Two million was the number of people that demonstrated against Monsanto on May 25th, in more than 52 countries and 430 cities, all over the world. But many more followed the day’s events and protests against Monsanto, against the genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and against the corporative theft of our food. An example for the organisations who participated in the protest, is Via Campesina (International Peasant’s Movement) with over two hundred millions members and just now preparing its 6th international conference for July 2013 in Indonesia. In 20 years of existence, it is the biggest organized rural movement in history and an example of resistance to Monsanto, GMOs, and all the agribusiness corporations on the planet.
There is a lot to say about Monsanto and it’s long history as a poison producer since 1901. The organization is a classical example of greediness, corporative control, and lack of scruples. Among the many disasters in its legacy is the planet’s contamination with chemical weapons like the Orange Agent, used in the war against Vietnam where now the third generation of the population is suffering from the consequences. The corporation intentionally covered up the toxic effects of PCBs for many years including the Askarel poisonings: in Alabama, where PCBs were produced, many water resources and thousands of families are contaminated with the chemicals since more than 40 years. To increase its profit, Monsanto created genetically modified (GM) seeds, which are “addicted” to agrotoxics, and bought seed producers all over the world to eliminate competition and insurance dependency. It controls 27% of the world’s seed market (not only GM seeds) and covers more than 80% of the world’s GM seed market - an industrial monopoly without precedent in almost no industrial sector. Only Bill Gates, with Microsoft has a market share as high. But unlike computer programs, seeds are essential to life: they are the key to all food networks.
Two million people demonstrated against these circumstances and against Monsanto around the world . And this is just one example of the global rejection which extends to all other GMO companies (Syngenta, DuPont-Pioneer, Dow, Bayer, BASF).
The agency Investigative Reporter Denmark has revealed that Monsanto decided to abandon its research and development programs on new GM corn varieties in Europe (although there are still a few plantations in Spain, Portugal and Czech Republic, representing less than 1% of the European corn). Nine European countries have forbidden GM corn. Monsanto joined Syngenta, Bayer and BASF who abandoned their research and development programs for new GM potato varieties and other GM crops in Europe. The corporation’ statements on this matter were very enlightening: indeed, according to Brandon Mitchener, a top executive of Monsanto’s European Division, the company will only continue selling and producing GMOs in countries “where we have political support” and where favouring legal regulatory systems exist. Take Mexico, for instance: although the demonstrations against GMO are continuously growing, the legal regulatory system and the national government are supportive of Monsanto, even against their own population’s interest.
A press release from Food and Water Watch (May 2013) http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/pressreleases/biotech-ambassadors-diplomacy-or-marketing/, , shows that the United States spent large amounts of public funds to promote both, Monsanto and GMOs, through its embassies around the world, representatives of the ministry of agriculture (USDA), and USAID in many countries. The US government’ strategies included organizing “technical” conferences of (mis)information addressed to journalists and foreign government’s officials, applying bilateral pressure for the adoption of favourable legislations and for opening foreign markets to the multinationals.
Despite the fact that Monsanto reports great profits, the global resistance the company is facing represents a great cost, which goes far away from the financial context. Everyday, new evidence of health and environment damage is released by the press worldwide. And it becomes more and more clear that only with fraud, corruption and fake data; with bribed scientists and governments can one defend the GMOs. The GMOs are being imposed skilfully and forcefully, but the GMO companies have not been able to colonize our minds nor our hearts to favour them. And this is by far our best and most powerful weapon.
For this reason, although there are many and different resistance movements all around the globe, it is important to emphasize the historic role of Via Campesina which is celebrating twenty years of fight and organization, knocking down old myths and showing new paths. With more than 150 peasant organizations in 70 countries across Africa, Asia, Europe and America, with more than 200 million peasants, the world has never seen a peasant organization with such extension and identity. Independent from political parties and corporative interest, Via Campesina has deepened the analysis and criticism of the agribusiness through daily vision and experience of its main actors. In two decades, Via Campesina has shown us, together with its allies, that the peasants, indigenous, traditional fishermen, and family producers account for more than 70% of the world’s food production while using only 20% of the global cultivable land; as well that they are the ones who produce and take care of seeds and biodiversity, the ones that are cooling the planet against global warming that affects us all although it is mainly caused by the industrial food system and their agribusiness’ multinationals. The path to take is not easy: the intercultural and intercontinental coordination and the gender equality have been big challenges but starting from the roots, Via Campesina continues to grow giving fruits and flowers, digging furrows, sowing resistance against Monsanto and other companies that sow death. This way, Via Campesina globalizes the fight and globalizes the hope.
Published in Spanish in La Jornada, Mexico, 1st of June of 2013.
Translation: Joana Chelo and Luis Andres Yarzabal