[08/15/06] Support MST & Via Campesina Campaign to Turn Illegal Test Site into Center for Agroecological Research **ACT NOW**
RE: Support the MST & Via Campesina’s Campaign to Turn an Illegal Test Site
of Syngenta Seeds Corporation into a Center for Agroecological Research
Terra de Direitos, a Brazilian civil society organization, calls upon
you to take action and support the MST & Via Campesina’s occupation of an
experimental test site of Syngenta Seeds Corporation, and its campaign
to turn the test site into a school for agroecological education for
landless rural workers and small farmers.
On March 14, 2006, six hundred members of the Via Campesina social
movement occupied a test site of Syngenta Seeds in Santa Teresa do
Oeste, in the Brazilian state of Paraná, after learning that the
corporation had illegally planted 12 hectares of genetically-modified
(GMO) soy at the site. The soy was planted within the protective
boundary zone of the Iguaçu Falls National Park, which was declared the
Patrimony of Humanity by the United Nations Education, Social and
Cultural Organization in 1986. After the Brazilian Institute for the
Environment and Natural Resources (IBAMA) confirmed the illegal
planting, the Via Campesina occupied the site in order to pressure
IBAMA to fine the corporation, and to send a message to Syngenta that
it cannot flagrantly disregard Brazilian federal law, and endanger
Brazil’s biodiversity, with impunity. Today, the occupation continues
under threat of forced expulsion.
Syngenta’s illegal planting of GMO soy in Santa Teresa do Oeste is just
one of dozens of examples of flagrant disregard for environmental laws
and human rights the corporation has committed since its inception in
2000, including the largest case of genetic contamination in history.
Between 2001 and 2004, Syngenta illegally marketed and sold Bt-10 GMO
corn seeds, stating that they were Bt-11 corn seeds, which had been
approved only for animal consumption. The Bt-10 corn seeds were sold
to U.S. farmers in four U.S. states, which planted those seeds on
37,000 acres. Between 150,000 – 185,000 tons of grain from the Bt-10
corn seeds were exported for human consumption to Japan, the European
Community and South Korea. For at least four months Syngenta and US
regulatory authorities (including the USDA and USEPA) connived to keep
the contamination unknown to the public, while contaminated grain
continued to be distributed on the world market. In true form,
Syngenta publicly acknowledged the contamination only after the story
was published on the Web site of Nature magazine. This is just one
example of Syngenta’s criminal flagrancy and disregard for human and
environmental welfare; there are hundreds, if not thousands, more.
The Via Campesina’s occupation of Syngenta’s site in Paraná is a
statement to Syngenta and other agribusiness multinationals that the
Brazilian rural poor will no longer allow these corporations to break
federal laws and endanger biodiversity with impunity. It has
demonstrated to Brazilian society the crimes committed by agribusiness
multinationals against Brazil’s biodiversity. IBAMA has fined the
corporation about $500,000 – which Syngenta has so far refused to pay.
The corporation is now threatening to divest from Brazil, estimating
that it has already lost US$1.5 million due to the occupation.
According to Pedro Rugeroni, head of Syngenta’s operations in Brazil,
the company faces a potential loss of US$50 million due to the
The Via Campesina’s occupation of Syngenta’s experimental site has
helped secure land and resources for landless families in the region
that are struggling to survive. About one hundred families remain at
the site, now called ‘Terra Livre’ or ‘Free Land,’ and have begun
cultivating traditional foods under MST banners. In June, a regional workshop on
agroecology, with participants from various social movements in the
region, was realized at the site, during which 3,000 seedlings of
native trees were planted.
The Via Campesina is campaigning to have the site expropriated from
Syngenta by the government in order to turn it into a Center for
Agroecological Research and education for landless rural workers and
small farmers. This school will enhance these movements’ efforts to
spread agroecological production throughout Latin America. The Via
Campesina envisions that the site will also become a seed bank for the
production and storage of native seed varietals.
In response, Syngenta is currently launching an intense media campaign
against the landless families occupying the site, and is using its
political clout to call upon Roberto Requião, Governor of the State of
Paraná, to forcibly expel the families with police force. Requião has
yet to respond to the request. Terra de Direitos therefore calls upon
you to take action right away and support the Via Campesina.
You can help by sending the attached message, via email, in support of
the Via Campesina's occupation of Syngenta Seeds to Roberto Requião,
telling him that you support the occupation and that you want him to
use his political and economic power to expropriate the land in order
to found a Center for Agroecological Research.
1. Cut and paste the letter [SEE BELOW] of support into a new email,
insert you and/or your organization's name into the highlighted areas,
then sign it at the bottom.
2. Address the email to Governor Roberto Requião at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Insert email@example.com in the ‘CC’ line
so that Terra de Direitos can track this effort. You can also fax the
letter to: 55.41.3350.2535
3. Write "Transforme o Campo Experimental da Syngenta em uma Escola da