In a quest to expand its corporate seed empire - Monsanto, the world's largest seed enterprise - announced yesterday that it will buy the world's leading cotton seed company, Mississippi-based (USA) Delta & Pine Land, for US$1.5 billion. Monsanto and Delta & Pine Land (D&PL) together account for over 57% of the US cotton seed market. With D&PL subsidiaries in 13 countries - including major markets such as China, India, Brazil, Mexico, Turkey and Pakistan - the takeover means that Monsanto will command a dominant position in one of the world's most important agricultural trade commodities and that millions of cotton farmers will be under increased pressure to accept genetically modified (GM) cottonseed.
"This merger," says Ibrahim Coulibaly, President of the National Coordination of Peasants' Organizations of Mali, "guarantees an intensification of the already immense political pressure on West African governments to accept genetically modified seeds. Delta & Pine Land couldn't exercise the kind of clout Monsanto can. This deal is a major threat to our farmers and food sovereignty. African farmers' groups and civil society organizations need international support to resist the pressure of multinational corporations and USAID on African governments to adopt GMOs."
Sterile Cotton Bolls: Delta & Pine Land is notorious for its early development, with the US Department of Agriculture, of Terminator technology - plants that are genetically modified to produce sterile seeds at harvest. Despite massive opposition from farmers, civil society and many governments, Delta & Pine Land has repeatedly vowed to commercialize the technology and declared that their primary market would be in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The company claims that it is already growing genetically modified cotton and tobacco containing Terminator genes in greenhouses.