NOTE: This follows on from the scandal exposed back in 2003 of around 17,000 children being used by Monsanto, and their Indian subsidiary Mahyco, in hazardous forms of child labour in cotton seed production in India.
Children were found to be working 13 hours a day for less than 40 Eurocents (Rs. 20) and were also found to be repeatedly being exposed to poisonous pesticides during their work. They were also getting no education.
More than 11,000 children were also found to be working under similar conditions for the following multinationals: Syngenta (Swiss), Advanta (Dutch-British) and Proagro (owned by Bayer from Germany).
Studies also showed that at the heart of the child labour problem was the very low amount these multinationals were paying farmers for cotton seed cultivation. The payments were so low that the farmers would make a net loss if they stopped using children and hired adults at the local minimum wage.
Monsanto appeared to have been shamed into acting by the bad publicity. Ranjana Smetacek of Monsanto India committed the company to rapid reform. "We consider this our responsibility," she said, even though the company's CEO, Hugh Grant, was more non-commital.
But as the following article makes clear, the fundamental issue of underpayemnt of farmers has still not been properly addressed.
INDIA: Child labour still a problem in cottonseed industry
8 June 2007
Multinational corporations still have much work to do to eliminate child labour from their cotton supply chains according to a new report released today.
The report, titled 'Seeds of Change,' singles out Bayer and Monsanto - the world's largest producers of cotton seeds - for failing to make sufficient interventions to eliminate child labour from farms producing cotton seeds in India.
Produced by The International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) along with international partners including OECD Watch, India Committee of the Netherlands, Deutsche Welthungerhilfe and Eine Welt Netz NRW, the report concedes, however, that the number of children working in this sector has declined since the two companies launched an action plan to tackle the problem.
But it says their investments in education are failing to reach children who formerly worked on cotton farms, and that Monsanto and Bayer have also failed to address the issue of a fair procurement price for farmers, which is a major factor in the continuation of cheap child labour.