[5/27/10] MST Proposes Alliance with the City for Sustainable Agriculture

Nearly 30 years ago, the Movement of Landless Workers (MST) began to organize nationally with a purpose: to promote agrarian reform in Brazil. The years passed, the movement has consolidated, thousands of activists formed settlements, and the focus of the MST has expanded.

Joao Pedro Stedile, one of the national leaders of the movement, said it was time for the landless to struggle for a more fraternal and sustainable agriculture. He said the militants should now pursue different alliances, especially with the city's population, to reach two new goals: the reduction of pesticide use in crops and the end of the domination of multinational corporations on domestic agriculture.

"The MST realized that it is not enough to be against landed estates and in favor of land distribution. You also have to fight for the change of the agricultural model."
Stedile said that, currently, three or four companies with global operations dominate the national market of seeds, fertilizers and inputs. "These companies subordinate Brazilian agriculture. They control the world market, control prices and impose what they want for our agriculture."

He also said that a few companies encourage Brazilian farmers to be part of a country that consumes more pesticides than any other country in the world: 720 million liters per year. "It is impossible that this has a future. The poisons deplete soil fertility, contaminate water, or they are in foods that go into our stomach."

The interviewer is Vinicius Konchinski, Agency Brazil, and reproduced by EcoDebate, 30/04/2010.

Here's the interview.

Does the MST hope to get support from other sectors of society with this new policy of acting against the pesticides and multinationals?

We are sure that the vast majority of Brazilian society also supports this program. Already, now, in moving forward, we work with Greenpeace, with the environmental movement and the consumer sectors. Our own IDEC [Brazilian Institute for Consumer Protection] has relied on the pesticides issue.
Can this new policy help change the negative image of the MST with some segments of society?

The vast majority of Brazilian society supports us. If the MST had no support, it would have been destroyed. Now we want to go a step further. We must unite with the people of the city. Look at the situation of pesticides: who eats the products full of poisons? The poor of the city. So when do we resolve this? When the masses of the city become aware of this issue and resolve to mobilize.

Does this changing focus of attention mean the reduction of land occupations?

The protest is part of human history. Whenever an area is appropriate for occupation, where only a few live on that territory and thousands of people are without access to land, it is clear that there will be an occupation. The policy of the MST is to organize the poor to fight for their rights. In some places, it will be demonstrations. In others, occupations.
This new policy is consensus in the MST? This proposal would not be by a part of the movement that has already been settled and, therefore, does not fight for more land?

Consensus is the worst word. The consensus is stupid. In any social movement, there are different opinions. But this policy that I have expressed here is the large majority. Obviously, because of the nature of our struggle, in every region there is a group that prioritizes one aspect. If a guy is camped, he must fight to conquer the land as before other issues. If he is settled for twenty years and is facing the problem of pesticide, it is clear that the pesticide is the center of his fight.

The MST intends to submit these proposals to the presidential candidates?

We're looking to submit such proposals to all applicants, not just the president but also the state governments. From now until May, I believe that this process of discussion of the suggestions will already be completed, and when the campaign starts, we will contribute.
There are already suggestions?

Yes, we think we have to transform Conab [National Supply Company] in a large state enterprise. It must guarantee the purchase of products from the farmers and supply popular markets with quality products. We also have to control the entry of multinationals in Brazil. These days I read in the newspaper that a Chinese company wants to buy 100,000 hectares of land here. This is absurd. It cannot happen.