By Dario Aranda / Source Pagina12.com.ar / The Dawn News / June 2015. The investigation of two organizations, Vía Campesina and GRAIN, shows how corporations are moving forward in the control of a basic input for food production. The report is called “The criminalization of peasant’s seeds. Resistance and struggle”.
Large agribusinesses are promoting laws that “privatize seeds” and “prosecute producers”. This is one of the statements in the research carried out by international organizations Vía Campesina (which gathers rural movements worldwide) and Grain. Together, they analyzed laws and public policies in over thirty countries, on four continents. “Peasant seeds, a mainstay of food production, are subjected to attack by corporations and governments” warns the report. Market leaders are: Monsanto, Dupont Pioneer, Syngenta, Bayer and Dow.
“The criminalization of peasant seeds. Resistance and struggle” is the name of the report issued by Via Campesina (VC) and Grain. It analyzes the situation in America, Asia, Africa and Europe. It reminds that free exchange of seeds between communities and peoples was what historically allowed crops to adapt to different conditions, climates and topographies. “It’s what allowed agriculture to spread, grow and feed the world”, the report remarks. And it states that, since the “green revolution” (60s), when companies began to have greater influence, a process of appropriation of seeds, the first link of the food chain, began.
Three companies control more than half (53%) of the global seed market. Monsanto (26%), DuPont Pioneer (18.2%) and Syngenta (9.2%). In the fourth to tenth place are companies Vilmorin (of the French group Limagrain), Winfield, KWS (Germany), Bayer CropScience, Dow AgroSciences and Sakata and Takii, from Japan. These ten companies dominate 75 percent of the global seed market.
The report notes that, in the American continent, there is organized resistance against the “Monsanto law”. It describes the case of Chile, where after four years of action, in 2014, they managed to withdraw a draft law that would have privatized seeds. It also highlights the case of Colombia, where, in 2013, peasant organizations initiated a massive strike across the country. They blocked roads and paralyzed food production. The government was attempting to punish the exchange of indigenous seeds with fines or even imprisonment. “In 2011, the Colombian government authorities raided warehouses and trucks of rice farmers (in the province of Huila), and violently destroyed 70 tons of rice, which they said had not been processed in accordance with the law” the report recalls. Social organizations insist on repealing the law.
In Brazil, the second largest producer of GM, the government has enabled the use of new seeds. The report describes the large-scale governmental project for the development of native seeds, within the framework of the National Policy for Agroecology and Organic Production, which was adopted in 2012. The report stresses the importance of the Food Purchase Program implemented in 2003, through which the state acquires the crops of farmers. In October 2013, 5000 Brazilian farmers occupied a facility of production of seeds that belonged to Monsanto in the state of Pernambuco.
In Costa Rica, in 1999, the government tried to amend their laws to comply with the requirements of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Only the mobilization of social organizations was able to prevent the new legislation from being passed. Furthermore, they have made progress in the opposite direction, in favour of banning GMOs. At present, 80 percent of the territory was declared GMO-free.
In El Salvador, progress was made with a family farming plan that includes the distribution of seeds to small farmers. “The initiative faced problems with the US government, considering that it violated free trade and they have demanded an end to the distribution of seeds because they could only buy them to Monsanto”, says the report.
In Venezuela, a bill is being promoted, that would limit the entry of transgenic seeds and defend farmers as part of a production model based on sustainable agriculture and food sovereignty. As a result of a series of national consultations across the country, it defines seeds as a public good, a “collective heritage that can not be privatized”.
Mexico has maintained, for more than a decade, a massive struggle in defense of corn, the most important crop in the country. The neoliberal Free Trade Agreement of the North, attempts to massively introduce of GMOs. In 2005, a legislation was passed (known as the “Monsanto law”) that paved the way for GMOs. “It was followed by the Federal Production Act, which criminalized the free exchange of native seeds. And then a presidential decree was sanctioned that gives new permits to GMOs”, said Vía Campesina and GRAIN. With this legal engineering, multinationals Monsanto and Dow received 156 permits for experimental cultivation of corn.
The report states that there is conclusive evidence that the transgenic corn from the United States has already contaminated native corn in Mexico. A positive note, Mexican farmers still choose peasant seeds: 80 percent of Mexico’s corn remains Creole.