Dis Mos Mielies!

Dis Mos Mielies Monsanto DEKALB N12 N14 highways biofuelsYesterday I returned to Johannesburg from a weekend with Vusamazulu Credo Mutwa in Kuruman. One of the things he emphasised was the threat to our food supply as more and more maize is used for biofuel production instead of food production. He kept referring to signs “Dis Mos Mielies” on the N12 and N14 highways from Johannesburg into the Northern Cape and North West Provinces, possibly elsewhere in South Africa. So I did some quick research and found this not surprising comment on my friend Telana Simpson’s blog by Donn Edwards:

I wrote to Monsanto to ask them about these signs, which appear all over the country. Their reply was:

‘DEKALB is one of the brands Monsanto use globally for our seed products. In South Africa we sell white and yellow maize, as well as sunflower seed under this brand. The DEKALB brand has been on the market since the early 1900 and was named after a town in the midwest region of the USA.

Dis mos mielies – means “This is maize” and is a slogan used for marketing purposes. In this sense it refers to the idea that the maize you see here in the field, is how maize should look. This slogan actually comes from the “old” seed company Carnia and has been used since the 1990‘s in South Africa. In 1998 Monsanto bought two seed companies in South Africa Carnia, which was part of Omnia (fertilizer company) and Sensako. We sold our seed under these two brand names but as we owned both we consolidated in one brand, DEKAB, in 2005.

Both conventional maize seed as well as GM-seed are sold under the DEKALB brand. The particular product on the photo (CRN3505) is a conventional white maize product.

Now this is not the first time I’ve heard of Monsanto. The acclaimed Indian enviromentalist Dr Vandana Shiva is one of the most outspoken critics of Monsanto’s business practises. Here’s a historical view from her about this evil company…

THE HINDU, Saturday, May 1, 1999
Letter on Monsanto

By Vandana Shiva (The writer is Director of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, New Delhi.)

OVER THE past few years, Monsanto, a chemical firm, has positioned itself as an agricultural company through control over seed – the first link in the food chain. Monsanto now wants to control water, the very basis of life. In 1996, Monsanto bought the biotechnology assets of Agracetus, a subsidiary of W. R. Grace, for $150 million and Calgene, a California-based plant biotechnology company for $340 million. In 1997, Monsanto acquired Holden seeds, the Brazilian seed company, Sementes Agrocerus and Asgrow. In 1998, it purchased Cargill’s seed operations for $1.4 billion and bought Delta and Pine land for $1.82 billion and Dekalb for $2.3 billion. In India, Monsanto has bought MAHYCO, Maharashtra Hybrid Company, EID Parry and Rallis. Mr. Jack Kennedy of Monsanto has said, “we propose to penetrate the Indian agricultural sector in a big way. MAHYCO is a good vehicle.”According to Mr. Robert Farley of Monsanto, “what you are seeing is not just a consolidation of seed companies, it’s really a consolidation of the entire food chain. Since water is as central to food production as seed is, and without water life is not possible, Monsanto is now trying to establish its control over water. During 1999, Monsanto plans to launch a new water business, starting with India and Mexico since both these countries are facing water shortages.”

Monsanto is seeing a new business opportunity because of the emerging water crisis and the funding available to make this vital resource available to people. As it states in its strategy paper, “first, we believe that discontinuities (either major policy changes or major trendline breaks in resource quality or quantity) are likely, particularly in the area of water and we will be well-positioned via these businesses to profit even more significantly when these discontinuities occur. Second, we are exploring the potential of non-conventional financing (NGOs, World Bank, USDA, etc.) that may lower our investment or provide local country business-building resources.”

Thus, the crisis of pollution and depletion of water resources is viewed by Monsanto as a business opportunity. For Monsanto, “sustainable development” means the conversion of an ecological crisis into a market of scarce resources.

“The business logic of sustainable development is that population growth and economic development will apply increasing pressure on natural resource markets. These pressures and the world’s desire to prevent the consequences of these pressures, if unabated, will create vast economic opportunity – when we look at the world through the lens of sustainability, we are in a position to see current and foresee impending-resource market trends and imbalances that create market needs. We have further focussed this lens on the resource market of water and land. These are the markets that are most relevant to us as a life sciences company committed to delivering food, health and hope to the world, and there are markets in which there are predictable ustainability challenges and therefore opportunities to create business value.”

Monsanto plans to earn revenues of $420 million and a net income of $63 million by 2008 from its water business in India and Mexico. By 2010, about 2.5 billion people in the world are projected to lack access to safe drinking water. At least 30 per cent of the population in China, India, Mexico and the U.S. is expected to face severe water stress. By 2025, the supply of water in India will be 700 cubic km per year, while the demand is expected to rise to 1,050 units.Control over this scarce and vital resource will, of course, be a source of guaranteed profits. As John Bastin of the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development has said, “Water is the last infrastructure frontier for private investors.” Monsanto estimates that providing safe water is a several billion dollar market. It is growing at 25 to 30 per cent in rural communities and is estimated to rise to $300 million by 2000 in India and Mexico. This is the amount currently spent by NGOs for water evelopment projects and local government water supply schemes and Monsanto hopes to tap these public finances for providing water to rural communities and convert water supply into a market. The Indian Government spent over $1.2 billion between 1992 and 1997 for various water projects, while the World Bank spent $900 million. Monsanto would like to divert this public money from public supply of water to establishing the company’s water monopoly. Since in rural areas the poor cannot pay, in Monsanto’s view capturing a piece of the value created for this segment will require the creation of a non-traditional mechanism targeted at building relationships with local government and NGOs as well as through mechanisms such as microcredit.

read the entire letter by Dr Vandana Shiva on Mansanto here…

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