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Context of 'Late 2001-February 2002: Monsanto Bribes Indonesian Official'

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As part of an effort to increase the acceptance of genetically modified crops in Indonesia, Monsanto contracts PT Harvest International, a Jakarta-based investment consulting firm. The firm helps Monsanto secure the various government approvals and licenses necessary to sell its products there and also lobbies and allegedly bribes government officials (see Late June 2002) (see September 2000). Much of the lobbying is aimed at opening the country up to Monsanto’s Bollgard Bt cotton, which Monsanto says is environmentally-friendly and less reliant on pesticide. The company also claims its genetically modified seeds will produce as much as 3 tons of cotton per hectare. Much of Harvest’s work is coordinated and overseen by a US-based senior Monsanto manager and two Monsanto-controlled entities based in Jakarta: PT Monagro Kimia and PT Branita Sandhini. [Jakarta Post, 1/10/2001; Institute for Science in Society, 12/5/2004; US Securities and Exchange Commission, 1/6/2005]

Entity Tags: PT Harvest International Indonesia, Monsanto, PT Monagro Kimia, PT Branita Sandhini

Timeline Tags: Seeds

As a result of pressure from civil society organizations and the public, Rizal Ramli, Indonesia’s coordinating minister for the economy, postpones the signing of an agreement between Indonesia and Monsanto on the planting of 20,000 hectares (49,400 acres) of genetically modified (GM) cotton seed in the province of South Sulawesi. The following day, Sonny Keraf, minister of environment, says an environmental impact assessment will be needed before any of Monsanto’s GM seed is distributed. [Asia Times, 1/20/2005]

Entity Tags: Rizal Ramli, Sonny Keraf, Monsanto

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Bungaran Saragih, Indonesia’s minister of agriculture, grants Monsanto limited approval to grow its Bollgard Bt cotton in the province of South Sulawesi, even though an environmental impact assessment ordered in September (see September 2000) has not been completed. He says the cotton will be grown in an experimental project. According to SEC documents, this approval was obtained through the efforts of a Monsanto manager and one of its representative entities, possibly PT Harvest International Indonesia, in Jakarta. [Jakarta Post, 1/10/2001; US Securities and Exchange Commission, 1/6/2005; Asia Times, 1/20/2005]

Entity Tags: Bungaran Saragih, Monsanto

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Monsanto’s Bollgard Bt cotton fares poorly during a one-year trial period in South Sulawesi, a province of Indonesia. During a drought, much of the crop suffers from a population explosion in cotton bollworm (Helicoverpa armigera), though the pest has no effect on local varieties. Other pests also attack the crop. As a result, farmers are forced to purchase additional pesticides and use them in larger amounts than is usually necessary. Monsanto had said its Bt cotton would require less pesticide. It also claimed its product would produce yields as high as 3 tons per hectare, and even promised some farmers they would see 4-7 tons per hectare. But the average yield turns out to be only 1.1 ton per hectare with 74 percent of the total area planted actually producing less than one ton per hectare. Approximately 522 hectares experience complete failure. As a result of the poor harvest, 70 percent of the 4,438 farmers participating in the experiment are unable to repay the loans they obtained to buy the seed. They had purchased the cotton seed on credit for Rp 40,000/kg from Branita Sandhini, a Monsanto subsidiary, as part of a package deal that also included pesticide, herbicide (including Roundup), and fertilizer. By comparison, Kanesia, a non-transgenic cotton that is grown by other farmers in the area costs only Rp 5,000/kg. Not only does the farmers’ purchase agreement with Branita Sandhini require that they pay these high prices, it also prohibits them from saving and replanting harvested seed. After harvest, they rely on the same company to purchase their crop. However, before buying the harvest, Branita Sandhini asks the farmers to sign a new contract for the following year. In the new contract, the seed prices are double the previous year’s. Fearing that the company will refuse to buy their harvest if they do not sign, many indebted farmers reluctantly agree to the new terms. Others burn their fields in protest. One woman recalls, “The company didn’t give the farmer any choice, they never intended to improve our well being, they just put us in a debt circle, took away our independence and made us their slave forever. They try to monopolize everything, the seeds, the fertilizer, the marketing channel and even our life.” [Jakarta Post, 6/1/2002; Nation (Jakarta), 9/27/2004; Institute for Science in Society, 12/5/2004; Institute for Science in Society, 1/26/2005]

Entity Tags: PT Branita Sandhini, Monsanto

Timeline Tags: Seeds

Upset about the Indonesian government’s decree (see January 2003-August 2003) to require an environmental impact assessment prior to the cultivation of Monsanto’s Bollgard Bt cotton in the province of South Sulawesi, Monsanto steps up its lobbying. Representatives of the company reportedly meet with a senior environment ministry official on several occasions. But after it becomes apparent that its lobbying efforts are having little effect, it resorts to bribery. [Jakarta Post, 1/10/2001; US Securities and Exchange Commission, 1/6/2005; US Department of Justice, 1/6/2005] In February 2002, a US-based Monsanto senior manager, instructs the company’s lobbyist, PT Harvest International Indonesia, to “incentivize” the senior environment official who had ordered the environmental impact study. [Jakarta Post, 1/10/2001; US Securities and Exchange Commission, 1/6/2005] Some time later, an employee of the consulting firm visits the senior Indonesian official and hands him an envelope containing $50,000 in $100 bills. The official accepts the money but says he can’t guarantee that he will be able to get the decree repealed. The senior Monsanto manager instructs the consultant to disguise the bribe as “consulting fees” in his invoice to Monsanto. The firm also includes in its invoice the additional income taxes it will owe because of the phony fees, bringing the invoice’s total to $66,000. [US Securities and Exchange Commission, 1/6/2005; Asia Times, 1/20/2005] Harvest’s president-director, Harvey Goldstein, a US citizen, will later deny that his company was involved in any bribery. “Harvest has never been involved in corruption whatsoever,” he will tell reporters. [Jakarta Post, 1/14/2001] The identity of the Monsanto manager is never revealed. According to the US Justice Department, that person oversees certain activities in the Asia-Pacific region. [Associated Press, 1/6/2001] Despite Monsanto’s $50,000 bribe, the senior official never reverses the requirement for the environmental impact assessment. [Jakarta Post, 1/10/2001; BBC, 1/7/2005]

Entity Tags: PT Harvest International Indonesia, Monsanto

Timeline Tags: Seeds

A study conducted by a coalition of North American civil society organizations finds that cornfields in nine Mexican states—Chihuahua, Morelos, Durango, Mexico State, Puebla, Oaxaca, San Luis Potosi, Tlaxcala, and Veracruz—are contaminated with genetically modified (GM) DNA. A total of 2,000 plants from 138 farming and indigenous communities are tested. Contaminated corn is discovered in 33 of these communities, or 24 percent. Contamination levels vary from 1.5 percent to 33.3 percent. Some plants are found to contain as many as four different types of GM DNA—one herbicide-resistant variety and three Bt varieties, including Starlink, which is banned for human consumption in the US. Several plants in at least one of the contaminated fields are deformed. “We have seen many deformities in corn, but never like this,” Baldemar Mendoza, an indigenous farmer from Oaxaca, says during a news conference. “One deformed plant in Oaxaca that we saved tested positive for three different transgenes. The old people of the communities say they have never seen these kinds of deformities.” [ETC Group, 10/11/2003]

Timeline Tags: Seeds

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