Onderstaand artikel is gepubliceerd door / published in: Business and Corporate Ethics, 24-9-2003      

Seed group pledges to end child labour in India by March 2004: Monsanto

Rachel Oliver

HONG KONG (AFX-GEM) - The six month target set by the Child Labour Eradication Group (CLEG), to stop children working in the Indian hybrid cotton seed production process is achievable, a Monsanto India spokeswoman said on Wednesday.

"It's a pretty realistic target, I think it is very doable," Ranjana Smetaceck, director public affairs at Monsanto India told AFX Global Ethics Monitor.
Smetaceck was present at the meeting on 6/7 September attended by the world's biggest seed producers, buyers and contractors at the annual gathering of the Association of Seed Industry in Mumbai.

The outcome was the formation of an alliance between Syngenta, Monsanto, Proagro, Advanta and Unilever with local NGO MV Foundation to put necessary systems in place over the next six months, with the ultimate aim of getting child workers out of their industry by March 2004.
It was also a public and tacit admission by all industry players that they must take responsibility for the actions of their suppliers, a point which has been denied by some players in the past.
"We consider this is our responsibility as everyone else would around the table," said Smetaceck.

Shantha Sinha, director of the MV Foundation said she was hopeful that the very existence of the alliance will bind all corporate members to deliver on their promise now there was an acknowledgement of responsibility.

"All of them agreed they were responsible for the first time which was a very big gain I think," Sinha told AFX-GEM. "We can now bring forth specific cases and we will bind them to these cases."

Each member company will have a representative sitting on CLEG's committee, which will meet at least once a month to review and implement new elements of the programme.

A new code of conduct was also drawn up at the meeting, and one of the first steps will be for companies to re-word contracts issued to seed producers and farmers and pay visits to the fields themselves.

"We are going to re-word our agreements with our licensees so they know how important it is to us and they will be bound by that," said Monsanto India's Smetacek. She added that all member companies collectively will be applying pressure on farmers not to take their children out of school.

The main hotspot of activity in India for child labour is Andhra Pradesh. Representatives from each of the companies plan to visit the area over the next few month to discuss the issue with their contractors.
"MVF has a good presence in Andhra Pradesh but not as good as industry players have. These various companies are pretty much in touch with all the farmers and conduct field days. So this message will get conveyed to them in the strongest terms possible," said Smetacek.


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