US and Monsanto bully Salvadoran farmers in trade dispute

On Wednesday, after news articles about a trade dispute between United States and El Salvador appeared in the media and 16 members of the US House of Representatives insisted Secretary of State John Kerry not use changes to a food program as a condition for aid, the United States said that the dispute had been resolved. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/07/04/business/international/el-salvador-ends-dispute-with-us-over-seeds.html?ref=us&_r=0 The resolution clears up one issue that blocked the $277 million aid package approved in September by the Millennium Challenge Corporation, a United States aid agency. El Salvador is still waiting for the funds to be released.

In 2012, the Salvadoran government excluded foreign seed companies from a program known as the Family Farming Plan in an effort to encourage local producers. A subsidiary of Monsanto, the world’s largest seed company, had been a major supplier.

In January, El Salvador changed the program to include foreign companies again, but the trade representative said that the process was neither transparent nor competitive.

Lawmakers in the United States said in a letter on Tuesday that the Obama administration was holding the aid hostage.

“We are particularly troubled by U.S. authorities’ insistence upon a condition that would hamper the government’s national food security program,” said the legislators, led by Representatives Mark Pocan, Democrat of Wisconsin, and Mike Honda, Democrat of California.

At the heart of the dispute is the way the Salvadoran government buys corn and bean seeds for subsistence farmers. Washington had objected to moves that favored small, local seed producers on the grounds that they violated the Central American Free Trade Agreement.

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