tomato seed were treated with thiram, a chemical so toxic that the US government requires agricultural workers to wear protective clothing when handling seed treated with the fungicide. Monsanto's communications to the Ministry of Agriculture contains no explanation of the danger of these chemicals, or any offer of special clothing or training for Haitian farmers.15

Development of industrial agriculture in Haiti is related to plans to develop an export-oriented agrofuels industry in the country. In 2007 USAID published a report on the 'prospects for solid and liquid biofuels in Haiti'16, while the Inter-American Development Bank's Haiti strategy document for 2007-2011 states that removing "obstacles to export of agricultural products are a top priority," and that "biofuel promotion is being explored specifically."17

The Obama administration has a hypocritical and inconsistent policy on Monsanto and GM crops. When the Obamas moved into the White House they planted an organic garden, and one can only assume they did not plant GM or hybrid seed. In the US Monsanto monopolizes 60 percent of the entire seed maizemarket and 80 percent of the GM seed maizemarket. In March the administration convened public anti-trust hearings on competitiveness in the US seed market, and has yet to publish its conclusions. Yet the Obama administration is strongly promoting the interests of US agricultural biotechnology TNCs abroad. At the Biotechnology Industry Organization's annual convention in May, Jose Fernandez, assistant secretary for the Bureau of Economic, Energy and Business Affairs, stated that the US State Department (which controls USAID) will aggressively confront critics of agricultural biotechnology.18

Meanwhile, the US Supreme Court is presently deliberating Monsanto Co. vs Geertson Seed Farms, a case about the ecological and economic effects of genetic contamination of organic seed from GM pollen. A favorable decision for Monsanto will lead to the widespread contamination of organic alfalfa, which will destroy the organic milk industry in the US. Though Monsanto's GM pollen has been contaminating Mexican corn for a decade, the corporation recently received license from the country's government to conduct open field trials of GM maize in four states. Mexico is the cradle of maize, with thousands of native varieties. Contamination of Haitian maize with pollen from Monsanto's hybrid corn will also occur, and could render the Haitian varieties unusable for saving and replanting, forcing farmers to become dependent upon the corporation.

"The entrance of Monsanto into Haiti will spell the disappearance of the peasants," said Doudou Pierre Festil, a member of the Peasant Movement of the Congress of Papaye and coordinator for the National Haitian Network for Food Sovereignty and Security. "If Monsanto's seed come into Haiti, the seed of the peasants will disappear. Monsanto's seed will create problems of health and for the environment. Thus it is necessary for us to struggle against this project of death to do away with the peasants."

"If the US government truly wants to help Haiti, it would help the Haitians to build food sovereignty and sustainable agriculture, based on their own native seed and access to land and credit. That is the way to help Haiti," says Dena Hoff, a diversified organic farmer in Montana and member of Via Campesina's international coordinating committee.

The United Nations estimates that 75 percent of the world's plant genetic diversity has been lost as farmers have abandoned their local seed for genetically-uniform varieties offered by TNCs, and as GM and hybrid seed have contaminated native varieties. Genetic homogeneity increases farmers' vulnerability to sudden changes in climate and the appearance of new pests and diseases, while seed agrobiodiversity, adapted to different microclimates, altitudes and soils, is fundamental for adapting to climate change.

Critics of Monsanto's donation argue that the best way to ensure enough seed for Haiti is through the collection, conservation and propagation of local, native varieties in community seed banks. Haiti's native seed varieties have developed and adapted to the different regions of Haiti over generations, in tandem with its people. Saving and replanting seed strengthens crops' genetic plasticity, e.g. their capacity to adapt rapidly over generations to changing growing conditions, and also increases agrobiodiversity.

Island nations are particulalry vulnerable to climate change. If the US does not get its' policy for Haiti right this time, there will not be another chance. Given the extent of food insecurity and environmental degradation in Haiti, the country must adopt a policy for food sovereignty in order for its people and biodiversity to survive. Ninety-eight percent of Haiti's original tropical forest cover has been lost, there is widespread soil erosion, and desertification is increasing. Haiti cannot sustain further ecological destruction from the imposition of industrial agriculture. Alternatively, if the Obama administration supports a policy of food sovereignty in Haiti, the country could construct a model food system that could feed all Haitians healthy food, increase biodiversity and ecological resilience, and contribute to local, sustainable economic development. Recent research by agroecologists at the University of Michigan shows that sustainable, small-scale farming is more efficient at conserving and increasing biodiversity and forests than industrial agriculture.19 In order to implement a policy for food sovereignty, Haiti must develop without Monsanto's seed.

Fortunately, Haitian peasants have a long history of resistance and struggle. Haiti was the first colony in the Western Hemisphere to have a successful slave revolt that resulted in an independent nation in 1804. Haiti became a global pariah to the emerging global powers, especially the US. "We defend peasant agriculture, we defend food sovereignty, and we defend the environment of Haiti until our last drop of blood," states the Final Declaration of the march against Monsanto. "We commit to unite our forces to change this anti-peasant, anti-national state. We want to construct another kind of state, a state that defends peasant agriculture, a state that assists the rural men and women in the protection of the environment, and the conservation of soil and forest." 20

Speaking from a stage in Charlemagne Péralte plaza, named for the Hinche-born leader of an armed movement against the 1915-1934 US occupation of Haiti, Jean-Baptise symbolically set Monsanto seed on fire, while others began to distribute packets of native seed maize to the cheering crowd. "We have to fight for our local seed," Jean-Baptiste told them. "We have to defend our food sovereignty." 21

References available on request

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