India: Documentary raises concerns about loans provided to farmers to produce crops for Syngenta, company challenges the allegations

Syngenta_Photo_credit_Reuters

Peasants in India are suppliers to one of the largest agri-companies in the world - Swiss based Syngenta. Syngenta says it improves their livelihoods, but  farmers  say it comes at a price.  The documentary Seeds of Debt raises concerns that the  company is feeding a system of exploitation through the money lenders engaged in the supply chain.

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Syngenta to respond to the concerns raised. In response, Syngenta sent: 1. Syngenta position statement on the film, Jan 5, 2015  / 2. Syngenta 12 November 2014 letter to film director Jens Pedersen / 3. Syngenta 22 Oct 2014 letter to film director Jens Pedersen. All are provided below.

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Article
12 May 2015

Danwatch refutes claims by Gandhi Babu of being misquoted, confirms authenticity of statements

Author: Danwatch

We have now been through our documentation and can reconfirm what Mr. Babu Gandhi is quoted for in the documentary and the report. We have also got a comfirmation from Mr. Karthik Kamalanathan, who is the assisting director of the documentary that Mr. Babu did comfirm his views expressed in the documentary in january after the release of the documentary. Since Mr. Babu does not speak english Mr. Karthik Kamalanathan has been our translator and have had the dialogue with Mr. Babu. We do not know the reason for Mr. Babu's statement, which we would have liked to ask Mr. Babu directly. This has not been possible due to Mr. Babu has not responded to our contact to him. As an independent media and research center, who works according to international Federation of Journalists’ Declaration of Principles on the Conduct of Journalists, we take this matter very seriously, but can only say that we have  documentation for everything Mr. Babu is quoted for in the documentary and report.

 

Article
2 May 2015

Misquoted in the documentary, claims interviewee Gandhi Babu

Author: Gandhi Babu

This is to express my concern and displeasure about the way I have been quoted in the documentary ` `Seeds of Debt`  and other news reports published on the documentary by Danwatch. The news item `Sources stand by their story despite Syngenta  disclaim` published on 16th Jan 2014 states that  I have confirmed my views expressed in the documentary to Danwatch.  THIS IS NOT TRUE. No one contacted me to confirm or reconfirm  my views. Mr Karthik has called once to inform about the release of documentary...The documentary portrays extreme form of farmer’s distress situation which is not applicable to corn seed growers in the region.  Our region has witnessed large number of farmer suicides but they are from commercial cotton and chilly growers and not from corn seed farmers.

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Article
2 May 2015

Statement from an interviewee expressing concern over his views quoted in the documentary

Author: Gandhi Babu

This is to express my concern and displeasure about the way I have been quoted in the documentary ` `Seeds of Debt`  and other news reports published on the documentary by Danwatch. The news item `Sources stand by their story despite Syngenta  disclaim` published on 16th Jan 2014 states that  I have confirmed my views expressed in the documentary to Danwatch.  THIS IS NOT TRUE. ..The observations I have made with regard to activities of company agents and local money lending practices are very general in nature and not specific to any crop, person or company.  The documentary uses my quotes in out of context attributing them to specific crop and company.  Our organization has been working on farmers issues since last three decades. The documentary portrays extreme form of farmer’s distress situation which is not applicable to corn seed growers in the region.  Our region has witnessed large number of farmer suicides but they are from commercial cotton and chilly growers and not from corn seed farmers.

Article
2 May 2015

Statement from an interviewee expressing concern over his views quoted in the documentary

Author: Gandhi Babu

This is to express my concern and displeasure about the way I have been quoted in the documentary ` `Seeds of Debt`  and other news reports published on the documentary by Danwatch. The news item `Sources stand by their story despite Syngenta  disclaim` published on 16th Jan 2014 states that  I have confirmed my views expressed in the documentary to Danwatch.  THIS IS NOT TRUE. ..The observations I have made with regard to activities of company agents and local money lending practices are very general in nature and not specific to any crop, person or company.  The documentary uses my quotes in out of context attributing them to specific crop and company.  Our organization has been working on farmers issues since last three decades. The documentary portrays extreme form of farmer’s distress situation which is not applicable to corn seed growers in the region.  Our region has witnessed large number of farmer suicides but they are from commercial cotton and chilly growers and not from corn seed farmers.

Download the full document here

Article
2 May 2015

Statement from an interviewee expressing concern over his views quoted in the documentary

Author: Gandhi Babu

This is to express my concern and displeasure about the way I have been quoted in the documentary ` `Seeds of Debt`  and other news reports published on the documentary by Danwatch. The news item `Sources stand by their story despite Syngenta  disclaim` published on 16th Jan 2014 states that  I have confirmed my views expressed in the documentary to Danwatch.  THIS IS NOT TRUE. ..The observations I have made with regard to activities of company agents and local money lending practices are very general in nature and not specific to any crop, person or company.  The documentary uses my quotes in out of context attributing them to specific crop and company.  Our organization has been working on farmers issues since last three decades. The documentary portrays extreme form of farmer’s distress situation which is not applicable to corn seed growers in the region.  Our region has witnessed large number of farmer suicides but they are from commercial cotton and chilly growers and not from corn seed farmers.

Article
15 January 2015

Sources stand by their story despite Syngenta disclaim

Author: DanWatch

Dr. Davuluri Venketeswarlu, director of Global Research, has participated in 15 of out 29 unannounced inspection for Fair Labor Association at Syngenta farms in India through the last decade...[says]...the film does not show anything, that Syngenta does not already know...Ghandi Babu from the Agricultural and Social Development Society Khammam...another central expert in ‘Seeds of debt’...explains how high rate loans impoverish the farmers, and how the high interest money lending system operates like a mafia...Despite Syngentas disclaims, he confirms his story to DanWatch...Both Dr. Davuluri and Ghandi Babu say the film reflects the reality on the ground.

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Item
6 January 2015

Documentary : Seeds of Debt

Author: Jens Pederson, Danwatch

Peasants in India are suppliers to one of the largest agri-companies in the world - Swiss based Syngenta. Syngenta says it improves their livelihoods, but for farmers it comes at a price…The company recruits money-lenders to promote the seeds by giving credit…. company is feeding a system of exploitation through the money lenders engaged in supply chain…Independent inspections…conducted by Fair Labour Association reports that apart from bonded labour, Syngenta farmers do not comply with any of the basic laws. 

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Company response
4 January 2015

Syngenta position statement on the film, Jan 5, 2015

Author: syngenta

The allegation that Syngenta is involved in money lending schemes at high interest rates as portrayed in the film “Seeds of Debt” is entirely untrue. This has been confirmed by an independent investigation...We have been in regular contact with the filmmaker, Jens Pedersen, over a number of months and have repeatedly made clear that the allegations made in his film are false. 

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Article
18 November 2014

Key findings from Syngenta's independent investigation about high interest loans

Author: Control Risks India Private Limited

...The growers did not have any information on the funds available to the organisers or the arrangement between the organisers and Syngenta in this process...None of the three Growers was aware of any other credit schemes provided by Syngenta...The Growers said that the purchase price was commensurate with market rates, and was provided to them on time and sufficient for their daily needs...All three Growers said they were not aware of any suicides among growers in their region as a result of indebtedness or any other factor relating to their work. 

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Company response
11 November 2014

Syngenta 12 November 2014 letter to film director Jens Pedersen

Author: Paul Barret, Syngenta

An independent investigation has been completed into your central allegation that, through our contracted grower-organizers, Syngenta knowingly supports widespread money-lending at high interest rates to maize growers in Andhra Pradesh, India, for their cultivation of Syngenta seed...The investigation was based on non-confrontational fact-finding interviews with Mohammed Sufi, Rathia and Nagendra and confirmed that your central allegation is indeed false...The interviewees..said they were unaware of money-lending or credit schemes at high interest rates for cultivation purposes offered by grower-organizers with Syngenta’s support...there are no simple answers to India’s labor challenges and we, and our partners, have much work to do. Alongside the FLA, we are helping to build a more ethical supply chain in India, while adding to the quality of life of growers, their families and communities. 

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