Monsanto, one of the world's largest suppliers of cotton seeds, is supporting vast amounts of child labor in India.
Several recent studies from India have demonstrated the extensive use of child labor on cottonseed plantations that (i) supply Monsanto and (ii) supply seed companies licensed by Monsanto. All these seed companies pay significant amounts of royalty to Monsanto.
In North Gujarat, a center of cottonseed production, children under 18 comprise of 52% of the total labor force of Monsanto suppliers, and nearly a third of those children are younger the 14. In response to previous reports of child labor, Monsanto instituted a program to reduce child labor. But children were identified on every single one of 38 Monsanto suppliers reviewed recently, indicating their program is not working. Not only that, one study indicates child labor has actually increased since Monsanto began "reducing" it.
Furthermore, local inspectors have a clear understanding that they “must not be too enthusiastic” about actually keeping kids out of the fields and in schools. The reason child labor has persisted at Monsanto suppliers in North Gujarat and other parts of India is that Monsanto and other seed companies licensed by Monsanto set what's called the “procurement price,” which is the price they're willing to pay suppliers for seeds. That price is so low, only children with no other options will work for it. Monsanto may claim they're working to reduce child labor, but their procurement price is helping it thrive.
Tell Monsanto to (i) raise their procurement price to a living wage for adult workers and stop relying on kids to produce their cottonseed (ii) accept responsibility for child labor on seed plantations of companies licensed by it.
Several recent studies from India have demonstrated the extensive use of child labor on cottonseed plantations that supply Monsanto. In North Gujarat, a center of cottonseed production, children under 18 comprise of 52% of the total labor force of Monsanto suppliers, and nearly a third of those children are younger the 14.
The current programs Monsanto has in place to prevent child labor in its supply chain are woefully inadequate. Child labor has persisted at Monsanto suppliers in North Gujarat and other parts of India, in part due to the low procurement price for cottonseed. To effectively address and end child labor in India, Monsanto must take the following steps:
- raise the procurement price for cottonseed by at least 12%, so as to be on par with other sectors and be able to attract adult workers;
- open production areas to civil society organizations, so groups can monitor for child labor, slavery, and related abuses;
- fund an educational program for children of cottonseed workers; and
- and take responsibility for preventing future child labor on cottonseed suppliers.
Please take these important steps to reduce child labor in India. I will make future decisions about which products to buy based on your response to this letter.