Washington, D.C. – Fifty organizations sent a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry calling on the U.S. government to maintain respect for the government of El Salvador’s procurement of seeds for a successful food security program.
In April, the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador indicated that it would withhold the final approval of a $277 million Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) compact until the Salvadoran government addressed legislation that enabled the government to source seeds from small-scale producers, including local co-operatives. Though the U.S. Embassy recently announced its “satisfaction with the government’s expressed commitment to carry out future purchases of corn and bean seeds in a transparent competitive manner that respects both Salvadoran law and DR-CAFTA,” advocates remain concerned by the U.S.’ attempt to influence El Salvador’s domestic policy.
According to Stephanie Burgos, Senior Policy Advisor at Oxfam America, “El Salvador’s seed program is an important component of its national food security plan, enabling the government to procure better quality seeds for a lower price, which has improved farmers’ livelihoods. It is unacceptable that the U.S. government would undermine this initiative by using the MCC as a trade enforcement mechanism for CAFTA, whose provisions can undermine national development.”
The U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance raised a similar critique, stating, “Food sovereignty and farmers’ control over their seeds are fundamental to community and national sovereignty. Development aid should be used to support, rather than undermine, real sustainable development based on local control. Agriculture should be controlled by the people and removed from CAFTA, the WTO and all trade agreements.”
The letter echoes concerns from Salvadoran family farmer organizations that the U.S. government was leveraging the MCC compact in order promote transnational corporate interests.
“I suspect this is development policy by Monsanto. The U.S. shouldn’t put corporate profits over proven programs to alleviate hunger. We’ve already seen the influence the biotech industry wields when it comes to U.S. seed policy. Secretary Kerry must ensure that El Salvador is able to continue its successful program,” said Darcey O’Callaghan, international policy director at Food & Water Watch.
Earlier this week, Representatives Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Mike Honda (D-CA) were joined by 14 other House Democrats in sending a letter to Secretary Kerry, stating that “elimination of support for small-scale farmers to improve their livelihoods through domestic seed production has no place as a condition for signing the MCC compact with El Salvador.”
The debate has emerged at a moment when Congressional leaders, including Senator Menéndez (D-NJ) and Representative Engel (D-NY), have called on the Obama Administration to address economic development as one of the root causes of the refugee crisis in Central America.
“By supporting the development of local productive capacity, the Salvadoran government is attempting to create conditions that will allow families to stay together and live with dignity. It would be a shame for the Obama Administration to jeopardize one of El Salvador’s best tools for reducing rural poverty in order to satisfy corporate interests,” said Alexis Stoumbelis, Executive Director at the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador.
Laura Embree-Lowry, Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (202) 521-2510
Kate Fried, Food & Water Watch (202) 683-4905
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