Jan 07, 2013
Uruguayan environmental activist warns about advance of agribusiness and land grabbing in the world
“The policies of our governments have not really tried to address the structural causes of the food crisis, but on the contrary, they encouraged what is causing even more trouble: the advance of agribusiness and land grabbing”, said activist Karin Nansen, member of the executive committee of Friends of the Earth International.
“Today, the food system is increasingly controlled by a few companies. They control everything, from seeds to what is sold in supermarkets, to what reaches our tables”, said Nansen.
“And now these same companies are beginning to control land. They are the ones who define what is produced, how we do it and how the products are distributed. And these companies are also the ones who decide the prices of food”, she added.
The activist, who is also coordinator at REDES – Friends of the Earth Uruguay, gave a presentation called “Expansion of agribusiness and land grabbing” at the international conference “Climate change, territories and social movements”, held in San Salvador, from November 5-6, 2012. The conference was organized by Friends of the Earth International through CESTA-Friends of the Earth El Salvador.
Real World Radio covered the conference and is still publishing some of the most relevant presentations and audio. Members of grassroots organisations, communities and different social movements of Central America participated in the event, in addition to hundreds of representatives of Friends of the Earth groups from the five continents. Over 500 people from 80 countries attended the meeting, the purpose of which was to share knowledge and experiences of defending territories, vizualising the cases of resistance against transnational corporations in the region, and cases of sovereignty building and survival practices to confront socio-environmental conflicts and inappropriate measures promoted by regional economic forces.
The conference was also organised by multiple social and environmental networks from Central America, especially the Movement of Victims and People Affected by Climate Change and Megaprojects (MOVIAC).
In her presentation, Nansen made reference to the severe food crisis of 2007 and
2008, which saw 100 million people starving around the world. Around 1 billion people are starving worldwide today.
The environmentalist talked about land grabbing to grow soy, tree monoculture plantations for carbon offsetting schemes, among others, and regretted the massive use of agrotoxics by agribusinesss. The expansion of these agribusiness and land grabbing are global phenomena, but they especially affect the global south. It is “terrible” in Latin America and Africa, highlighted Nansen.
However, there are reasons to be optimistic. “The good news is that the food crisis isn´t larger because peasants, indigenous peoples, black communities, family production, produce food consumed by human beings”, said the activist. Karin Nansen quoted the Erosion, Technology and Concentration Group (ETC Group) who work on global socio-economic and environmental issues, related to the new technologies and especially about the impacts of technology on indigenous peoples, rural communities and biodiversity. According to the ETC Group “50 per cent of food is produced by these small production units”, said Nansen. “(…) The good news is that peasant agriculture continues supplying food to the world. That´s why it is essential to defend the permanence of indigenous, black communities, peasant agriculture and fisherfolk in their territories; defending their permanence is what will save us”, she added.
By the end of her presentation, Nansen highlighted that “the resistance space is in those territories where you are, this is why we have to come together in this struggle to defend every piece of territory in this world, (…) it is a struggle for the future of humankind”. “Our peoples continue feeding the world. These businesses want other things, they want to take over our lands. We have to do everything in our power, we have to come together in a joint struggle at international level, to stop them. They shall not pass”, concluded the Uruguayan activist.
Photo: Friends of the Earth International
Costa Rica: Ecologist Movement Challenges GM Law
On December 12, environmental, student and peasant organizations that make up Costa Rica's Green Bloc, marched in the country’s capital to file an amparo appeal before the Constitutional Court to make information on the release of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) public.
The amparo appeal aims to challenge a regulation of the National Technical Commission of Biosafety (CTNBio), a body in charge of applications for the release of GMOs, which is known for limiting access to information and participation in discussions on the entrance of GM seeds.
This action is part of a day of action “In Defense of Our Corn”. The campaign began with a march from the Matambu indigenous territory to the Costa Rican capital along more than 200 km. It was a day to disseminate information and of action against the release of four varieties of GM corn patented by transnational corporation Monsanto from BT and RoundupReady (RR) technologies, including the mon-603 variety. The march lasted almost two weeks from November 24 to December 2.
The day after the activists arrived in the capital, on Monday 3 December, hundreds of people demonstrated before the CTNBio headquarters against the application to plant four varieties of GM corn patented by transnational corporation Delta & Pine Land Ltd., a subsidiary of Monsanto.
The company was declared as one of the world’s twenty most irresponsible companies, responsible for hundreds of cases of serious contamination in communities. One of the most renowned cases is the one of Rincon’I community contaminated in 1998 with over 660 tons of GM cotton seeds contaminated with agrotoxics without the community’s prior consent.
At the CTNBio session on December 3, the Cost Rican public body decided to postpone the decision because of pressure from social, environmental and academic sectors that submitted evidence against Delta & Pine Land’s request to
plant GM corn Avangares, in Puntarenas province.
The community has been declared “free of GMO” since 2007.
Because of the postponement of the decision at the body depending on the Ministry of Livestock and Agriculture, the Costa Rican environmental movement filed an unconstitutionality appeal last December 12 against the regulation of Phitosanitary Protection that regulates the CTNBio and the allocation of the licenses.
Real World Radio interviewed Jose Maria Villalta, House representative of the Frente Amplio party and member of the Coordination Network on Biodiversity when they submitted the documents to the Costa Rican Court.
The claim has legal and technical arguments against not only the release of GMOs, but also against the way in which licenses are authorized.
Villalta said the regulation is being questioned because it fails to provide the minimum environmental guarantees to protect biodiversity, such as the need to submit an Environmental Impact Study and the restriction to Access of information about the licenses.
“The permission fails to comply with the law, the Constitution and with international treaties about the need for an environmental impact study. Another serious irregularity of this mechanism to grant licenses is the clause where they say all information the companies provide to the CTNBio is secret”.
He mentions that this harms the rights of citizen participation in environmental issues, enshrined in the Constitution.
The Costa Rican campaign is part of a regional Mesoamerican campaign, where corn is harvested, against the introduction of GM varieties that would have terrible medium to long term consequences.
Photo: Demonstration outside the CNTBio on Friday 12 December (Henry Picado-Coecoceiba-FoE Costa Rica)
Friends of the Earth International, the world's largest federation of grassroots environmental groups, expresses its solidarity with the families of Cristian Ferreyra and Miguel Galván, members of the Peasant Movement of Santiago del Estero (MOCASE), and to all who support the fight against the advance of agribusiness in Argentina.
Cristian was 25
when he was killed on 16 November 2011 by leaders of armed gangs in
association with soy agribusiness corporations, who systematicaly
threaten communities that resist the expansion of soybean. Miguel was
killed on October 10, 2012 at the hands of assassins in the service
of agribusiness corporations that grab land disputed with
We condemn the impunity and unjustice of both murders, as well as the evictions and illegal clearing that is carried out daily, and the suffering of the peasants and indigenous people that defend and guard their birthplaces, generation after generation.
We denounce the interference of transnational corporations with people's sovereignty, and the complicity of public officials with them, who would pave their way while violating the human rights of their compatriots.
We support the demand of our member group Friends of the Earth Argentina, to the national and provincial governments of Argentina, to be aware of the reality of indigenous peasant families, to protect their lands and support their production, knowing that this means banning logging, evictions and the advance of agribusiness corporations. Consequently we expect the government to urgently approve the law to stop evictions, known as "Cristian Ferreyra".
We will continue the construction of a world where justice and solidarity prevails, and from all corners of the world we will send messages of courage to the people of the province of Santiago del Estero. Its strength is that of all the peoples who are resisting the advance of this unsustainable and unfair model.
Friends of the Earth International