[10/25/07] MST Informa #144: Crimes of Syngenta Seeds -- Out of Brazil!

Dear friend of the MST,

In this special edition we would like to share with you the struggle of Via Campesina against the transnational company Syngenta Seeds, of Switzerland, and denounce the number of crimes which this company has committed against humanity in the Brazilian territory:


On Sunday October 21st , at approximately 1:30 pm, after the reoccupation of the area, which took place in the early morning, more than 40 gunmen of a heavily armed militia organized in a fake security company called "NF Segurança", invaded the 'Acampamento Terra Livre' (Free land Camp), in an area of transgenic experiments, and openly executed our companion Valmir Mota de Oliveira, commonly known as Keno. The other injured, Gentil Couto Viera, Jonas Gomes de Queiroz, Domingos Barretos, Izabel Nascimento de Souza and Hudson Cardin, were taken to hospitals in the region. Izabel was in acoma but has recovered. Unfortunately, she lost one of her eyes due to a gunshot.

This was one more episode of indignation. Keno was one among hundreds of militants of Via Campesina who have made public, both in Brazil and internationally, the environmental crimes that Syngenta has committed. This tragedy, which took away the life of a young militant and 34 year-old father, shocked the worldwide supporters of land reform in Brazil.

This sad incident is added to the awful statistics concerning the number of deaths due to land disputes in Brazil. This has not been the first assassination of a member of the Landless Movement in the southern state of Paraná. In fact, Paraná is the in Brazil with the highest rate of violence against landless rural workers.

In 2006, 76 cases of land conflict in Paraná were registered. Between 1994 and 2002, 16 landless workers were murdered, 31 were victims of assassination attempts, 47 suffered death threats, seven were tortured and 324 were injured. To date, not a single individual allegedely involved in these crimes has been punished.

Keno and two other members of the MST, Celso Ribeiro Barbosa and Célia Lourenço, had already suffered death threats, as shown by the offense reported to the police on March 28, 2006. On several occasions, Syngenta's security personnel shot into the Olga Benário Settlement, which is located beside a farm used for genetic experiments, in order to intimidate the resident families.

In all regions of the state of Paraná, groups of large rural producers have organized themselves to restrict any attempt of land reform. In the north-western region of Paraná, the Rural Democratic Union (UDR) is the predominant actor, and is also present in various other Brazilian states. In the central-western region, the First Rural Command (PCR) is another example. In the western region, the Western Rural Society (SRO) deserves special attention. The SRO works under the leadership of the landowner Alessandro Meneghel, who also created the Rural Producer Movement (MPR) in April 2007. The aim of these initiatives is to organize heavily armed paramilitary groups to assassinate peasants and weaken social movements.


During 2006, the transnational company Syngenta Seeds cultivated experimental genetically modified crops in protected areas around the National Park of Iguaçu. This was an illegal act according to the Brazilian biosafety law, which states that no genetic experiment is allowed within 10km of natural parks and conservation areas. Syngenta's experiments had been undertaken in areas located 6km from the National Park of Iguaçu. The transnational company was fined one million Brazilian reais (around US$570,000) by the Brazilian environmental agency IBAMA; however, to date, the company has not paid the fine. The company Syngenta Seeds also makes use of the Atlantic forest national reserve, contaminating the biodiversity and producing harmful pollutants to the environment and human beings.


In November 2006 the area's property was reassigned by the decree number 7,487 of the state governor Roberto Requião (PMDB). The area should be used for the implementation of the Paraná's Reference Center on Agroecology. This center was aimed at making possible agroecological research and production for the supply of the Brazilian market. Syngenta, however, obtained in the Brazilian court the suspension of the decree as well as official land ownership of the area (127 hectares). When this decision was reached, the area had already been occupied (for the very first time) by 70 families from the Via Campesina, on March 14th 2006.


I – We urge respect for Brazilian national sovereignty. We urge Syngenta to return to its country of origin, Switzerland;

II – We demand the enforcement of the Brazilian Constitution, which guarantees the right of land cultivation for the production of healthy food, without the use of toxic substances and genetically modified plants;

III – Punishment to all who planned and carried out the assassination of our companion Keno and all workers who have been murdered;

IV – Immediate disarmament of all false security companies hired and paid by Syngenta, and linked to agribusiness;

V – Reassignment of ownership of the area in question, due to all environmental crimes and crimes of murder committed by Syngenta;

VI – Guarantee the safety and protection of the lives of our leaders Celso and Célia, as well as of all workers from Via Campesina in the region. We do not want more bloodshed in Brazil;

VII – Syngenta must pay its debt of one million reais to the Brazilian state in compensation for the environmental damages in the state of Paraná;

VIII – The peasant's struggle continues so that the area of illegal experiments, which has been used by Syngenta, becomes a Center of Agroecology for the reproduction of seeds in support of family agriculture and land reform in Brazil.

The local public authorities, the Brazilian state and judiciary power, have shown their indifference to the punishment of those criminals involved in the assassination of landless workers. This lack of action makes it possible for the murderers of Keno, Sebastião, Elias Meura, Anghinoni, Garibaldi and so many others killed in the Massacre of Camarazal (PE), Eldorado dos Carajás (PA) and Felisburgo (MG), to remain free, unpunished. In addition, the lack of action contributes to the repetition of a history of death in the Brazilian rural areas.

We appreciate the solidarity received throughout Brazil and from all continents. Our commitment and struggle continue even with all suffering and bloodshed.


Land reform: For Social Justice and People's Sovereignty!

National Secretariat - MST