On Alfonso XII Street in the Punta Santiago, a coastal neighborhood in Humacao, 62-year-old Bermuda Vázquez points toward the beach that is blanketed with brown seaweed, known as sargassum. Although it was a day off in midsummer to commemorate the emancipation of slavery in the United States, beachgoers were nowhere to be seen. “The thing is that one is afraid of getting ill in that water with the sargassum that stinks. I’ve lived in this community all my life, and I remember when, on days like today, many people came to the beach. But you have to adapt to this sargassum,” Vázquez told the Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI, in Spanish).
American John Francis Queeny was inspired by a Puerto Rican woman to name, in 1901 in Missouri, the Monsanto company, which started as a pharmaceutical. Queeny named the company after his wife Olga, daughter of Emmanuel Mendes de Monsanto, who in turn funded the first steps of the corporation. This was to become a manufacturer of Agent Orange, the defoliant and herbicide that was tested in Aguadilla farms in the 50’s, and that was used in large scale to strip the jungle that under which the enemy of the United States hid during the Vietnam War. Today, Monsanto is the largest producer of transgenic seeds in the world, and uses Puerto Rico as a huge laboratory to develop genetically modified corn, soybean, sorghum and cotton. As an agricultural corporation, it occupies more than the 500 acres allowed under the Constitution, whose Article VI was intended to prevent monopoly and the displacement of small local farmers, as happened early last century when the sugarcane empire reigned, which Emmanuel Mendes Monsanto, funded in Vieques and in St.
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Second part of Monsanto’s Caribbean experiment
A business of questionable legality is tempting farmers in the south of the island. They lease their land to companies that produce genetically modified seeds to supply to the agriculture of other countries, instead of producing food, necessary to deal with the lack of food security we’re experiencing in Puerto Rico. Or, instead, they themselves plant corn, cotton, soybeans and sorghum that these corporations use for their genetic engineering experiments. “I harvest for several of them, 200 or 300 cuerdas (194 to 291 acres), depending on the year,” said Ramón Gonzalez, president of the Puerto Rico Farm Bureau, one of the leading organizations that should protect, promote and develop the island’s agriculture. He would not say to which companies he offers this service. It”s about questionable contractual relationships.
When environmentalist Juan Rosario traveled to an Amish religious community in Iowa, to learn to make compost, he was surprised that they had a laboratory and the services of an expert in chemistry. What was a scientist doing in a place where people live far from technology and practice ecological farming with the simplest of methods? An Amish dressed in their style, with a wide-brimmed black hat, white shirt, and black pants and black jacket, pointed toward a large cornfield on a nearby farm. “The scientist helps us verify that pollen from genetically modified corn does not contaminate our crops,” he told Juan Rosario. “It’s the same corn that you develop in Salinas.”