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By Paco Puche
The urgent warning that must be given to the resistance movements in this war of the seeds, and in the face of a situation as serious as the one described here is that, while the entities mentioned here (CIFAES, Universidad Rural Paolo Freire and Tejiendo Redes), with contracts and commitments with the foundations linked to Monsanto, Gates and Nestlé, via AVINA and Ashoka, do not publicly and unequivocally dissociate themselves from these alliances demonstrated here, I say that social movements do not collaborate with them; especially in projects that have to do with the tasks of seed recovery or construction of community banks "in situ". The precautionary principle advises this distrust: "we must stop the theft of seeds."
Between 60 to 80% of the agricultural population lives in small production units ... It is from these peasants that multinationals want to steal the plants that can be patented - Silvia Pérez-Vitoria, 2010 (1)
Today we are victims of a war for control of seeds. Our agriculture is threatened by industries that try to control our seeds by all possible means - Via Campesina, 2011 (2)
Seed theft is a great threat that must be stopped - Vandana Shiva, 2011 (3)
The resistance movements to the multinational agri-food companies (seeds, transgenics, pesticides, processing industries, water, etc.) have it very clear: seeds are the basis of food and food sovereignty of peoples, for What a strategic objective of first importance for these movements is placed in the fight against these multinationals, a few companies that control commercial seeds in the world, among other things.
Seeds, peasants and peasants
The seeds are the reality and the symbol of the promise of a new life. They maintain the link between the life preserved and the life to come. They are the strong link in the fabric of life. They constitute the great metaphor of creation.
“That is why they are much more than a productive resource, they are simultaneously the foundation and product of cultures and societies throughout history. In the seeds, values, affections, visions and ways of life are incorporated that link them to the realm of the sacred ... They are not appropriable ..., they are a heritage of the peasant and indigenous peoples, who create, diversify and protect them over time and we put them at the service of humanity. " (4)
Agricultural industrialization, which seems so natural to us in the West through agribusiness, is not the rule but the exception:
“There are 1,500 million peasants in 380 million farms, ranches, farms, parcels; 800 million more grow in cities; 410 million collect the hidden harvest of our forests and savannas; there are 190 million pastoralists and well over 100 million peasant fishermen. At least 370 million of all of them belong to indigenous peoples. Together, these peasants make up almost half of the world's population and grow at least 70 percent of the planet's food. Better than anyone, they feed the hungry. In the future, to feed ourselves, we need them and all their diversity ”(5). We can roughly say that the current farming systems in the most industrialized countries feed about 1.2 billion people, the agriculture of the “green revolution” in the South about 2.5 billion, and subsistence or peasant agriculture another 2.2 billion. of people in the world. The billions of undernourished do their best.
But historically we also know that the technological changes introduced in agriculture during thousands of years, from the Neolithic to the industrial era, were carried out by peasants (and indigenous people) who knew how to innovate by adapting to different ecosystems. The American F.H. King, in a trip he made at the beginning of the 20th century to the Asian continent, observed “that non-industrial systems allowed to feed 500 million human beings in an area smaller than the entire agricultural area of the United States and on soils that had been used for about 4,000 years ”(6).
During that time, which constitutes most of the history of agriculture, peasants and mainly peasant women worked to improve yields, taste, nutritional value and adaptation to local ecosystems, starting from their traditional seeds. Historically, conservation, replanting and free exchange of seeds have been the foundation of biodiversity and food security. This peasant exchange also included a diffusion of inherited knowledge, ideas, customs and cultures. “Today the diversity and future of seeds is threatened. Out of 8,000 edible plants used for food, only 150 are currently cultivated and no more than eight are traded worldwide. This implies the irreversible disappearance of seeds and crop diversity ”(7). And according to data from the Convention on Biological Diversity, only fifteen varieties of crops and eight varieties of animals represent 90% of our diet.
Seeds and multinationals
The alternative group ETC (Erosion, Technology and Concentration Action Group, of Canadian origin) warns us that “the top 10 companies control two-thirds of the world market for patented seeds. The world's largest seed company, Monsanto, has nearly a quarter of the world market for patented seeds. Together, the top 3 companies (Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta), have almost half of the world market for patented seeds ”. The following table allows us to see a detailed vision of the agri-food oligopoly:
The 10 largest companies on the planet according to their participation in the world market by sectors
Regarding intellectual property, only Monsanto, DuPont and BASF accumulate 66% of all patents, both granted and requested in the world's patent offices, between 2008 and 2010, related to resistance to the climate crisis. (8)
Furthermore, in the last twenty years there has been a vertical integration on the part of the corporations of all the agri-food sectors. They incorporate large segments of the food chain or all of it into their processes, from seed design and trade to distribution and retail, including infiltration of social resistance movements. This integration, which is under their direct control, is achieved primarily through contracts. They are also made larger by mergers or acquisitions, for example Cargill, in 1998 acquired Continental, a large grain trading company, and became the largest agricultural export goods trader in the world. It multiplied its turnover by six times in the last ten years (9).
Despite this, most seeds are not sown for business purposes. Most of the peasants are not part of this corporate system, most of the people do not feed on this system. And although this concentration has grown enormously in the last twenty years, still 85% of the food produced is consumed in the same ecological region or at least within national borders, most of it is grown outside the reach of the chain of multinationals and, likewise, most of this food is obtained from peasant varieties, without using the chemical fertilizers promoted by the industrial chain (10). Not all is lost, far from it.
Therefore, by means of norms and laws, an attempt is made to deprive the peoples of their ability to maintain, reproduce, improve and exchange seeds as they have always done. GRAIN (11) points out: “It is not easy for States to implement these laws because there are many people they have to control: people who have been resisting, fighting and producing food for centuries. Therefore these laws, despite how terrible they are, are still just paper and letter and will continue to be so as long as we continue to produce food independently. The fight is going to be tough, but on the other hand we must not forget that the attack is that fierce and implacable because the ability that the peasant and indigenous peoples of the world have today to continue producing food is extremely important. If the food produced by peasant and indigenous peoples were marginal, these laws would not be needed. That is why today it is more important than ever to maintain our own seeds and all the collective systems that allow that seed to stay alive and keep walking ”. The attack will continue to be fierce and by all means within the reach of multinationals, because the business promise of this strategic sector is greater than that of oil and automobiles combined.
This must be the case, for example, in the face of regulations such as those introduced in Colombia in 2010, which require authorization to save seeds and reseed them, or allow administrative inspection by authorized officials, word has spread that hide the seeds to hide them from the gene police. This is reminiscent of the dystopia invented by Bradbury, in his novel "Fahrenheit 451", in which each resistant would have to memorize a book, one of the immortal works written by humanity, only now they would be clandestine seeds of self-produced or exchanged local varieties, jealously guarded by each peasant.
The same happens in Mexico, where from the Seed Law of 2007 all seeds have to be of their own production or purchased, there is no other alternative, that means that exchanging or giving away seeds is illegal. Chile has also just approved (in the Senate, and later ratified by the Constitutional Court on June 24) the country's adherence to the UPOV 91 Convention (International Organization for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants, which seeks to protect intellectual property ) which, according to the opponents of this law, “restricts and prohibits the use, maintenance, multiplication and exchange of seeds. With this, it privatizes a naturally common good, which is expressly prohibited by the Chilean Constitution ”(12). According to the UPOV 91 Convention, a plant that does not circulate in general commerce or does not appear in an official register can be considered new or different and patented. In Europe we are also witnessing a rampant privatization of conventional seeds. Next October, the European Patent Office (EPO) in Munich will issue the final ruling on patents on broccoli and on tomatoes that cover seeds, plants and food obtained through conventional crops. It is not transgenic. There is a disturbing precedent and that is that in March of this year the EPO granted Monsanto a patent on melons obtained through conventional crops. If these patents continue to be granted, companies like Monsanto will not only have control of transgenic seeds but also normal crops and offspring.
Seeds and social movements
One of the most widespread and recommended means of acting as “guardians of seeds” is community seed banks “in situ”, that is to say on the ground or close to the local ecosystem conditions with which they have co-evolved. And also the one to continue with the exchange of seeds and the improvement tests to maintain this practice, which has given such good results to humanity: the one to put in common those communal goods by nature, which is also a work community and knowledge. A more ambitious order of things to follow the proposal of Silvia Pérez Victoria: the return of the peasants as an opportunity for our survival, as it has been developed in the book of the same name, recently published, outlined below.
The support of peasant social movements (such as Via Campesina and the Brazilian MST) and of other movements, such as the ecologist or those in collaboration with impoverished countries, are of the utmost importance in this war situation.
That is why, while they are necessary and essential, they are also the object of desire in this war of multinationals for seeds: they try to infiltrate them, extract information and seeds, take advantage of them to do business and try to divide them from within. As GRAIN says, one of these very active movements, “corporations use all their power to expand monocultures, they try to end peasant seed systems and they have managed to sneak into local markets” (13).
According to FAO (14) “the local diversity of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture found in agricultural fields or“ in situ ”is still, to a large extent, poorly documented and managed. Today, there is a growing awareness of the importance of this diversity and its contribution to local food security ... much of the diversity has yet to be guaranteed for use in the present and the future, in particular plant diversity wild relatives of cultivated plants and underutilized species important for food and agriculture. " For this reason, entry into the local world is essential for multinationals where a large part of the diversity of local and traditional varieties continues to be kept and where their access is clearly very difficult, due to the secular resistance mentioned above. And for this, the multinationals try to penetrate them disguised as solidarity.
Seeds and the urgent warning to the social movements of resistance
According to Gustavo Duch and Fernando Fernández (15), well-known agroecological activists, “at the moment there are a series of programs to develop a second round of the Green revolution, now in Africa. Headed by a group of large corporations and foundations such as Gates or Rockefeller, a series of projects are propagated that will favor the installation of these companies in Africa, where they will be able to expand their businesses and their market, displacing national public systems (…). The participation of charitable foundations like Gates is still worrying and distorting. Only in the month of September 2010, Gates has donated 8 million dollars to favor the entry of Cargill and its soybeans in Africa; and has invested 23.1 million dollars in Monsanto ”. This project has been baptized with the name of AGRA.
But there are more, also almost the same actors, Gates, Rockefeller and Monsanto, together with Syngenta, the Norwegian Government and other governments have created in 2008 what has come to be called "The end of the world seed vault", which is a large bank of seeds and plant genetic resources installed in the Arctic, on an island in the Svalbard archipelago. The “vault” has the capacity to store 4.5 million samples of different seeds, each sample has an average of 500 seeds. They keep more than seven thousand species of plants that have historically been used in the human diet.
But according to its critics, “under this apparently altruistic initiative the food and cultural sovereignty of humanity is at stake, since the possibilities of these seeds being cloned, genetically modified and patented leads to the appropriation of the sponsors of said vault of the future foods of the world. Faced with such a threat, the only viable alternative is for the peasants of the world to collect their own seeds and constitute banks of life, as part of the peoples' food sovereignty ”(16)
There's still more. These foundations and large capital companies, for the AGRA program and others like it, have joined two other foundations from philanthro-capitalism, dedicated to penetrating social movements of resistance (in addition to trying to do more business): these are the well known in Spain and Latin America as AVINA and Ashoka. The first comes from tycoon Stephan Schmidheiny, whose fortune has been made in the criminal asbestos business; and the second is sponsored by large companies (JP Morgan, Mc Kinsey, etc.) and the American State Department. AVINA and Ashoka have had a strategic alliance for more than fifteen years. They share leaders, projects, funding, ideology, etc. They go hand in hand.
Regarding the issue of seeds, it is necessary to highlight, first, the presence of Gustavo Grocopatel, the Argentine called the "king of transgenic soybeans" in his country, who is a prominent member of AVINA. Likewise, the presidency of the foundation falls to Biondi-Morra, from the multinational DuPont, one of the largest seed companies in the world. The founder Stephan Schmidheiny was also a director of the multinational Nestlé. On the other hand, the renowned neoliberal economist Hernando de Soto is a member of the highest level of Ashoka. The Association that de Soto directs obtained from the Canary and Spanish governments, in recent years, a grant of 700,000 euros (sic) to make a pre-diagnosis of the situation of the informal economy in Senegal, Mali, Niger and Cape Verde, with a view to to convert common property into private property. Spain serves as a bridge for the conquest of Africa with transgenic seeds.
Secondly, we must highlight the alliance between Ashoka and the Gates Foundation in 2009, for Africa and India, estimated at 15 million dollars and aimed at “choosing more than 90 social entrepreneurs who will disseminate promising innovations to help them overcome poverty. to small farmers ”, that is for the AGRA program and for the End of the World Seed Vault.
How do these two foundations of philanthro-capitalism act in Spain, with a view to the war of seeds? As expected, they act as “Trojan horses” in the resistance organizations: they co-opt their leaders, advise them, contract with them image rights and other obligations, finance them, facilitate trips, meetings, etc. and they engage the organizations they represent. The co-opted ones play the role of overturning all the prestige of the organizations that coordinate in granting legitimacy to these foundations of big capital, against, of course, the discourse that they maintain in their usual instances that are usually anti-capitalist, agro-ecological and food sovereignty.
For example, the AVINA foundation financed in 2001 and 2002 a seed recovery project for the entity called C.I.F.A.E.S., an organization linked to the Amayuelas de Abajo project (Palencia). It consisted in the "search for information on local varieties in the central area, exploration of the region, and collection of material for the start-up of a seed bank." The project stopped when AVINA's financing ended, “pending a new search for financing” as recognized by the recipients of the aid. But when AVINA finances, it does so under contract. Thus, in the entity's report for the year 2001, it can be read: "once the project has been approved, the contract is signed that seals the" joint venture "to which both parties are committed". So in the case of this type of large capital foundations, with interests in the agri-food sector, the information obtained and, perhaps, some samples of seeds are already in the hands of multinational companies in the field, or in the "vault of the end of the world ", Why not? Until the contract is made public, suspicion may well be maintained.
These foundations do not leave their partners, they have the vocation to make life contracts and keep the co-opted in their networks. Thus, we again found AVINA in Amayuelas in June 2003, in a meeting of an association called “Weaving networks”, which supports the AVINA foundation, and which serves as a bridge between the partners in Spain and Latin America.
AVINA appears again, in 2001 and 2003, through the same spaces financing the start-up of the Paolo Freire Rural University, one of whose promoters and technical coordinator is Jerónimo Aguado, from Amayuelas.
In 2007, Ashoka took over, co-opting, through a tough selection, Jerónimo Aguado himself as an Ashoka entrepreneur. For three years they have given him a monthly salary or scholarship of about € 1,500, which they say has served to consolidate the Paolo Freire Rural University in Amayuelas.
It so happens that Jerónimo Aguado has been President of the Rural Platform since its foundation, more than fifteen years ago. The aforementioned Platform is dedicated to the fight against transgenics and the promotion of food sovereignty in society, and as a coordinator it is made up of many organizations that profess the same philosophy.
As you can see, the penetration of Avina and Ashoka in the alternative movements that sincerely and vigorously fight against transgenics and for food sovereignty, has been well completed. They are infiltrated like a Grüyere cheese.
If you go to the Ashoka page, you can see how not only the selected entrepreneur, Jerónimo Aguado, is linked to this foundation, but also the CIFAES organizations and the Paolo Freire Rural University, as if they were entities also linked to Ashoka. They appear with enough ambiguity, just in case the partners of these organizations occur to submit claims to the Ashoka foundation. Unless your presence in the company of Ashoka has been previously approved by the assemblies of partners of these entities.
What can be deduced from all this? That the war that is being waged around the world for the control of seeds and food has its corresponding chapter in what we have called "infiltration in the social movements of resistance", in this case those that propose food sovereignty. These are not merely personal issues, but structural. Due to the good faith and good work that the components of these resistance organizations have, part of their task is at the service of those entities they fight. In other words, the fight against Monsanto, and what this multinational represents, is fought favoring it and in a strategic alliance with itself (sic). But the squaring of the circle is not possible. Therefore, ethically and politically, these more or less conscious alliances with multinationals that want to steal our seeds are not admissible. And these collaborating entities of Monsanto and company, via Ashoka, lack credibility as long as the current conditions are maintained, no matter how much they proclaim the great words of "A LIVING RURAL WORLD" and "FOOD SOVEREIGNTY" in all the forums they attend.
Speaking of big words, we must also warn about another foundation called Triptolemos, chaired by the mediatic Federico Mayor Zaragoza, who, dedicated to food, affirms that “it is born from a unitary and global vision of the food system. (and) Collaborates in the optimization and articulation of its operation, so that it benefits the availability and quality of food, and in confidence ”. In order to generate this trust, it counts Nestlé, Danone and others among its partners. Again a character who passes for progressive appears permanently allied with the great capital of industrial food. As he is also in favor of transgenic seeds, the precautionary principle of mistrust must be applied to this foundation.
The urgent warning that must be given to the resistance movements in this war of the seeds, and in the face of a situation as serious as the one described here is that, while the entities mentioned here (CIFAES, Universidad Rural Paolo Freire and Tejiendo Redes), with contracts and commitments with foundations linked to Monsanto, Gates and Nestlé, via AVINA and Ashoka, do not publicly and unequivocally dissociate themselves from these alliances shown here (and disappear, for example, from Ashoka's pages), I say that social movements do not collaborate with them; especially in projects that have to do with the tasks of seed recovery or construction of community banks "in situ". This is the case that is currently taking place with the Paolo Freire Rural University, which is proposing initiatives of this type in different regions of the country. Although it is not certain that the information will be passed on to the "enemy", the precautionary principle advises this mistrust: "we must stop the theft of seeds."
Nor does it make sense that the pool of anti-transgenic movements and for food sovereignty that the Rural Platform represents, is chaired since the dawn of time by someone committed to the foundations of big capital mentioned. For this reason, from some instances, the resignation of such position has already been requested.
We finished with the diagnosis made by Via Campesina last March in Bali on the state of the seed issue. They say: "The Rio + 10 process leads to a clear confrontation between capitalism disguised as green and peasant agriculture, agroecology and our peasant seeds."
And with the recommendation of the GRAIN group: “In the last twenty years there has been a huge increase in agribusiness. If humanity is going to survive with any dignity on this planet, the next twenty years we must eradicate them ”(17).
Paco puche - Spain - September, 2011
Notes and references:
(1) Pérez-Vitoria, S. (2010), The return of the peasants, An opportunity for our survival Icaria, p.103.
(2) Via Campesina (2011) “Bali declaration on seeds” March 16, 2011, consulted at https://www.ecoportal.net/Temas_Especiales/Biodiversidad/Bali_declaracion_sobre_semillas
(3) Shiva, V. (2011), "The theft of seeds by Corporations", 29.4. 2011
(4) CLOC-Vía Campesina (2010), “Final document of the seed campaign meeting”, Quito, October 2010, viewed at: http://www.grain.org/…
(5) ETC Group (2010), “Who feeds the world”, Biodiversity, April 2010, consulted at: http://www.grain.org/article/entries/4110-quien-alimenta-al-mundo
(6) Pérez-Vitoria (2010), o.c. p. 76
(7) Vandana Shiva, Martini, Altieri and others (2006) "Manifesto on the future of seeds", by the International Commission for the Future of Food and Agriculture, consulted at: http: //www.agroeco. org /…
(8) ETC Group (2011), “Hunting for climate genes”, viewed at: http://www.etcgroup.org/…
(9) Ironies of fate, the aforementioned multinational has reached an agreement (joint venture), at 50%, with the company Hojiblanca from the Antequera region (Malaga) for the commercialization of good olive oil from that area. One of the bottling and distribution warehouses has been installed by the multinational in what was once the Casería Eslava, my family's farm and the place where I used to frequent until the age of 17 in summer, participating on my scale in the tasks of the field, in that time when we were still out of the “green revolution”. Wheat, barley and corn were grown there with some orchards and fruit trees, combined with livestock for labor and consumption. All ecological.
(10) ETC Group (2010), or. c.
(11) GRAIN (2010), “Laws to end independent agriculture”, Biodiversity, April 2010, viewed at: http://www.grain.org/…
(12) From the statement of Camila Montesinos, GRAIN researcher, before the Constitutional Court of Chile, June 2011
(13) GRAIN (2010), “Twenty years in which agro-industries have devastated food systems”, Biodiversity, October 2010, viewed at: http://www.grain.org/…
(14) FAO (2009), “Second report on the state of the world's plant genetic resources for food and agriculture”, viewed at: http://www.fao.org/…
(15) Duch, G. and Fernández, F. (2010), “The agroindustry under suspicion”, consulted at: http://www.fespinal.com/… p.15
(16) Gómez Álvarez, L. and Henao, A. (2011), “The business of hunger and food sovereignty”, Biodiversity Magazine in Latin America and the Caribbean, August 12, 2011, consulted at: http: / /biodiversidadla.org/…
(17) GRAIN (2010), o.c.