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By Tatiana Roa Avendaño
The transgenic seeds business in the world is controlled entirely by only six companies: Monsanto, Syngenta, DuPont, Dow, Bayer and Basf (Ribeiro, 2010), which are also chemical transnationals that offer the entire technological package: seeds, herbicides, insecticides, etc. and that control a large part of the agricultural market. The policies and programs promoted by the States to promote transgenics are violating the rights of the peoples: to self-determination, to participation, to culture, to food, to autonomy, to health, to a healthy environment (Semillas, 2010) and also the rights of nature.
“If I take care of my seed, if I defend the seed, I ensure my food sovereignty, if they take it from us, we lose not only the seed but also the knowledge that it is what guarantees us food sovereignty" - Testimony of a farmer from Santa Cruz de Lorica
On March 23, 2006, during the 8th Conference of the Parties on Biological Diversity held in Curitiba, the women of the international movement La Via Campesina, held a silent protest inside the imposing convention center to demand the prohibition of «terminator seeds. " (one). With this act, the women wanted to express the feelings and resistance of the peoples to the so-called “suicide seeds”. If commercialized, Terminator would prevent farmers from being able to reuse their seed from their harvests, forcing them to turn to the commercial seed market. The action of women and the pressure of thousands of peasants who marches daily in front of the Convention Center managed to maintain the moratorium (2) and stop the advance of these seeds, which threatens peasant and indigenous peoples.
The genetic modification of plants to produce transgenic seeds has been widely condemned by peoples around the world and even by scientific and academic institutions and by many governments as an immoral application of biotechnology.
Currently, millions of people around the world depend on native seeds which are conserved in each harvest to start a new productive cycle. The seed is not only essential for the production of food but has also been the sustenance of life, cultures and the health of peoples. Mario Mejía (2010) says emphatically: “the possession of seeds represents autonomy, freedom, popular power, independence and self-sufficiency. The loss of Creole seeds would lead to the disappearance of agricultural cultures ”. Hence, over time the campaigns and complaints that seek to stop transgenics have gained strength as they are considered a threat against the territories, strengthening defense strategies for native seeds and promoting exchanges, bartering and traditional ways of life, all this accompanied by social mobilization.
The aggressive push for transgenics
During the last decade, an extractivist model has been imposed in Latin America and the Caribbean, which in addition to the intensive extraction of minerals, has also provoked an offensive by agribusiness in many cases promoting the use of GMOs. So that in the continent changes are being implemented in the legal frameworks to favor the entry of transgenics and hybrid seeds.
Laws or decrees are even being promoted that outlaw Creole seed systems: the transport, exchange, reproduction and multiplication of seeds (Vía Campesina, 2010). The prohibition of “costal” seeds, the name given by Colombian peasants and peasants to their native seeds, will restrict the right of peasants and indigenous people to freely use and exchange their seeds.
“At the end of 2009, the Mexican government authorized the experimental planting of transgenic corn on 12.7 hectares, breaking a moratorium of more than 10 years, in favor of the multinationals Monsanto, DuPont (owner of Pioneer Hi-Bred) and Dow. In 2010, without having the results of his supposed experimentation, he accepted another twenty requests from the same transnationals, to which Syngenta was added ”. (Ribeiro, 2010).
The transgenic seeds business in the world is controlled entirely by only six companies: Monsanto, Syngenta, DuPont, Dow, Bayer and Basf (Ribeiro, 2010), which are also chemical transnationals that offer the entire technological package: seeds, herbicides, insecticides, etc. and that control a large part of the agricultural market.
The policies and programs promoted by the States to promote transgenics are violating the rights of the peoples: to self-determination, to participation, to culture, to food, to autonomy, to health, to a healthy environment (Semillas, 2010) and also the rights of nature. In Brazil, Syngenta illegally planted transgenic corn crops in protected natural areas, putting the natural reserve at risk of transgenic contamination, while in Mexico (3) it is known that the DNA of transgenic corn has already contaminated native varieties of corn grown by indigenous peasants. The transgenic contamination of corn in Mexico is very serious since corn has been at the base of the economy, culture and agriculture of indigenous peoples, but it is also the foundation of the diet of the Mexican people.
In many cases, the promotion of transgenic crops is associated with militarization processes and causes the displacement of thousands of peasant families. "Faced with the protest occupation carried out by the Landless Movement, it hired an armed militia that fired at close range, assassinating Keno, of the MST" (Ribeiro, 2010).
However, due to strong opposition from social organizations, systems for registering varieties, patents, breeders' rights, compulsory certification, etc. are still being imposed. In Mexico, the moratorium on transgenics is suspended, in Colombia a package of measures outlaws creole or "costal" seeds and transgenic crops continue to expand throughout the country, in general on the continent seeds are aggressively promoted " improved ”and transgenic. The power of the transnational seed companies is so strong that it imposes its interests on governments and even the United Nations.
GMOs are part of the new Green Revolution, associated with other issues such as the concentration, grabbing and foreignization of land (4) and the promotion of agribusiness through monocultures, leading to a de-peasantization of the countryside, by pressuring the migration of youth and men, so that women take on even greater responsibility for the reproduction and maintenance of food production and systems.
The outputs are still in the hands of the peasantry
During the World Food Summit held in Rome in 2002, La Via Campesia and Friends of the Earth International, together with other social organizations, launched the global campaign “Seeds common heritage of humanity” (5). This campaign has detonated around the world multiple creative, productive, symbolic, cultural and economic expressions that seek to defend the seeds of control of transnational corporations. These initiatives are carried out in local areas: seed fairs and festivals, local and regional exchanges and exchanges, agro-ecological production, seed recovery strategies, promotion of local agro-ecological markets, but also national or regional initiatives: campaigns, marches, mobilizations, actions direct. And women, as we have already shown, have been central and decisive in each of these actions.
La Via Campesina recognizes initiatives such as that of the Casa Róga in Paraguay, the peasant seedbeds in Chile, the seed networks and campaigns in Colombia, the networks and campaigns in defense of Corn in Mexico, the experiences of seed reproduction of Bionatur and the MPA in Brazil. All these initiatives that promote the conservation, reproduction and multiplication of seeds in the hands of the peoples have been opposed to the control and “sequestration” of seeds in the seed banks of the research centers.
Although governments and transnational companies will continue to press for laws and projects to promote transgenics, including the Terminator suicide seed. The resistance of the peoples continues to multiply and grow, in the same way that the seeds have multiplied, reproduced and recreated for thousands of years. Because, as La Via Campesina says “without seeds there is no agriculture, without agriculture there is no food, without food there are no peoples”.
Tatiana Roa Avendaño, Colombian environmentalist. He is part of the work team of Censat Agua Viva - Friends of the Earth Colombia.
Article published in Alai, América Latina en Movimiento. No. 459, New trends in Agro, Quito - Ecuador, October 2010
1- The formal name of the terminator technology is Genetic Use Restriction Technologies (GURTs). Their design provides a mechanism that turns on or off previously introduced genes, using external inducers such as chemicals or physical stimuli (eg, heat stroke). Simply put, Terminator includes genes for genetic sterilization. In this way, it would be impossible for farmers biologically to re-sow the seed they harvested so they must buy their seeds from the companies.
2- In 2000, the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity adopted a moratorium on “suicide” seeds, after in 1998, the ETC Group (then called RAFI) discovered and denounced the Terminator patents. The response was an avalanche of protests by peasant, indigenous, environmental and social organizations worldwide as some countries and the biotech industry continue to press for lifting the moratorium.
3- Mexico is the center of origin of corn.
4- Land grabbing has become a common phenomenon on the continent. Large transnational companies, corporations, hedge funds, and individual investors have been appropriating significant tracts of land
5- The name of the campaign at present is: "The Heritage Seeds of the Peoples at the Service of Humanity"
Oct / 2010 - Censat Agua Viva - Friends of the Earth Colombia -