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An Open Letter to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development

On October 16, the Vietnamese media carried reports of a seminar held in Ho Chi Minh City on genetically-modified (GM) Crops and Future Food Security. The seminar was organized by the University of Agriculture and Forestry (UAF) and Monsanto, the latter described as a "leading global provider of technology-based solutions and agriculture products."

What was not mentioned in the report was that Monsanto which has an office in HCMC, was also the leading American company in the manufacture of Agent Orange.

Rashmi Nair, director of Regulatory Policy & Scientific Affairs in Emerging Markets of the Monsanto Company stated at the seminar "Bio-technology had given the world a new tool to improve food security." Nair also quoted from a statement by The European Commission's Chief Scientific Advisor, Anne Glover, that "GMOs were no riskier than their conventionally farmed equivalents." 

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This is yet another of the many lies put about by those who deal in GM seeds. Farmers and scientists and many organizations have stated that GM does not lead to more crops. Anyone interested could ask the widows of the many thousands of Indian farmers who have committed suicide due to their purchase of Monsanto's GM seeds and whose crops failed, leading to the farmers ending up heavily in debt.

For the University of Agriculture and Forestry to hold a seminar with Monsanto is a disgrace and nothing short of an insult to the many thousands of Vietnamese who died many stillborn due to Agent Orange. Those that survived a figure that runs into millions - suffer from a number of illnesses and horrific deformities.

In visits to HCMC, I have called at the office of Monsanto with a letter asking the director to come with me to the Hoa Binh Shelter at Tu Du Hospital - a short distance from his office on each occasion I have met with a refusal.

In August this year I was in Hanoi commemorating the 51st anniversary of the American use of 80 million liters of Agent Orange/Dioxin on areas of Southern Vietnam over a period of ten-years beginning August 10, 1961, resulting not only in the deaths of many thousands of people but also the destruction of magnificent forests. If anyone should know the effects that Agent Orange has had it should be the people at the University of Agriculture and Forestry in HCMC, yet they dare to hold a seminar with the company responsible for that war crime.

In answer to the question posed to me at the 10th August Concert I replied: "I am a guest in your country, so I cannot tell your government what to do, but if I was a Vietnamese I would be asking the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development why the companies responsible for the crimes of Agent Orange Monsanto and Dow Chemical have offices in HCMC."

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I call upon the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development to apologize to the nearly four million Vietnamese suffering from Agent Orange, and answer the question I posed: Why do Monsanto and Dow Chemical have offices in HCMC?

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By Len Aldis

The writer is the Secretary of the Britain-Vietnam Friendship Society

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