BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN
The United States Embassy in Yerevan on Wednesday organized a business conference focused on Armenia’s agriculture sector.
“The goal was to connect Armenian companies involved in the sector with the expertise, products, and technology of well-known U.S. companies Valmont and Monsanto,” said a press announcement from the U.S. Embassy, which also stated that the U.S. companies “sent representatives to the conference to present their products and services and to learn about business opportunities in Armenia. “
Monsanto, the agriculture giant, has become synonymous with GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, and genetically engineered seeds, which alter the natural make-up of seeds to make crops resistant to pesticides and herbicides. Of course, Monsanto also produces the pesticides to which its genetically engineered seeds are immune and encourages—forces—farmers to use its products.
Coincidentally, on the same day that the U.S. Embassy was parading Monsanto representatives in Armenia, The New York Times published a story about how herbicides, some produced by Monsanto, have damaged crops in 25 states—or four-percent of all soybean output in the U.S.—due to unintended wind drifts onto crops that do not use GMOs.
The prospects of companies like Monsanto gaining a footprint in Armenia should raise red flags for farmers in Armenia and the entire agro sector since the eventual cooperation or “investment opportunities” will surely hinge on Armenian farmers being forced to use GMOs, whose long-term health effects on livestock and humans are still being studied.
At face-value, the introduction of GMOs could be deemed beneficial because they make the crops last longer. However, as is the case here in the U.S., the small farms that do not ascribe to the GMO-use model are shortchanged. Instead, Armenia’s government should look at increasing fair competition within the agriculture sector to both diversify production and ensure productivity for its farmers.
Armenia’s Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan’s plan to improve the country’s economy is greatly dependent on investment into the various sectors. These investments, however, must benefit their respective sectors to ensure growth and productivity and not mere cash infusions with short-term benefits or for multinational corporations to introduce their dubious products in a new market.
The mining industry is a great example of how foreign investment not only does not trickle down to the lay citizen but also hinders their health, life and livelihood.
We all want the United States to invest in Armenia and become a conduit for better economic stability in the country. But, companies like Monsanto, whose notorious bullying tactics to force farmers to conform to is corporate aim to monopolize the agriculture sector will hinder the growth of the agriculture industry in Armenia and will have a far reaching impact on the future of the country’s productivity and resources.
Let’s encourage investment in Armenia in a manner that will benefit each and every Armenian citizen and not the select few who make financial inroads at the expense of the population’s welfare and well-being.