On February 1 2020, the Facebook page “Inhumans of Late Capitalism” shared the following screenshot of a Tumblr post, which contained a description of how farmers in Haiti refused to accept seed donations from Monsanto after a devastating 2010 earthquake, burning them instead:
In a January 29 2020 post, the Facebook page “Vellum and Vinyl” shared a transcription of the same post. Commenters below the post claimed that farmers had burned the seeds because “they were genetically modified.”
Another commenter observed that the donated seeds might cause long-term liability, such as the necessity of Monsanto herbicides to grow them and planting limitations. A third person posited that the gift as described would have placed Haitian farmers in hock to Monsanto, forcing them to continue purchasing the company’s agricultural products to survive:
TIL in 2010, after the devastating earthquake, Haiti was provided by Monsanto 475 tons of seeds to help people who lost their sources of income. Haitians burned as many as possible because they were genetically modified.
This needs more context. The Monsanto seed was free, true, but required millions of dollars worth of Roundup to grow properly, (not free,) and one of the first genetic modifications allows Monsanto to produce seeds which will not produce fertile offspring. Haiti would have been desperate for seed next growing season. Several developing nations are essentially offer a barrel for Monsanto after taking “free” seed.
Haiti wasn’t stupid. They know colonizer tactics.
Yeah, Monsanto’s fucking evil, and it’s not “because GMO.” In this case it’s literally “you will be forced to buy seeds from us from now on in perpetuity, which we are hoping you’ll fall for under the guise of charity”
Two main questions arose from the series of claims — whether Monsanto donated seed to farmers in Haiti after the earthquake, and if so, whether those farmers burned rather than planted those seeds.
Both claims were at least partially verified by Monsanto itself. In a page on the company’s site dated April 24 2017, Monsanto wrote:
On Jan. 12, 2010, a massive earthquake hit Haiti, impacting millions of residents and changing the nation forever. Following the disaster, Monsanto donated money to the recovery, but it was clear a donation of our products – quality corn and vegetable seeds – could really make a difference in the lives of Haitians.
We believe agriculture is key in the long-term recovery of Haiti. That’s why we’ve donated more than $4 million worth of conventional corn and vegetable seeds to be made over the next 12 months in support of reconstruction efforts. The donated seeds include corn, cabbage, carrot, eggplant, melon, onion, tomato, spinach and watermelon.
A less easy to find page also on Monsanto’s site was filed to a “Conversation” section, undated. A commenter identified only as “Melissa” asked:
Why did Haiti refuse your free seeds after their [devastating] earthquake?
In a vague response, a Monsanto representative wrote:
Hi ,Melissa – after the catastrophic earthquake in Haiti, it was clear that agriculture would be crucial in helping the country rebuild. Partnering with Kuehne + Nagel, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and UPS, we donated conventional hybrid seeds to Haitian farmers in support of reconstruction efforts. The Haitian Ministry of Agriculture approved our donation and ensured the seed selected was appropriate for the growing conditions and farmer practices in Haiti.
All that said, there were still some people in Haiti concerned that the reconstruction efforts would hurt Haiti’s future by not allowing local farmers to support themselves. In reality, the first seed shipment was distributed to Haitian farmers by the WINNER project, a five-year program to increase farmer productivity funded by USAID, which provided in-country expertise, technical services and other inputs, such as fertilizer, needed by farmers to manage the crops.
Farmers’ rejection of the seed was seemingly confirmed by Monsanto itself in the question and answer, but only indirectly. It seemed Haitian farmers rejected the free seeds — but did they burn them, too?
Plans to burn Monsanto seeds in Haiti were reported by a Huffington Post contributor in May 2010, roughly five months after the earthquake:
“A new earthquake” is what peasant farmer leader Chavannes Jean-Baptiste of the Peasant Movement of Papay (MPP) called the news that Monsanto will be donating 60,000 seed sacks (475 tons) of hybrid corn seeds and vegetable seeds, some of them treated with highly toxic pesticides. The MPP has committed to burning Monsanto’s seeds, and has called for a march to protest the corporation’s presence in Haiti on June 4 , for World Environment Day.
On June 7 2010, Food Safety News also reported calls from farmers’ organizations to burn the seeds. But a separate June 7 2010 VOA News article reported that Haitian farmers would have had to have purchased the seeds in order to burn them in protest:
“The trick is to make sure that farmers have a choice of either using their traditional varieties or, if they wish, using hybrid seed varieties,” [Robert Paarlberg, an agricultural policy expert at Wellesley College] adds.
Monsanto and USAID are offering that choice by making the seeds available through stores operated by Haitian farmers’ associations. The stores sell the donated seeds at a discount and use the proceeds to buy supplies for the next season.
So farmers would have to buy the seeds before they could burn them in protest. Asked if he knew of any farmers who were burning Monsanto’s donated seeds, the MPP’s Jean-Baptiste said no, but he wishes they would.
In 2013, the Miami New-Times simply reported that Haiti had refused Monsanto’s seed donations, not that farmers had burned them:
And even in the wake of the 2010 earthquake, Haiti mistrusted Monsanto so much that it declined its offer of seeds, even with assurances that the seed wasn’t GM.
A June 17 2010 report of unknown veracity claimed that farmers did burn Monsanto seeds that month:
On June 4  more than 10,000 peasants gathered in Hinche, a small city in central Haiti, and burned Monsanto seeds at a rally called by the MPP. The Haitian Times reported that demonstrators chanted, “Down with [Haitian President René] Préval!” “Keep Monsanto out of Haiti!” and occasionally “Down with the occupation!”
But reporting from larger organizations made no mention of any such rally having had occurred, merely indicating stated plans to do so. Some reports maintained that farmers would have had to purchase the seed in order to burn it, making the protest expensive.
According to Monsanto itself, the company attempted to donate seeds to Haiti after a January 2010 earthquake, and at least some Haitian farmers vocally rejected the offer out of distrust. According to reports, some farmers and advocates did attempt to organize a protest to burn Monsanto’s donated seeds, but whether actual burning took place was unclear. However, the rejection of the donation was substantiated.