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The tale of the apolitical for lobbying

The tale of the apolitical for lobbying

By Darío Aranda

Whoever controls the seeds, controls the food ”, says at the beginning the recent Greenpeace investigation that denounces the business lobby that is promoting a new seed law and specifies that at least thirty officials have conflicts of interest due to their ties with the companies that would be benefited from the law. The study also denounces the role of NGOs and foundations that present themselves as "apolitical" and "scientific" but are financed by companies dedicated to transgenic products. Four conglomerates dominate 60 percent of the global seed market: Monsanto-Bayer, Syngenta-ChemChina, Dow-DuPont and BASF.

"Law of seeds: from the field to the plate, the lobby of the chemical companies" is the name of the investigation that details the interests behind the new project to modify the current legislation. “Conflict of interest, 'revolving doors' (yesterday in the companies, today in the Government, and vice versa), shared businesses and lobby are some of the situations that confirm that it is a bill that only seeks to benefit the large companies ”, denounces Greenpeace.

Among the officials mentioned with concern in the report are Ricardo Buryaile (Minister of Agroindustry), Guillermo Bernaudo (Chief of Cabinet of Agroindustry), Ricardo Negri (Secretary of Agriculture), Pablo Torello (National Deputy), Beatriz “Pilu” Giraudo (coordinator of Public Policies for Sustainable Development), Ignacio Garciarena (National Director of Agriculture), Gustavo Lopetegui (Economic Coordinator of the Head of Cabinet), Martín Lema (National Director of Biotechnology), Leonardo Sarquís (Minister of Agroindustry of Buenos Aires) and Gustavo Idígoras (former Ministry of Science, current Monsanto), among others. All of them appear with conflicts of interest because they belong to spaces (such as NGOs and companies) that have links with the companies that promote the new seed law.

In October, the Government sent to Congress a bill that advances the Intellectual Property Law (IPR) on seeds, one more step towards patenting seeds, as if they were a business invention, which limits their “own use” ( save seeds from one harvest and use them in the next planting, a practice as old as agriculture). The ruling party tries to approve it this year. "Political collusion between governments and large companies, particularly agribusiness, threatens democracy and is an important factor in the destruction of ecosystems," the report warns.

Fundamental is the role of organizations that present themselves as "apolitical" or "scientific", but are a fundamental part of the business lobby: Aapresid (Argentine Association of Direct Sowing Producers), Aacrea (Argentine Association of Regional Consortiums of Agricultural Experimentation), Argenbio (Argentine Council for Information and Biotechnology Development), ASA (Argentine Seed Growers Association), Asacim (Argentine Association of Weed Science), Arpov (Argentine Association for the Protection of Plant Varieties), Casafe (Chamber of Agricultural Health and Fertilizers), BPA Network (Good Agricultural Practices), ILSI (International Institute of Life Sciences), Barbechando Foundation. All of them promote the new law and have direct links with the seed and agrochemical companies.

The investigation has a section that makes explicit the link between officials and companies. One of the people mentioned is the official Beatriz “Pilu” Giraudo, until 2016 president of Aapresid (promoters of the transgenic model), an entity that has funding and sponsorship from Monsanto-Bayer, Syngenta, Dow-Dupont and BASF. "Aapresid is a key organization to camouflage the use of pesticides with a‘ sustainable ’discourse," Greenpeace denounces. Giraudo assumed in the Ministry of Agroindustry an area that was specially created for him, from where he promotes benefits for agribusiness.

“Argenbio is presented as a scientific space, it spreads the supposed benefits of the transgenic model. They lobby in the academic sphere but from there they propose public policies to promote agribusiness. Its founders and funders are Basf, Bayer, Bioceres, Dow, Monsanto, Nidera, Piooner and Syngenta ”, the report states.

Greenpeace questions the attempts of a law that aims to limit the free use of seeds, to the benefit of large companies. At the same time, none of the requests from family farmers, peasants, indigenous people, academics and universities were considered. "This is a seed bill that gives more power to agrochemical companies, and can only bring more pollution for the fumigated villages, more destruction of native forests and less healthy food," explained Franco Segesso, of Greenpeace.

The role of the Political Action Network Foundation (RAP) stands out, its founding objective "occupying spaces of power to transform the country based on shared values ​​and behaviors." It is supported by companies from the Argentine-American Chamber of Commerce (Amcham): Dow Chemical, Barrick Gold, Coca Cola, Luis Dreyfus, Los Grobo, Monsanto and the NML Capital fund (chaired by Paul Singer).

The Multisectorial against the Monsanto Seed Law, made up of more than 50 social, peasant, environmental and academic organizations, rejects any modification to the current Seed Law (20,247) and demands that the senators and deputies stop “the maneuvers that benefit the agribusiness actors and legislate in favor of the health, life and nutrition of Argentines ”.

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