Puerto Rico: Monsanto blows off legislative hearing

The Monsanto Company, the Missouri-based biotech giant, has been refusing to cooperate with efforts by Puerto Rico’s legislature to regulate the development and sale of seeds on the island. The company chose not to testify at a hearing of Puerto Rico’s Senate Agriculture Committee held on June 17 for a bill, PS624, that would create a seed board and a certification and licensing system to regulate seed development and sale. Monsanto representative Eric Torres-Collazo wrote to the committee that the company’s activities are not subject to regulation by Puerto Rico’s legislature. “Monsanto does not produce, sell [or] offer…basic or certified seed with the purpose of planting in Puerto Rico,” Torres-Collazo explained. The company has used the same reasoning to claim that it is exempt from a constitutional ban on individual farms larger than 500 acres.

In fact, Puerto Rico has been an important part of the development of genetically modified (GM) seeds by Monsanto and other companies since 1987, and while Monsanto doesn’t sell the seeds in Puerto Rico, it exports them to other markets, notably the US. The Agriculture Committee chair, Sen. Ramón Ruiz-Nieves of the Popular Democratic Party (PPD), said Monsanto should be regulated because it receives local and US government subsidies for its activities in Puerto Rico and is registered as a farmer with the Puerto Rican Agriculture Department. According to local media, the department provided Monsanto with $4.9 million in subsidies to help cover payroll expenses from 2006 to 2013. Sen. Ruiz-Nieves told reporters that he would push Monsanto to testify before the committee at another hearing. (Corrpwatch, June 19)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, June 23.