Natural disasters always turn the normalcy of everyday life into disarray. Balkan countries are now coping with the aftermath of what some have characterized as the worst flooding in 120 years. Due to record rainfall in Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia in May, at least 51 people are dead while tens of thousands are still without water or electricity.
Three months’ worth of rain fell in three days, causing about 300 landslides, destroying or damaging 100,000 homes and affecting more than 500,000 people.
Agriculture was among the industries most affected. More than 100,000 hectares of crops were destroyed. The total damage to agriculture in Serbia is estimated at about €500 million.
In an effort to help repair damage and help Serbian farmers re-sow their fields as quickly as possible, Monsanto donated around €275,000 worth of DEKALB hybrid maize seeds, enough to plant up to approximately 3,000 hectares of land. Additional maize seed was distributed in Bosnia-Herzegovina and set aside for Croatia for a total value of around €445,000 in the three countries.
In addition to the maize seeds, Monsanto is also donating about €75,000 in tomato, cucumber and cabbage seeds to farmers affected by the floods in all three countries. The seeds will provide immediate help to re-sow flooded fields and restore production.
All of the seed being donated is non-genetically modified, “traditional” hybrid seed.
“We hope that with our help small farmers that lost their crops due to the flooding will be able to plant again within the next two weeks,” said José Manuel Madero, CEO of Monsanto Europe, Middle East and Africa. “This is the time for us to show up and contribute to helping communities in need.”
In addition, Monsanto is also raising money internally by collecting cash donations for one of the agencies providing humanitarian relief in Serbia. Monsanto will match every dollar contributed by employees 1:1.
Given the high volume of comments we have received about this donation and some apparently deliberate misinformation being spread in the affected countries, please allow us to clarify once again:
1) All of the seeds being donated in Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina are traditional, conventional, non-genetically modified seeds. The seeds are non-GM and this has been confirmed by the Serbian government. (Seeds have not yet been distributed in Croatia but they will also be non-GM.)
2) DEKALB brand seeds are sold world-wide. In places where GM seeds are allowed and farmers want them, we sell DEKALB-branded GM seeds. In other places, including most of Europe, the DEKALB seeds we sell are non-GM. Moreover, all of the vegetable seeds that we sell in Europe are non-GM.
3) Monsanto’s seed business in Europe is 99% non-GM. We sell genetically modified seeds primarily in Spain, where the Bt maize MON810 provides resistance to particularly destructive insects called corn borers (both Ostrinia and Sesamia – to be exact) that can destroy entire crops unless repeatedly treated with powerful insecticides. (Note: Organic farmers also use Bacillus thuringiensis to control insects. When they do it, no one complains…).
4) Some of the people leaving comments have suggested that this donation is some sort of dastardly trick by Monsanto to enslave local farmers. This is a bizarre myth apparently being disseminated by anti-GM militants. In fact, the donation is a humanitarian relief action just like many other such relief actions that we do throughout the world with no immediate commercial intent. Farmers are not forced to buy DEKALB seeds again next year, and have plenty of alternatives to choose from. just as they do in other countries.
5) It is interesting that in the two months that this blog has been alive, we have received only four comments on all of the other posts combined, while we received more than 100 comments on this donation announcement in just a few days, almost all of them citing the misinformation that the donation involves GM seeds, and many of them repeated posts by the same people saying exactly the same thing.
Update on Dec. 19, 2014 by Brandon Mitchener, Monsanto Europe spokesman:
In order to see first-hand whether our donation had made a difference (as we hoped!), we waited for the harvest and sent a small film crew around to talk with two Serbian farmers. We can’t express our happiness any better than they did. Please take a look: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3hjdGWSnvE8.