noticias


In 2012 the biotech companies gained space in Latin America

Latin America is the region with the faster increases of GM crops. This occurs by a combination of factors including the existence of vast fertile areas, governments that have chosen this model and the existence of lax standards that facilitate planting GM crops.

The greatest manifestation of the power of transnational biotechnological corporations in the region occurred in June 22, when the President of Paraguay Fernando Lugo, was overthrows of the power, and was replaced by his Vice-President, Franco. An industry note said:

Soybean producers maintained a tense relationship with the deposed President Fernando Lugo, who was removed from office by impeachment controversial late June. Many agricultural leaders accused the socialist groups of Lugo to protect peasants who occupied lands. Since coming to power, Franco has promoted the commercial release of GM seeds, which the producers want, to improve their competitiveness, but peasant´s organizations reject them because they believe that these seeds harm the environment .

1. THE TRANSNATIONALS ADVANCE

1.1 In Paraguay the National Service Quality and Plant Health and Seed, SENAVE prevented the registration of Monsanto's Bollgard cotton seed of cultivars records, lacking the opinions of the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Environment, as required by law. However, the Minister of Agriculture Enzo Cardozo allowed the illegal planting of these GM cottonseeds Paraguay.

In October this year, the government released four types of GM maize for commercial production. These are the VT Triple PRO corn (resistant to insects lepidoptera, coleoptera insects and tolerant to glyphosate) Bt11 x GA21 (insect resistant and herbicide tolerant) TC 1507 (lepidopteran insect resistant and herbicide glufosinate ammonium) and; NK603 (glyphosate tolerant).

Paraguay produces 3.1 million tons of maize produced in 700,000 hectares, and is the 9th corn exporter worldwide.

1.2 Monsanto filed a petition for the approval of 4 GE corn events in Costa Rica. The answer was a march, which crossed most of the country, where farmers, organic producer, consumers and environmentalist asked for the protection of native corn and to reject the Monsanto petition. Due to this mobilization of the society, there was a delay in the decision on whether to approve or not these GM maize varieties. The campaign received the support of leading academics, politicians and other leaders of the society.

1.3. In Argentina, with the approval of President Cristina Fernandez, Monsanto announced that it is going to build two mega plants in that country. One in the Province of Córdoba, in a location called "Malvinas Argentinas", where Monsanto will install its bigger processing plant of transgenic seeds on the planet, for which he promised an initial investment of $ 1,670 million pesos. Another plant will be located in Tucumán Province .

This occurred when a trial against two soybean producer was taken place in the same Province of Córdoba.  The Group of Mothers of Ituzaingó presented the case.  In Malvinas Argentinas they have been several marches, roadblocks and legal actions against the Monsanto´s plant.

1.4. In September, the president of Ecuador stated that it was a mistake to have included in the constitution a ban on GM crops and seeds. In 2008 a new Constitution was adopted in Ecuador, which includes a ban on GMOs in the country. The president said that

"Genetically modified seeds can quadruple production and can help the poorest sectors to get out of misery"… "We made a mistake in the Constitution," said President, “I did not to have had "the courage" to oppose the clause”, driven, he says, by "child environmentalism"

He added that if necessary to amend the Constitution, it must be done. On that occasion he called to debate the issue, but this was restricted only to scientists in the field of molecular biology.

1.5. In Honduras, the government promotes the program "Let's plant the country with more corn". This is an initiative driven by the transnational Monsanto Agricultural Honduras, Bayer and Fenorza. The project aims to have by 2020, 100,000 hectares of GM maize. Ironically, Nery Echeverría sales director for Monsanto -Latin America North said ...

"Basically we have a perspective of sustainable agriculture, which help farmers to produce more, to conserve more, and improve their quality of life.  "

1.6. In Mexico, Monsanto, DuPont and Dow have asked the national government to plant more than 2.4 million hectares of GM maize, an area record for a release in a centre of origin. The Union of Scientists Committed to Society asked the support of the international scientific community to prevent the introduction of transgenic maize in the country, in the place of origin.

1.7. According to press reports, from 2013 we will have a new GM maize producer in the region: Panama, where the government have been approved some GE varieties.

2. THERE ARE ALSO SOME GOOD NEWS

During last years, there has been some significant progress in the process of resistance to GM.

2.1. Perhaps the most important fact was the regulation of the 10-year moratorium of GE crops and production in Peru. The Environment Minister said that there is the need to strengthen customs and to put in place other control systems to prevent the entry of GMOs, but added something that should be interpreted with caution:

The law "that we have now and the current regulations, establish a moratorium for ten years, and this has to mean a efficient and effective use of this term to strengthen our capabilities and our scientific capacity in biotechnology processes of our native resources ".

2.2. Another important event was the verdict of a prosecutor in Cordoba - Argentina where its was convicted an aero-fumigator and a soybean producer due to the serious health impacts caused in the Barrio Ituzaingó an peri-urban zone in Cordoba. Although the verdict did not convince the organization “Grupo de Madres del Barrio Ituzaingó”, because there was no redress of the victims, it did set an important precedent for ending impunity of the “GM soy - aerial spraying production model” that has brought death and destruction in the nearby areas to transgenic plantations. This case helped to present other cases, like the “Capilla de los Remedios” and “Los Cedros” cases, near Alta Gracia - Cordoba.

2.3. It is good news that people are still organizing, developing strategies to stop the progress of GM across the continent, including the campaign launched by the Network for a GM free Latin America (RALLT) to declare the native and Creole corn, its practices and associated knowledge as cultural heritage of humanity .  In countries like Costa Rica and Bolivia there are several campaigns to protect the native corn.

2.4. In several countries new GE Free zones have being declared, specially in Costa Rica, Perú and Nicaragua.

3. A NEW STRATEGY: THE LAWS OF SEEDS

When the companies decided to transform seeds in a commodity, they met the problem that, unlike other products, seed are living beings and therefore farmers can save and use them in the following season. They felt they were failing to win more money if producers do not buy their seeds every year. The problem was faced by the industry from a technical point of view (with hybrid and GMOs seeds), and legal mechanisms (intellectual property rights, seed laws and contracts).

This year we have seen that have tried to impose new seed laws in several countries in the region.

3.1. In August this year the Minister of Agriculture of Argentina announced that it was necessary to update the seed law. The Argentine Seed Association (ASA) welcomed this announcement, but it has sparked resistance from other sectors of society, as stated by the following note

Peasant organizations strongly expressed their rejection of the project (of law). As remarked Ariel from the Puna Network from Jujuy, a member of the National Organization of Indigenous and Peasant Movement (MNCI), “we do not want the privatization of seed as we understand that the project threatens biodiversity, against our autonomy and right to continue producing and conserving our seeds. Food production have to be in the hands of indigenous and peasant communities”.

The law have not being not approved. It is believed that the intention is to give greater "protection" to biotech varieties, and prevent farmers to use their own seeds. This law has been proposed despite in the past Argentina fought a bitter campaign against Monsanto over the issue of intellectual property on the soybeans.

3.2. In Brazil several large soybean producers carried out a battle against intellectual property with Monsanto, this year. Globally, the patent of Monsanto's RR soybean ceased to have effect in 2010, although the company claims that their rights extend until 2014. Therefore large Brazilian soybean decided to stop paying royalties to Monsanto. In Mato Grosso a court ruled in favour of farmers, so they do not have to pay royalties to Monsanto for the use of genetically modified soybean and cotton. The decision prevents Monsanto charge farmers any royalties for the use of RR soybeans and Bollgard 1 . For that reason, the company decided to suspend the collection of royalties to all soybean farmers in Brazil in order to avoid other humiliation like in Mato Grosso.

3.3. In Paraguay around the 100 biggest soybean producers decided to stop paying royalties to Monsanto for its RR soybeans. Monsanto did not filed a patent for its RR soybeans in Paraguay (in fact, the law does not allow patenting of plants Paraguay) but signed an agreement with the leading soybean trades in 2004, which established a payment for the use of its "technology" while the patent is in force, and established as reference date the year 2014. Some producers even want that Monsanto paid them back the royalties they have paid since 2010. If this goes through, the amount
would rise to $ 60 million .

3.4. With Chile's accession to a Free Trade Agreements with the United States, this country was forced to join UPOV - 1991, an international intellectual property agreement applied to plant varieties. An important process of opposition from social organizations leaded by ANAMURI started. They claim that the agreement "seriously assaulted right of peasants and farmers to free use, exchange and selection of seeds," and added that…

"The UPOV 91 Convention is an agreement that privatized seeds and gives power to the seed companies to monopolize the trade, import and export of seeds. Forcing farmers to buy seeds every year and allows the confiscation of the harvest, crops and plantations and those who do not applied the
law"

3.5. One of the obligations undertaken by Colombia by signing a Free Trade Agreement FTA with USA was the accession to UPOV 91. It was made through the 1518 Act. But a decision by the Constitutional Court of that country stated that this law is "unconstitutional, because they were not prior consultation with the indigenous and Afro-Colombian". The Court decision
was taken after listening to a number of Colombian society representatives and more than seven thousand signatures asking that the law must be declared unconstitutional.

Both Colombia and Chile is still part of UPOV 68 (which gives some guarantees on producers for breeders), according to information provided by the UPOV .

3.6. In Ecuador, the “Intercultural Conference of Food Sovereignty”, a convergence space of civil society and the State, presented in the National Assembly a bill of seeds, agrobiodiversity and agroecological and promotion, which guarantees the right to the free exchange of seeds, promotion of agricultural biodiversity and agro-ecology. The bill is still
under discussion.

4. NEW GMOs

4.1. From last year onwards, massive release of GM mosquitoes have taking place in the State of Bahia, Brazil. Every week, 500,000 transgenic male mosquitoes Aedes aegypte (one of the vectors of dengue fever), are produced and released into the environment. The British company Oxitec
develops them. The idea is to control the disease but the cure may be worse than the disease, due to the environmental and social impacts that
these GMOs could generate.

4.2. There are also plans to release the GE mosquito in Panama.

4.3. In Brazil this year was adopted a variety of genetically modified beans (beans 5.1) to interfere with the replication of golden mosaic virus (BGMV). These GM has been presented as an alternative to small farmers producing food to meet the hunger of Brazilians (who consume high amounts of beans), and as an answer to the criticism made to GM crops, (that they are mainly used by the poultry and agrofuel industry). Furthermore it was developed by EMBRAPA therefore not a transnational GMO.

Some critics of the release of this GM bean are the following:

For Renato Maluf, president of the National Food and Nutrition Security Council (CONSEA), the release was quick and did not take into count the "precautionary principle". He stressed that 22 trials were made to test whether the bean was indeed resistant virus. Of these only two were effective, and not worked with all Brazilian biomes.

Ana Carolina Brolo from “Terra de Dereitos” said that "the commercial approval had the characteristic lack of respect for national and international biosecurity legislation", adding that the information was too secret, and it should be available to the scientific community”.

From the point of view of food security, Maluf said that there are several risks "starting with the known environmental impacts that compromise the common practice among family farmers regarding the use and exchange of seeds, and also by the relationship of domination that creates towards seed suppliers. "

For Sara Agapito and Rubens Nodari,

This transgenic bean uses a new technology that have not being use before on a large scale in any other country. This new technology is different than other, because it causes a reaction in the pathogenic virus directly… The molecule produced by the GM beans is a small interfering RNA - (siRNA), which can regulate the expression of many genes in various organisms, and the mechanism is far from being explained .

4.4. One of the most dangerous of GE technology is the advent of new herbicide-resistant crops as a result of the development of super weeds. This year, due to the severe drought that was experienced in the U.S. and other GM producing countries, superweeds resistant to glyphosate produced major losses.

The corporate response is to heal technological failure with more technology. In that sense, Dow has developed a 2,4 D resistant GM plants. The company hope by 2015 to launch its stalked 2.4 D + glyphosate + glufosinate ammonium tolerant soybeans. In Brazil and Argentina are doing field trials with both maize and soybeans resistant to 2,4 D.

4.5. Finally, the FDA is about to approve a GM salmon would be raised in
Panama.

5. WHAT WE WAIT FOR NEXT YEAR

5.1. According to the Rosario Stock Exchange, it is predicted that there is an intention to plant some 19.5 million hectares in the production cycle 2012/13 soybean in Argentina, which means an increase of 5% over the previous year. In terms of production, in the production season 2011-2012, 40.5 million tonnes of soybean was produced. For this year the estimation is of 53 million tonnes, an increase of 23%.

The area planted with maize in 2011/12 was of 4.4 million hectares. The forecast says that this year the area will be of 4.1 million hectares, 9.2% below the last cycle. The area under wheat would also be reduced from 4.6 million hectares to 3.6 million hectares, which predicts a 7% drop in production . Argentina is the largest exporter of soybean oil and meal, and the third global supplier of soybeans in grain.

5.2. A report from the consultant Celeres predicts that in Brazil RR soybean will reach 24.36 million hectares in the 2012/13, which accounts for 90% of the total area with soy. Celeres says that there it will be an increase of 3 million hectares of RR soybeans. The total area planted withGM crops (soybean, corn and cotton) could reach 37.1 million hectares in the current season 2012/13. This means an increase of 14 % compared with the previous cycle .

5.3. Paraguay is the fourth largest exporter of soybeans. Production in the period 2011/12 was very low due to the severe drought that hit the region. Soybean production dropped to 4.3 million tonnes compared to 7.1 million the previous agricultural cycle, according to official data . 2.9 million hectares will be planted in this period.