by GRAIN | 6 Jun 1999

June 1999


What's the best way for an agrochemical corporation to create new markets in developing countries and to clean its image? For Monsanto, the answer seems to be clear: to forge alliances with development groups, using their micro-credit schemes to make its technologies accessible to poor farmers. Unabashed by the development community's outcry at its early efforts to reach one such deal with Bangladesh's world famous Grameen Bank, Monsanto is trying it again in Thailand. According to Biothai and the Pesticides Action Network Asia-Pacific (PAN-AP), Monsanto has found new and willing partners in the Population and Community Development Association (PDA), the Thai Department of Agriculture and, most significantly, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

Under a programme entitled, 'Innovative Partnerships for Agricultural Changes in Technology" (INPACT), IRRI and Monsanto are to train farmers on how to use their recommended technologies - from land levelling to tractor operation to the use of herbicides. In short, the plan is about transforming Thai farmers' small-scale, biodiverse, low-input rice cultivation systems into large-scale, tractor-operated and herbicide dependent rice agriculture much more able to suit the needs... of Monsanto. NGOs in Asia and around the world have reacted strongly against the project and are exerting pressure to stop it. The results of the project in their eyes will be environmental degradation, and threats to farmers' health, livelihoods and independence.

Although there is no mystery about Monsanto's motivations for developing INPACT, IRRI's participation in such a project is much more concerning. The explanation cannot be limited to the fact that the head of PDA, Meechai Viravaidya, sits on IRRI's Board of Directors, or that Monsanto's director of biotechnology was a former high-level IRRI employee. The fact is that IRRI buys into the Green Revolution approach to agricultural development, which is driven by Northern corporations' visions of creating global markets for input suppliers through the spread of industrial agriculture.

IRRI seems blind to the implications of supporting an input supplier like Monsanto, which has the clear aim of controlling and dominating agricultural production, be it through its outrageous growers' contracts or the control of seed breeding and distribution using its Terminator Technology. Having been in the business of plant breeding for the last forty years, the consequences of preventing farmers from saving seed and from being active participants in the plant breeding process should be blindingly obvious to IRRI - after all, farmers' fields are where almost all of the 80,000 rice accessions in its gene banks have come from! IRRI's participation in the INPACT project is a sad reflection of the realities behind its rhetoric of sustainability, equity and feeding the world.

Source: Several articles from PAN-AP web page,

Author: GRAIN
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