Seed quality is monitored and approved by the Salvadoran Ministry of Agriculture, which paid a total of 25.9 million dollars on seed purchases in 2013, most of them maize and beans which are staple foods in El Salvador.
Until the new model was implemented in 2011, 70 percent of the market was cornered by a subsidiary of U.S. biotech giant Monsanto, Semillas Cristiani Burkard. Since then, other producers have entered the field, like the cooperatives, with better quality certified seeds and more competitive prices.
Last year’s seed was purchased by an executive decree of December 2012, with the approval of Congress, and in practice U.S. companies were excluded. The U.S. embassy demanded a public and “transparent” tender process.
In January 2014, lawmakers approved a new decree allowing international companies to participate in the tendering process. However, the bidding in April was won by the same 18 producers.
Ambassador Aponte is now pressing for a different procurement process that will favour U.S. companies. This position is being criticised by social organisations and rural producers, who protested in front of the embassy in San Salvador in June.
“The embassy’s position serves to promote Monsanto’s seeds,” environmentalist Ricardo Navarro told IPS, referring to the world leader in transgenic seeds, against which many protests have been held in Latin American countries.
Aponte did not mention Monsanto in her comments, but according to Navarro “it is obvious she is referring to Monsanto, the largest company in the sector,” whose local branch “lost a market they thought belonged to them.”