This Tuesday it transpired that the National Government would modify the Seed Law (20,247) through a Decree of Necessity and Urgency (DNU), which would be announced together with the transnationalized seed corporations today, Thursday, August 29 at the Casa Rosada.
Although the official confirmation has not arrived, it is the second time that this version gains strength, to the point that it has been disseminated by national media. If confirmed, we would be facing unconstitutional looting, carried out in an undemocratic way, by a retreating government that leaves a balance as negative as the externalities that agribusiness strives to hide. If it is not confirmed, it is worth reviewing what is at stake because the attempt did not stop for a minute nor will it rule who governs.
Corporations have always argued that the current law is "old" and that the impossibility of collecting royalties "prevents technological development", when in reality they seek to expand their profit margins and deepen their control over the agro-industrial and agri-food chains, knowing that their heart is in the seeds.
An ad with a murky history
The attempts to modify the seed law come from afar but with Macri in the Government, and with the representatives of the agribusiness corporations themselves in the official organization charts, this was deepened with great force. In 2016 they managed to enter a bill in the Chamber of Deputies for the first time, which eventually failed due to intra-corporate contradictions, specifically the opposition of theRural Society (SRA) YRural Confederations (CRA) to pay royalties. But in 2018 they returned to the charge, and after negotiating a text behind closed doors with a select group of great players (Semilleros Association, Aapresid, Arpov, SRA, CRA and Coninagro): they managed to close a common position, and obtain (scandalously) opinion of commissions without the accompaniment of any opposition bloc. This isolation made each and every attempt by the Cambiemos bloc fail to submit the amendment to the Seed Law to a vote in the Chamber of Deputies this year.
Now, about the end of a politically defeated government in frank retreat, without the possibility of advancing legislatively, they threaten with this custom decree, a true drowning slap, undemocratic from every angle, which if it were to materialize would damage the possibility of advancing towards sovereignty Food that our people need.
A looting: Discovery. Own use. Extended Royalties. Tax Exemptions. Persecution
So that we have an idea of some central questions in the modification that they try:
The seeds that the corporations say are “theirs” in terms of breeder's rights (and this is recognized by the current law of the year 73) are actually the fruit of the work of thousands of years of the peasant and native communities that recognized them in nature and they were modified through traditional agricultural improvement that originated the enormous diversity that fed us for thousands of years. With the callGreen revolutionIn the 1960s, these attempts to establish forms of intellectual property over seeds began and in this way their appropriation began.
When one speaks of "discovery" of seeds in the amendment text, the possibility of biopiracy of the corporations is opened. No agricultural seed "is found", all have been developed by the peoples and have gone hand in hand through the different climates and soils adapting and modifying. No seed is born from a test tube in a laboratory, but any modification there is based on that ancient work.
Taking the example of corn, if we were to draw a one-hour time line, where the “zero” point was the meeting of the Teosintle or primitive corn with the Mesoamerican peoples 7,000 years ago, the transgenic modifications on which the corporations base their “rights ”Would have arrived in the last half second. In other words, with that half a second they appropriate an entire work history of others. Or as if a company modified one of the 35,000 genes of the tomato and proclaimed itself "owner of the tomato" ... it sounds crazy but that is the logic with which everyone tries to install their intellectual property rights.
Today when a farmer buys a bag of certified seeds with breeder's rights from a company (we repeat: recognized by current law), the royalties are included in the price of the bag, and he can have a part of that crop to reseed in the next cycle. This, which is known as “right of own use” (to reuse the seed that you paid for and reproduced yourself), is what seed corporations likeBayer-Monsanto, Syngenta, Corteva, Basf, Don Mario or Bioceres they try to cut off. These companies seek to collect extended royalties; In other words, when a farmer buys a bag of certified seeds, according to the dance modification, he must pay royalties for the next 5 sowing and harvesting cycles. As if once you bought a pair of pants, they tried to charge you for the number of times you wear them.
But it does not stop there: the royalties paid can be deducted (1 and a half times) from the income tax of those producers. In other words, if a soybean pays 1,000 pesos in royalties, he can deduct 1,500 from what he pays in earnings ... It is understood why CRA and SRA went from rejection in 2016 to unbridled lobbying in 2018 and 2019: in this way the State would take over of the payment of these royalties due to a reduction in tax collection. Those billions of pesos that would go to a handful of transnational companies would not be paid by the large seed pools, but would fall on the backs of all the people who are already suffering the adjustment. Workers and retirees who suffer huge discounts on their assets for earnings do not have these allowances; This shows that the logic of "reducing public spending" or "0 deficit" does not apply in the case of friendly transnational capital.
It also deepens the mechanisms of persecution and prosecution of farmers based on complaints from the companies themselves. This is part of a global offensive: in countries where modifications of this type have flourished, tremendous things happen such as destruction of crops, criminalization of farmers due to contamination of crops, etc.
Without a doubt, we are facing looting.
What to do?
From Huerquen we have been part of different articulation spaces to face the modification of the Seed Law in the terms proposed by agribusiness. If confirmed, with the pronouncements of rejection of the decree that are coming out, the imperative task is to inform the population and exert pressure.
Throughout 2019, the organizations that today make up the National Forum for a Sovereign and Popular Agrarian Program have been able to influence each attempt by the ruling party to advance in the Chamber of Deputies: the comrades have knocked on doors, sent emails, discussed, approached documents and positions, in a gray ant job and "without flashes" but which was key to prevent Cambiemos from adding votes from opposing blocs and could advance. The organizations of the National Agrarian Forum and the Multisectorial Against the Bayer-Monsanto Seed Law (which we have also been part of since its foundation) have been able to generate very important street action movements in front of Congress, and we will do so again if the decree is confirmed.
This slap of drowning would undoubtedly be unconstitutional and illegal, and for that reason actions are also being considered in the judicial field in case they decide to move forward.
Seeds are the heritage of peoples at the service of humanity, as La Via Campesina clearly states. With this north we will continue fighting (whatever happens; with this government or with the one that comes) for food sovereignty whose possibility is based on the seeds being in the hands of the peoples, in those thousands and thousands of farmers who today , with a great deal against it, they produce the vast majority of what feeds humanity every day.
PS: When we started these lines the newspaperThe nation confirmed the decree. Now ... the title contradicted the link: https://www.lanacion.com.ar/economia/campo/el-gobierno-finalmente-modificara-ley-semillas-decreto-nid2281939
El Diario Clarín, for its part, joined the denial with the headline:
"Finally, the Government backed down with the decree on the Seed Law"
Agricultural representatives had been summoned to communicate the news to them this Thursday. At the last minute the DNU was stopped.