How the TPP and Free Trade Treaties are Harming Indigenous Peoples and National Sovereignty in Peru

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Source: / The Dawn News / October 21, 2016

Photo credit: Reuters / Scott Audette
Photo credit: Reuters / Scott Audette

In the radio show of the National Agricultural Federation, a farmer from Brazil and an activist from Peru spoke about the harm that free trade treaties are causing.

Gilberto Schneider, leader of the National Movement of Small Farmers of Brazil, and Ciro Salazar, from the Informative Platform Peruvians Against the TPP, denounced that the TPP and other free trade treaties are being negotiated by some governments without the people being informed of the consequences this has to our sovereignty, Mother Earth and their ancestral knowledge. Therefore, it’s up to social organizations to disseminate this information and educating people on the subject.

Seed control and disappearance of biodiversity

Gilberto Schneider spoke about the threats that loom on Brazilian farms due to the potential signing of commercial treaties by the government that overthrew Dilma Rousseff. “The putschist Michel Temer has been negotiating with the US to modify laws on land, seeds, environment and biodiversity that will leave peasants and nature completely unprotected”, he said. One example of this, he said, is that Temer opened the debate on the so-called Terminator Law, which will make plants’ seeds sterile.

Schneider explained that Brazil’s farmers have had small victories in this struggle to defend biodiversity and seeds. “We’re fighting a very difficult fight against the onslaught of agribusiness, transgenic seeds and transnational companies that seek to privatize Brazilian biodiversity”, the peasant leader pointed out.

The communitary leader, whose organization is a part of the Latin American Coordinator of Rural Organizations (CLOC – Peasant Way) said that, in several countries where the CLOC is present, farmers have managed to stop the bills that promoted transnational companies. For example, in Brazil and Chile they stopped the Monsanto Law, which only legalized seeds that had been genetically manipulated by laboratories, but in other countries this was not possible.

The 1991 Agreement of the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV), also known as UPOV-91, which allows companies to patent seeds and forces those who use them freely to pay the owner of the seed’s rights. This is dangerous because many patented seeds naturally pollinate nearby crops and therefore neighboring farmers are liable to have to pay fines for using the seeds that their own crops produced. On the UPOV-91, Schneider said that most countries haven’t signed it yet —some have signed the UPOV-78 or the UPOV-81, which aren’t as dangerous. But the UPOV-91 is a great threat for biodiversity and non-industrial farming.

Food will be in the hands of transnational companies and excluding farmers

Ciro Salazar, from the Platform of Peruvians Against the TPP, pointed out that this treaty threatens food security and limits traditional methods used by peasants. The TPP, he said, was negotiated in secrecy for five years, without allowing citizens to participate in a decision that directly affects them, and now, according to Salazar, the government of Kuczynski and Fujimori’s caucus want to pass the bill without debate and without the citizenship finding out its contents.

He warned on the seed policy of the TPP, which is even tougher than the UPOV-91, which limits the trade, storage and commercialization of seeds between the agricultors, a practice that is the motor of rural life, and allows farmers to have some degree of stability in situations of crisis when crop yields fall, by storing backup seeds or selling them for relatively small amounts of money.

“We must not only go out on the streets to protest, but also help our people find out the dangers of the TPP and how it will affect our daily life and sovereignty, because mass media also hides the negotiations on this agreement”, he said.

The Peruvian farmer added that “the UPOV-91 protects the use of traditional varieties of seeds, but only the registered ones. It doesn’t protect the rich biodiversity that the peoples have used for centuries. A company could patent those varieties. It leaves the door open to bio-piracy. It doesn’t demand an origin certificate, and this weakens the rights of peasants and makes them vulnerable to the expropriation of their knowledge”.

Salazar agreed with Schneider on that in farmer societies the main protectors of seeds are peasant women and to take that role away from them would further weaken their position.

To inform and to protest

Schneider called all rural and urban organizations to participate in the big Continental Day for Democracy and Against Neoliberalism, next November 4: “like we defeated the ALCA 10 years ago, we will defeat these treaties”, he affirmed.

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