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Profile: PT Branita Sandhini

PT Branita Sandhini was a participant or observer in the following events:

As part of an effort to increase the acceptance of genetically modified crops in Indonesia, Monsanto contracts PT Harvest International, a Jakarta-based investment consulting firm. The firm helps Monsanto secure the various government approvals and licenses necessary to sell its products there and also lobbies and allegedly bribes government officials (see Late June 2002) (see September 2000). Much of the lobbying is aimed at opening the country up to Monsanto’s Bollgard Bt cotton, which Monsanto says is environmentally-friendly and less reliant on pesticide. The company also claims its genetically modified seeds will produce as much as 3 tons of cotton per hectare. Much of Harvest’s work is coordinated and overseen by a US-based senior Monsanto manager and two Monsanto-controlled entities based in Jakarta: PT Monagro Kimia and PT Branita Sandhini. (Saraswati 1/10/2001; Ching 12/5/2004; US Securities and Exchange Commission 1/6/2005)

Monsanto’s Bollgard Bt cotton fares poorly during a one-year trial period in South Sulawesi, a province of Indonesia. During a drought, much of the crop suffers from a population explosion in cotton bollworm (Helicoverpa armigera), though the pest has no effect on local varieties. Other pests also attack the crop. As a result, farmers are forced to purchase additional pesticides and use them in larger amounts than is usually necessary. Monsanto had said its Bt cotton would require less pesticide. It also claimed its product would produce yields as high as 3 tons per hectare, and even promised some farmers they would see 4-7 tons per hectare. But the average yield turns out to be only 1.1 ton per hectare with 74 percent of the total area planted actually producing less than one ton per hectare. Approximately 522 hectares experience complete failure. As a result of the poor harvest, 70 percent of the 4,438 farmers participating in the experiment are unable to repay the loans they obtained to buy the seed. They had purchased the cotton seed on credit for Rp 40,000/kg from Branita Sandhini, a Monsanto subsidiary, as part of a package deal that also included pesticide, herbicide (including Roundup), and fertilizer. By comparison, Kanesia, a non-transgenic cotton that is grown by other farmers in the area costs only Rp 5,000/kg. Not only does the farmers’ purchase agreement with Branita Sandhini require that they pay these high prices, it also prohibits them from saving and replanting harvested seed. After harvest, they rely on the same company to purchase their crop. However, before buying the harvest, Branita Sandhini asks the farmers to sign a new contract for the following year. In the new contract, the seed prices are double the previous year’s. Fearing that the company will refuse to buy their harvest if they do not sign, many indebted farmers reluctantly agree to the new terms. Others burn their fields in protest. One woman recalls, “The company didn’t give the farmer any choice, they never intended to improve our well being, they just put us in a debt circle, took away our independence and made us their slave forever. They try to monopolize everything, the seeds, the fertilizer, the marketing channel and even our life.” (Suryana 6/1/2002; Hongthong 9/27/2004; Ching 12/5/2004; Gala 1/26/2005)


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