In December of 2014, DanWatch, a Danish civil society organization that monitors the corporate social responsibility of multinational companies, posted to its website the documentary “Seeds of Debt” by journalist Jens Pedersen. The documentary reported instances of exploitative high-interest money lending to farmers in rural Andhra Pradesh, India – including to farmers producing seeds for FLA affiliate Syngenta. Footage of an interview conducted with a Hyderabad-based agricultural research expert, who has assessed Syngenta farms on behalf of the FLA, went on to link low seed prices paid to farmers with various labor violations found on farms.
Following the distribution of the documentary, Syngenta denied the film’s allegations, specifically stating that “the allegation that Syngenta is knowingly involved in money lending schemes at high interest rates is false.” At Syngenta's request, the FLA will conduct independent research to further investigate the causes of the conditions reported by the documentary. This research will assess: 1) Syngenta’s procurement prices and their relation to farm-level working conditions; 2) the role of “organizers” [who sometimes appear as money lenders in the documentary] in Syngenta’s supply chain; 3) annual production costs for farmers and their access to credit; and 4) FLA recommendations.
The complete terms of reference for the project appear below.
UPDATE (July 2015): The results of the investigation appear here.