Both multinational and Indian seed companies have been criticised since 2001 for allowing and abetting child labour in cottonseed production. This critique has been led by the MV Foundation and other NGOs who are spearheading the anti child labour movement in the state of Andhra Pradesh, and has been supported by northern NGOs including India Committee of Netherlands (ICN), International Labor Rights Fund (ILRF), a number of German organisations, social investor groups and media, putting pressure on MNCs to address the problem of child labour in their supply chains. Due to this pressure from NGOs, media, and social investor groups, multinational companies (MNCs) like Bayer, Monsanto, Advanta, Syngenta and Emergent Genetics1 who are producing and marketing hybrid cottonseeds in India came forward to have a dialogue with local NGOs and initiate steps to address the problem.
A joint action plan was agreed upon between ASI (Association of Seed Industry) and MV Foundation in 2003 but this was not implemented due to unwillingness and non- cooperation of some members of ASI. Though Bayer, Syngenta and Emergent Genetics showed some interest, other members like Advanta, Mahyco, Nuziveedu, Raasi and Ankur were not keen to implement the agreed action plan. In 2004 the NGOs and social investor groups in Europe decided to increase their pressure on the MNCs. German NGOs (Germanwatch, Global March Against Child Labour and Coalition against Bayer Dangers) lodged a complaint against Bayer in October 2004 with the German National Contact Point under the OECD Guidelines. In the Netherlands, ICN and social investor groups put pressure on Syngenta and on Unilever2 which had a minor stake (26% share) in Emergent Genetics while several NGOs, including ILRF, approached Monsanto with regard its Indian partner Mahyco. Due to this increased pressure three MNCs, namely Bayer, Syngenta and Emergent Genetics, again initiated a dialogue in February 2005 with local NGOs for joint action to eliminate child labour in their suppliers’ farms. After several rounds of discussions these companies agreed to implement a new joint action plan for the crop season 2005-06.
The present note is divided into two sections. Section one briefly summarizes the developments in 2005-06: the commitments made and initiatives undertaken by Bayer and Monsanto to address the problem of child labour in the farms producing cottonseed for their companies in India. Section two presents the promises and activities undertaken in 2006-07 for the elimination of child labour from cottonseed farms by these companies.
1 In 2005 Emergent Genetics was acquired by Monsanto. Syngenta sold its cottonseed business to Delta and Pineland in 2005. In 2007 Monsanto acquired Delta and Pineland.
2 Hindustan Lever Limited (HLL), an Indian subsidiary of Unilever, sold the major part of its seed business to Emergent Genetics in 2002. A joint venture company `Paras Extra Growth Seeds` was started by HLL and Emergent Genetics in 2002 where HLL hold 26% of share. In 2005 HLL sold remaining share also to Emergent Genetics. Emergent Genetics was completely taken over by Monsanto in 2005.