Brazilian society is being bombarded every day by falsified news generated by the lobbies of large, multinational companies that want to impose Genetically Modified (GM) seeds on us as though they are a necessity; a question of progress. These companies present only the alleged advantages and conceal the dangers to the public and to our national and food sovereignty. But what is really at stake?
On the one hand there are multinationals, such as Monsanto, Cargill, Bung, Du Pont, Sygenta and Bayer, with an interest in financial profits and in controlling the monopoly of these seeds. On the other, the interests of the honest farmers and of the Brazilian people. This is the real confrontation arising from the issue of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO)s.
In their ambition to gain control of Brazilian agriculture and to secure a monopoly over the seeds, in particular soya, maize, wheat, sunflower and cotton, these companies and their lobbyists are proclaiming that GMOs are more productive and more profitable than the seeds produced by their competitors. If the criterion for farming were always to favor those products that are more profitable, surely only the planting of tobacco and marijuana should be encouraged! Farmers have a responsibility to produce food. Healthy food, that is safe for the entire population.
One variety of GM maize has been eradicated in the United States because of its detrimental effects to human and animal health. As yet no study has been conducted to assess the safety of soya, and this crop may therefore also have implications for human health in the future. Furthermore, it has been proven that the necessity of combining these crops with an intensive use of the agro-toxic Roundup, will, over the years, affect the soil life and the environment. It is for this reason that for over four years legal action has been taken against Monsanto, who did not manage to present any report to support their claims that the soya which the company produces does not cause any harm to the Brazilian environment, as stipulated by the Constitution.
Of the total area of cultivated land in the world, less than 10% is used to grow GM seeds and 95% of the GMOs that are produced in the world, are produced by only three countries: the United States, Canada and Argentina, where US multinationals control the market. Why is it that all the other countries prefer to be cautious?
Throughout the world, and in particular in Europe and Asia, consumers are anti the consumption of GM products, whose health implications are uncertain. Brazilians are in favor of the use of biotechnology, and indeed farmers have been applying it pragmatically throughout the history of mankind. However, we are in favor of biotechnology that is responsible towards the public and towards the future of the environment.
If we are able to feed our people, with products cultivated from another, safer and more healthy type of seed, then why take the risk with GM products? Should we do so only for the sake of guaranteeing Monsanto`s profit margins?
Monsanto is attempting, in any way it can, to introduce GM farming to Brazil because this is its final chance. In the United States the company has lost more than one million dollars and its stocks have fallen 27% in the last year. Monsanto obtained the lowest listing on the New York Stock Exchange and yet still has the arrogance to want to charge royalties to Brazilian exporters and farmers., which were induced to commit two crimes: the illegal planting of its Roundup soya seeds, which were smuggled from Argentina. Monsanto should charge royalties to FARSUL, an entity of the "gauchos" (landowners), for distributing GM seeds!
Brazil needs legislation that will guarantee the right to protect public health and prevent multinationals from holding the monopoly over our seeds, placing national sovereignty at risk. For now, this is covered by Provisional Measure (MP) 113, which has been sanctioned by the House and which deregulates the temporary trade of Argentine soya from this year's harvest, but maintains the strict ban on the cultivation of any GM seeds for trade purposes. The government is preparing a new, definitive law to substitute the MP, which will be delivered to congress within the next month.
An in-depth debate is needed, involving all of Brazilian society: the consumers in the cities. Brazilians need to voice their opinion and put pressure on the government and members of parliament.
The US company Monsanto has been spending millions on lobbying, financing campaigns, paying for trips to delegations in the United States, publishing propaganda in the media, feeding information to journalists and commentators, simply in order to assure their own profits. We hope that the Brazilian government and members of parliament will act on the side of the people and not on the side of the US capital. This is a matter of public health and of national and food sovereignty. If the government and congress choose the wrong side they will be held accountable by history and by the people!
(Translation by ALAI)
Joao Pedro Stedile is Leader of the MST (The Brazilian Landless Workers Movement) and of the Via Campesina