May 13th, 2010


Monsanto's gift to Haiti

The January earthquake in Haiti brought pain and suffering for some, and lots of opportunities for others to make some profit. The infamous Monsanto corporation has offered the farmers of Haiti a very "generous" gift... 475 tons of genetically modified seeds, as well as huge quantities of dangerous fertilizers and pesticides (link here; sorry, it's in French -- Google translation here). These will be distributed through the "Winner" project which is supported by the US embassy in Haiti.

I hope the Haitians are aware that Monsanto is famous for having produced the deadly defoliant Agent Orange which killed numerous US soldiers in the Vietnam war and continues to affect the civilian population of that country. I hope someone could tell them that these seeds have been declared dangerous by a number of countries...

This is a serious question indeed. Where do we cross that invisible line between showing empathy for the poor and starving (there was a good recent post about this here), and abusing their dire situation for profit, regardless of the consequences? The answer may turn out to be tricky.

Furthermore, some analyses show that the collected aid for Haiti has been largely misappropriated. Before my second trip to Haiti, I wrote here saying that the aid should not stop, regardless of the initial mistakes in the way it was being used, but surely some huge amendments need to be made in the system of providing aid. I am still sticking to that position, but in fact what we see today is that only about 10% of all aid funds have actually been used for their purpose, that is only 10 cents of each dollar of aid have reached the Haitians. Unfortunately, the rest has gone and continues to go to mediator banks, charity organizers, etc. The human nature and the way the system is designed is such that it allows for such huge abuse to continue. And the only consequence for the largely indifferent public is that they'd read (or watch) about these abuses, then tsk-tsk with their tongue and then they'd throw the occasional snark remark of the sort of "Same old story, you cannot fix a problem by just throwing money at it, so meh. Next question." This might look to be a correct answer at a first sight, I'll give you that. And it all goes on like before. Same old story, right?