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Advancement of GM soybeans in Paraguay

Advancement of GM soybeans in Paraguay

By Tomás Palau

Broadly speaking, there are environmental problems, health for those who consume them, social inequality and hunger, irreversibility. The advantages are nil except for a social sector: the millionaires who run the multinational agro-industrial companies.

Progress of transgenic soy monoculture in Paraguay

Broadly speaking, there are problems environmental (destruction of biodiversity, a very serious problem), Health for those who consume them (due to genetic manipulation and the increased use of pesticides in many cases), social inequality and hunger (the repercussions on the peasantry are enormous), irreversibility (genetic contamination reproduces itself). The advantages are nil except for a social sector: the millionaires who run the multinational agro-industrial companies.

Capitalist Penetration in Paraguayan Agriculture


In our country, the social relations of production have always been very backward and capitalism has only imperfectly penetrated until today in the whole of the national economy, especially in agriculture, in which there is the coexistence of a capitalist agriculture with forms precapitalists (in addition to the peasant) of exploitation of the land and the labor force.

While in other countries of the region capitalist agriculture was already consolidated towards the end of the 19th century, in Paraguay the first clear form of presence of this type of agricultural exploitation began with the European and Japanese colonization that settled in Itapúa from the decades of the 20s and 30s. It is agriculture farmer but it is limited to this region. It does not expand and coexists (although not without problems) with the scarce population, it was low and there was an overabundance of land.

A second form of presence of capitalist agriculture in the country was through the Wheat Plan promoted by Stroessner at the beginning of the 60s. Taking advantage of the “green revolution” and the North American support after the Montevideo meeting with Kennedy on the Alliance of Progress in 1961, the dictatorship estimates that Paraguay should be self-sufficient in wheat. Stroessner distributes the land and allocates the funds from “friendly” entrepreneurs, actually pseudo-entrepreneurs. The Plan fails after a few years. The Agrarian Leagues began to develop as a reaction to the capitalist occupation of the means of production precisely in Misiones, where said Plan began.

Until the end of the sixties thus, capitalist agriculture hardly had a presence in the country, characterized in its agrarian structure by the smallholding, the first colonizations initiated by Juan Manuel Frutos since the recently created IBR (in 1963) in the East Axis (Repatriation , O´Leary and JL Mallorquín) and the North Axis (Choré), the cattle latifundio, and the forestry latifundio would be a failed attempt to deconcentrate land ownership. But this colonization lays the foundations for what would come immediately afterwards.

The first significant (and devastating) wave of capitalist agriculture occurred with the entry of Brazilians due to the expansion of the soy frontier in the southern states of Brazil towards the end of that decade and throughout the decade of the 70s. most important offensive of agriculture farmer on the peasant registered to date. The results in the departments of Alto Paraná, north of Itapúa and the eastern half of Canindeyú produce disastrous ecological results. Old colonies populated by Paraguayan peasants, created by the Agrarian Reform Institute in previous and new decades, such as that of Minga Guazú, are occupied by Brazilians and Paraguayan peasants are expelled, who limited themselves to precariously occupying the land until they had cleared it so to be suitable for mechanized work. This offensive lessened during the second half of the 80s and the first half of the 90s. From the second half of the last decade, a new outbreak of Brazilian immigration began to appear, this time towards Upper Paraguay, but mainly for livestock purposes, although equally ruinous for the fragile natural resources of this Chaco area.

Already at the beginning of the new century, the second wave of penetration of agrarian capitalism with soybeans takes place, but this time genetically modified soybeans from the 1999/2000 agricultural cycle. With no availability of public lands on this occasion, the soybean frontier expands on peasant lands, on converted cattle fields and on the rest of the forest. The environmental effects are aggravated by the disappearance of the last pockets of forests in the Eastern Region, as well as by the indiscriminate use of powerful herbicides and pesticides. The social effects, in the same way, are dramatic in a country that had been suffering an accelerated process of impoverishment and that now has to witness a massive expulsion of peasant families from their lands.

The situation today is much more complex than it was 30 years ago, when the first expansion of capitalist farmer agriculture over peasant agriculture was recorded.

The current situation of the penetration of entrepreneurial agriculture Components of the problem

Schematically, the current situation posed by this new offensive of capitalist agriculture farmer is composed of the following elements:

Environmental component Political component Social and economic component
The conversion of conventional soybeans to transgenic
Indolence and complicity in government action
The advance of the crop frontier Human poisoning and contamination of flora and fauna
The peasant reaction Increasing dependence on imports at the expense of our exports
Loss of sovereignty Increase in the price of land
External pension to achieve GDP growth

It is a complex problem, which has as its most important final social effect the eviction of peasants from rural areas of the country. In summary, the circuit is as follows:

  1. World capitalism gives rise to the formation of large business conglomerates in the form of multinationals that control the planet, and consequently, governments including the United States and multilateral organizations such as the IMF, WB, IDB, CMO, OECD and others.
  2. One of these large companies is Monsanto, which produces genetically modified seeds. This company, along with many others with similar interests, is pressuring the US government to expand the acreage cultivated with transgenic soybeans in the Southern Cone. It is also pressing for the patenting of its seeds and the liberalization of controls on the use of these linked biocidal seeds.

At the same time, the IMF is putting pressure on the government (stand-by agreement signed by Borda on December 15, 2003), to achieve growth higher than the growth of agricultural GDP, growth that in turn depends on transgenic soybeans.

  1. Thus the sowing area of ​​the crop is expanded. According to one source, this area exceeds 1,176,4600 hectares. in the 1999/2000 agricultural cycle to 1,474,058 hectares. in the 2002/03 cycle and according to CAPECO to 1,900,000 hectares. in the 2003/04 cycle. There are 720,000 more in just 4 years, which gives an average of 180,000 hectares. by year. However, in the last cycle this expansion is 426,000 hectares. Most of this expansion is on peasant land, as shown in the Table below.

Agricultural production of cotton and soybeans in Paraguay

  1. the soy planted in these almost 2 million hectares. it is almost all transgenic (90%) smuggled. With this, genetic sovereignty over conventional seeds that had been successfully developed in the country is lost. A health risk factor is introduced, since it is not proven that transgenics do not affect human health, indeed, it is known that they do. In addition, there is an effect of genetic contamination to other crops. In parallel, Monsanto demands the payment of royalties.
  2. Crops with transgenic seeds, which are resistant to herbicides, are extensively sprayed with these biocides, many of which are prohibited for use. These biocides produce cases of death and intoxication in humans, since the fumigations are done -many of them- mechanically or even from airplanes. In addition to this, they destroy crops for self-consumption and mortality in domestic fauna, ictícola and microfauna of the soil.
  3. The government does not act, since basically, it is in their interest to increase the area of ​​soybean sowing. The police (and in many cases the army), the majority of judges and prosecutors act in favor of large landowners. Environmental legislation on land, immigration, etc., is not enforced.
  4. Thus, gradually but rapidly, there is a triple loss of sovereignty. On the one hand, economic sovereignty continues to be lost, since it depends on exports of a single product (soybeans) whose seeds will be provided by a single company (Monsanto), the increase in these exports, in turn, makes the country depend on increasingly important imports. On the other hand, there is a loss of territorial sovereignty, since huge extensions of land are acquired by foreign owners (private or corporate). Finally, there is a loss of food sovereignty, since monoculture displaces diversification and with it subsistence crops, in addition the peasants expelled from their lands migrate to the cities where - to eat - they must go to the side of consumers, having previously been producers of part of their food.
  5. Those affected, mainly farmers, act in three ways; i. conforming to what happens to them, they sell their lands, go to the towns or cities and end up impoverishing themselves quickly, they are left out, excluded; ii. They are organized into departmental coordinators for the defense of life and the environment. This "institutional" response so far has not yielded many results due to the government's insensitivity, or iii. they occupy land, burn soybeans, block the entry of machinery and personnel for fumigation. This direct reaction is repressed by the Government.

If this trend that we have been observing for some years continues, the following scenario is formed for the near future:

- A country with a large number of poor people (probably 70% in no more than 20 years).
- Almost complete disappearance of the urban middle classes.
- A small group of tremendously wealthy families
- Increase in crime, child labor and exploitation, prostitution, drug and alcohol consumption.
- Increasing illiteracy of the population, due to lack of access to education and its poor quality.
- Increase in diseases in general and those of sexual transmission, acute respiratory diseases and those derived from parasitosis in particular.
- Dramatic increase in desertification in the country due to intensive and irresponsible use of the land and deforestation
- Increase in police and military repression to curb social unrest

As we can see, without any exaggeration, a situation awaits Paraguay along this path quite similar to that of countries such as Haiti, Ethiopia, Bangladesh and others today.

The environmental components of the peasant eviction by capitalist agriculture The conversion of conventional soybeans to transgenic. Lack of knowledge of the effects on human health of transgenic soy

A natural product has been instituted whose seeds were provided by the farmers who sowed it, by a genetically modified product whose seeds are produced by a single multinational company worldwide.


Transgenic means that the genetic makeup of the plant has been transformed. To modify the genome of the plant, the gene to be inserted is used together with other auxiliary genes. Some of these helper genes confer resistance against certain antibiotics. Thus, genetically modified corn also has a gene that gives it resistance to antibiotics of the penicillin group.

Dr. Nancy Marchese, a nutritionist, says: "It is not proven that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) do not cause alterations in health." And he adds: “Antibiotics are used in the gene transmission mechanism, especially amoxylin and cephalosporins, which can trigger allergies. Thus, asthmatic attacks or glottis edema can occur, with no apparent causes ”.
"We must add the potential toxicity of GMOs, since enzymes and amino acids unknown to the body are produced," says Marchese. And he continues: "One fact to take into account is that today there are a large number of glyphosate resistant weeds, so it is estimated that in a few years it will be necessary to increase the dose of the herbicide to control them."

Genetic engineering is not the same as crosses between species that have been practiced for many years. It is not an exact science. For example, it could be dangerous in some organisms by becoming resistant to antibiotics. It could turn out that weeds and insects become resistant to pesticides and herbicides. New poisons and diseases could be accidentally created. Food comes from nature. If we change the fundamental structure of a food, it could create disease, just as pesticides and herbicides did in the past. GM foods do not usually undergo independent testing before they are sold in commerce.

Until now, the effects that the genetically modified product has on human health are little known. One of the clear effects that has been identified is that the genetic modification introduced in the grain could be acting as a "hormonal disruptor" stimulating the pituitary gland (internal secretion gland located in the lower and back part of the brain) to issue orders endocrines for increased release of estrogen (female sex hormone) in the body. Studies are also being carried out to verify the effect of such genetic modification in reducing the body's immune capacity.

In addition, increased resistance to some antibiotics, which can make it difficult to treat certain diseases. Increase in allergies, specifically in children. Health risks for people who grow transgenics: poisoning from constant use of herbicides in the crop.

The main threat, then, lies in the health risks derived from the consumption of transgenics. These risks are multiplied with the phenomenon of Genetic Filtration, by which transgenic traces can appear involuntarily, unknown and inevitably in normal foods and crops. The Star Link Corn case illustrates the seriousness of the matter, since it is not suitable for human consumption and yet it managed to seep into the human diet.

Faced with any risk to human health, consumers will lack information or it will be manipulated. There is thus a food colonization and the birth of the << Sojera Republiquetas >>. Since the fields were filled with Monsanto's GM soybeans, media and institutional campaigns about the wonders of this food have multiplied, despite doubts about its safety. Therefore, it is not enough just to create the offer. Demand will also have to be created. Although the food and safety of millions of people are deceived and played with. With the invasion of transgenic products, consumers will acquire food products, which will continue to be saturated with all kinds of pesticides and chemicals. The opening of markets will allow food westernization, with the infiltration of new and varied pre-manufactured products, which will carry transgenic ingredients inside.

Even knowing the possibility of these (and other) risks to human health, the technical bodies of the Paraguayan Government have not issued an opinion and pretend that the problem does not exist

For the rest, the legal support of the cultivation of transgenics has in our country a very weak legal apparatus, just an authorization from the MAG, when it should be the object of legislation.

Broadly speaking, there are problems environmental (destruction of biodiversity, a very serious problem), Health for those who consume them (due to genetic manipulation and the increased use of pesticides in many cases), social inequality and hunger (the repercussions on the peasantry are enormous), irreversibility (genetic contamination reproduces itself). The advantages are nil except for a social sector: the millionaires who run the multinational agro-industrial companies.

On the other hand there is the issue of patents. Multinationals may patent traditional seeds, that together with the patents of transgenic seeds will guarantee the monopoly. They may even manage the trade of both products in one fruit. Food will remain in the hands of multinationals, with the Food Sovereignty of each country gradually disappearing.

All transgenic seeds are patented. Until now, farmers could buy the seeds, even the patented ones, and could later use them in their own crops and even exchange them for other seeds. But with the new patent laws, all of these activities are illegal; the buyer pays for a one-time use of the germplasm.

The right to possess genes is a new phenomenon in world history and its effects on agriculture, and life in general, are still highly uncertain. Multinationals argue that intellectual property is essential for their industry to prosper. For others it is a new neofeudalism, which turns farmers into the new deer of multinationals, who sell them seeds and pesticides and buy their production at very low prices, leaving them neither trade nor profit, with the sole consolation of formal ownership of the land they cultivate. In practice, a kind of Monsanto franchise.

The transgenic seeds multinationals have started a new era, whose purpose is to control the most important and basic industry (we all eat every day, and most of them three times), an industry that has a turnover of more than 2 billion dollars, the food industry .

Patents are an important ingredient in the expansion of the industry. Global sales of transgenic plants grew from $ 75 million in 1995 to $ 4.5 billion in 2003. Sales are expected to reach $ 5 billion in 2005 and $ 25 billion in 2010. Patents give multinationals enormous power about farmers. To defend their patent rights, the four or five multinationals in the sector require farmers to sign 'seed contracts', a totally new phenomenon in agriculture. Contracts can stipulate which brand of pesticides the farmer must use, a kind of captive market for some herbicides in these "technology packages."

The fight to strengthen patents will not stop with these types of contracts. So-called "gene protection technology", popularly called <>, can make seed contracts a biological reality, just like current technological developments. Terminator technology or similar (traitor) prevent collected seeds from re-germinating. Terminator technology will increase crop uniformity by restricting the practice of saving and crossing seeds from one year to the next by farmers.

Control of the multinational Monsanto over the main export item

From being a noble, valuable product for human and animal nutrition, many of whose conventional varieties had been developed in the country through genetic improvement programs and made available to producers, the oilseed is on its way (when the black market for seed smuggling) to be under the complete control of the multinational Monsanto.

It is a nonsense to alienate a key strategic resource of the national economy to a foreign private monopoly. This fact, in addition to its obvious political connotations, constitutes a source of transfer of profits to the multinational by the producers, for the foreign exchange that must leave the country to comply, as was recently seen, with the payment of royalties for patents .

Currently, the MAG authorities already have the results of field tests, carried out in confinement, of four varieties of RR soybeans, and the results are not very encouraging, since they are varieties developed for the more temperate climate of the Argentine producing areas and North American.

Worldwide, Monsanto has 80% of the market for transgenic plants, followed by Aventis with 7%, Sygenta (formerly Novartis) with 5%, BASF with 5% and DuPont with 3%. These companies also produce 60% of the pesticides and 23% of the commercial seeds. Transgenic plants are mostly resistant, and are sold as part of a "technology package" that includes the transgenic seed and the herbicide to which it is resistant. The two main products are currently the << Round up >> (glyphosate), and the << Liberty Link >> from AgrEvo that tolerates its herbicide <> (glufosinate).

It may seem counterintuitive and demagogic, but a stated goal of such transgenic plants is to reduce herbicide use. By engineering crops that are tolerant to very high levels of exposure to a herbicide (which is a toxic chemical for most plants), companies offer farmers the option of using powerful herbicide applications in the growing season, rather than from normal practice requiring a series of applications of several different compounds. Despite what the manufacturing companies proclaim, in practice the amount of heroism applied increases, as it does not affect the cultivated plants, but its simplicity facilitates the work of many farmers.

Another potential benefit touted by Monsanto is that they can allow "minimum tillage," cultivation techniques that reduce the need to plow or even eliminate it altogether. One reason for plowing is to remove weeds, but by leaving the land bare, plowing exacerbates the erosion of fertile soil. Herbicide-resistant transgenic plants, like Bt crops, are an extension of the current pesticide-based model. They may allow a reduction in herbicide use in the short term, but their widespread adoption will promote reliance on herbicides.

In many parts of the developing world, where herbicides are hardly used today, the habit of their use could exacerbate the environmental crisis: herbicides are toxic to many soil organisms, pollute groundwater and can have long-term effects on people and in the fauna. And, of course, resistance will appear, as dependence on a few broad-spectrum herbicides (glyphosate and gluphonisate) is favored, so resistance will develop more widely and agriculture will be more vulnerable.

In the US, the widespread use of Round up (glyphosate) on Round un Ready soybeans has promoted several weed species resistant to that herbicide. The transgenic Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) replaces an insecticide, which was previously sprayed on plants, by another within the same plant. The resistance of pests to Bt could appear in a few years, affecting not only transgenic crops, since Bt is also used in conventional crops.

Farmers will see that one of the most environmentally benign pesticides will no longer be useful. Bt crops are a throwback to the worst days of the massive use of pesticides whose toxicity did not take long to appear. Bt is programmed to attack the pest throughout the plant's growth period, increasing the probability of resistance by maximizing exposure.

Human poisoning and contamination of flora and fauna due to the intensive and inappropriate use of herbicides and pesticides

Virtually all transgenic crops have been manipulated to replace widely used chemicals, especially insecticides (Bacillus thuringiensis) and herbicides (glyphosate or glufosinate, also manufactured by the same companies that sell the seeds). Most transgenic plants incorporate an antibiotic resistance gene (marker gene). About 18 percent of the world's transgenic crops are Bt varieties (Bacillus thuringiensis), mainly corn (9.1 million hectares, 13% of the world total in 2003), manipulated to produce an insect toxin (12.2 million hectares in total), and 73% are transgenic soybean crops (41.4 million hectares, 61%), corn, rapeseed and cotton designed to resist herbicides such as glyphosate or glufonisate (67.7 million hectares). The rest carry both characteristics, Bt and glyphosate resistance.

Paraguay case. The serious social and environmental problems generated by the high use of chemical biocides (known as pesticides, agrotoxins, agrochemicals or agricultural defense) in areas very close to communities, colonies and other peasant settlements, are already publicly known and increasingly widespread, affecting the health and life of entire communities. Homes, schools, recreation areas in general, family and community farms. Many cases of poisonings from the extensive soy production areas, which included the death of several people, have been reported by the mass media.

The areas most affected by poisoning cases are departments with high soybean production rates, which show an indiscriminate increase in the plantation area, which according to unofficial data reaches almost 2 million hectares (5% of the total area of ​​the country, doubling the area of ​​soybean cultivation in Brazil that constitutes 2.5% of its territory). The most recent cases of massive intoxication occurred in Gral. Resquín-San Pedro, Pireca-Guairá, February 3-Caaguazú. San Pedro del Paraná-Itapúa, and others, are clear indications that the problem is getting worse, while the precautionary measures necessary and required by law are not taken to safeguard the health of children, women and men, peasants and indigenous people and the well-being environmental.

Undoubtedly, this is the problem that has acquired the most political relevance in recent months due to the countless cases documented in the press about the effects of the bad and irresponsible use of powerful herbicides and insecticides. The main one - as already mentioned - is the Round up (also produced by Monsanto), the commercial name of a highly toxic combined glyphosate.

The effects of glyphosate have been studied and continue to be, yielding clear results, in terms of environmental effects, they have been perfectly documented by the press in recent months. Round up is commonly known as "matatodo", in the sense that it kills even the microfauna of the soil and not only harmful herbs, as well as crops and domestic animals.

In a shameful attitude, the Department of Toxicology of the MSP and BS, instead of warning about the dangers of these toxic substances for people and the environment, has been minimizing the multiple complaints that were made.

The importation and smuggling of highly toxic biocides should be discouraged as they represent poisoning risks, as has already happened on several occasions. Stop importing organophosphates (Methamidophos, Monocrotofd and Paration Methyl which has already happened on several occasions. Brominated Organ, Phenoxic Acids, in addition to the << dirty dozen >>that they are carcinogenic, produce genetic mutations, reproductive problems, among others, are of vital importance for ethical and professional reasons, as well as human.

The minimization of the real impacts of biocides on human and environmental health, such as the interest in confusing the market with outdated data of the products that are used in soybeans, are clear indications of the lack of ethics and professionalism of those who promote certain practices .

We consider that the inclusion of glyphosate in the genetic structure of transgenic soybean responds to an ethical and professional irresponsibility of the multinationals that launch products of this type on the market.

In conclusion

For the economic authorities, December 15, 2003 was a glorious date: the miscommunication of the IMF was broken. For the country it could be considered another day of shame. To pay off short-term commitments, "honor the foreign debt," the country continued to be mortgaged. Go and go that this has been done by people like Wasmosy or González Macchi, non-representative presidents, but in the new administration this is more than eloquent, since it shows us that we will have more of the same for a long time.

The main goal of the demands made by the IMF is that the country has enough money to pay its foreign debt. There are of course many other objectives, but they are irrelevant at the moment. In order to pay the foreign debt, it is necessary to have foreign currency (any “strong” currency), for this purpose the farm or the BCP or both have to buy it on the street or obtain it as a result of exports that the country makes whose payment necessarily goes through the BCP. This entity keeps the foreign currency and pays the exporter in national currency. De este modo el gobierno acumula fondos para “honrar en tiempo y forma” esta impagable hipoteca de la soberanía nacional, que está siendo irresponsablemente aumentada por el nuevo gobierno “democrático”.

Una de las exigencias que puso el FMI con la firma del stand by es lograr un crecimiento “de al menos el 2,5%”. En un país en literal estado de bancarrota como el nuestro, la única actividad capaz de impulsar algún tipo de crecimiento es la agricultura, y mas específicamente la agricultura capitalista de exportación, o para hablar sin rodeos, la agricultura de la soya transgénica.

Se trata de una agricultura depredadora que deja poco o casi nada al país: las semillas son de la Monsanto (se importan) las maquinarias e implementos se compran del exterior, del mismo origen son los agrotóxicos utilizados, no contrata casi mano de obra y cuando lo hace buena parte de ella es extranjera, las ganancias son depositadas en bancos extranjeros. Se pregunta uno ¿Qué tiene de paraguaya la soya de exportación? El suelo, la fertilidad del suelo si es paraguaya y nos estamos quedando sin ella.

No es extraño que el gobierno se haga el distraído cuando se denuncian los estropicios que está haciendo, ecológica y socialmente, la expiación irracional de la superficie cultivada con esta especie genéticamente modificada. No es extraño, porque es lo único que le permitirá cumplir con las imposiciones del FMI de crecer al menos el 2,5%, para seguir “disfrutando” de los favores de este organismo mundialmente desprestigiado y socialmente responsable de la pobreza de millones de ciudadanos del mundo entero.

Los componentes del problema tal como se da en este momento

a) la conversión de la soya convencional a transgénica
1.- creciente dependencia importada de las exportaciones
2.- intervención de la multinacional Monsanto en el control del principal rubro de exportaciones
3.- incremento del precio de la tierra

b) la indolencia y complicidad en la acción gubernamental
1.- falta de control del uso por parte del Gobierno, que equivale a una abdicación a sus funciones
2.- inoperancia de la Comisión Nacional de Bioseguridad
3.- Transgresiones a la legislación ambiental
4.- complicidad del aparato de justicia con los propietarios
5.- el crecimiento económico de un 2,5% por lo menos, exigido por el FMI al gobierno, de acuerdo del 15 de diciembre, solo podrá ser conseguido con las divisas generadas por la soja transgénica, de ahí el apoyo tácito

c) el avance de la frontera de cultivo
1.- penetración en gran parte del territorio de la región oriental; expansión en praderas naturales. Presencia brasileña y menonita
2.- expulsión campesina
3.- el crecimiento de la pobreza y aumento de la migración

d) la reacción campesina
1.- la formación de coordinadora por la defensa de las tierras
2.- las amenazas de ocupación campesina de las tierras
3.- el bloqueo de acciones de siembra y/0 fumi9gaciones

e) intoxicaciones
1.- muerte e intoxicación humana
2.- mortandad de fauna
3.- destrucción de cultivos de autoconsumo

f) los problemas de soberanía
1.- pérdida de la soberanía alimentaria
2.- pérdida de la soberanía territorial
3.- pérdida de la soberanía cultural


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