Solidarity Visit to Occupied Syngenta Fields (25/3/2006)

International delegation's Solidarity Visit to Occupied Syngenta Fields
nina , 24.03.2006 14:44

[intro] On Wednesday, 22nd of March, an international delegation of people attending MOP3/COP8 and related events in Curitiba, Brazil, went to bring a solidarity visit to the illegal GM field trials on a Syngenta testing station near Iguacu National Park, currently occupied by about 600 members of the powerfull landless movement in Brazil, the Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (MST). The regional court, however, had given them time till Wednesday to leave, and in theory they could now be evicted.

International delegation Solidarity Visit to Occupied Syngenta Fields By Rowan Tilly, Helena Paul and Nina Holland

We arrived after a 7 hour bustrip straight west, to near the Paraguayan border. Close by, at about 6 km, is the world famous Iguacy National Park, with its incredible waterfalls. However, we arrived in soya land, with the familiar bare landscapes. A few hundred people were waiting for us at the gate of the former Syngenta testing station. Banners and flags were unloaded, and the whole group moved from the entrance terrain, occupied by pine trees and office buildings, to the test fields laying behind.


We came upon a circle of yellow flowers with a carpet of leaves at the centre. Four figures were poised as though frozen in time, their bodies coated in soil. Two men began to sing. Three indigenous people entered hunting with bow and arrow. They were followed by figures clothed and masked in black plastic bearing the signs "Monsanto" and "Bunge". Farmers entered speaking out but they and the hunters were quickly dispensed with. Corpses lay everywhere.

Sounds of wailing despair issued apparently out of the Earth. The frozen earth statues slowly began to weave and dance amongst the corpses. The leaves and earth trembled and stirred as though waking from a deep sleep. More earthen figures emerged from the earth and joined in the dance. Yellow corn women and green men bearing fruits entered scattering seeds and the indigenous hunters rose up to resume their hunting. Real people shook off the sloughed black plastic skins of Monsanto and Bunge to join in the dance of the Earth. This 'mistica', or spiritual performance, was accompanied by a music group.

Then, different members of Via Campesina groups from around the world (Costa Rica, Indonesia, Togo, and more) spoke about their struggle, and their solidarity with the action of MST. Other speeches were made by people of Terra de Direitos (a group of lawyers supporting MST), Greenpeace and GenetixSnowball.

Under the black plastic shelter

It started pouring down with rain, so we ran and hided under a piece of plastic, where an entire family had been living already for 9 days. They told us they were from a MST encampment about 40 km away, where they have been living in similar circumstances for 3,5 years now. As the rain clattered down on the plastic overhead, we were welcomed by a teacher, who has started a school in that MST camp. This is normal practice for the MST, who have long experience in occupying land and providing themselves with schools and clinics to meet their own needs. With him was a woman farmer, who grows her own varieties of crops to feed her family, maize, beans and a number of others whose names we could not recognise. She also keeps seed from season to seas on and expects her daughter to continue in the same way - and the girl, who looked about ten years old helped in making a list of the crops they plant. These people are accustomed to the conditions under which they are currently living as they still live under similar shelters on the land they took over, because they fear eviction at any moment. There were two other children sitting under the shelter with us.

A tour was made around the site, where everything was left intact. Under a big roof, people had made their sleeping accommodation, amidst the direct sowing machines. Then, a storage place of agrotoxics. In greenhouses, pots with and without soya plants, labelled with numbers, were still there. In another space, bags with (GM) seeds were piled up. The entire site was divided into many different plots, and it was hard to immediately see what was GM and what not.

The judge

Afterwards, we visited the justice building in nearby Cascavel. With a lot of press attention, a meeting was arranged with the judge. We crammed along narrow corridors, with members of the press and finally the press only was invited to attend the meeting with the judge, besides the organisers. After presentations by international representatives from Honduras, Indonesia, Greenpeace and the representative of Via Campesina, the smooth judge indicated quietly that there were proper recognised courses of action that one should take and that occupying the site was not one of them. Afterwards one person said that the big landowners exert too much pressure to make it easy to get justice. It is quite unlikely he will take a decision to evict, as the governor of the state of Parana is himself very unhappy with the finding of the illegal trials, and has said he will send his police forces to destroy them.

Because it is located in a protection zone of the national park, no field trials should be undertaken here. However, Syngenta maintains they got permission from the National Biosafety Council. Via Campesina has said to be of the intention to sue both the Syngenta directors and those responsible at that Council, for environmental crimes. Brazil's environmental agency Ibama has fined Syngenta with half a million dollars. However, Syngenta has announced that it is already appealing against Ibama's decision. "Consultations with lawyers showed that the definition of contention area around the park is not fixed, while Syngenta followed all the legal process correctly," a spokesman said.

The entire Syngenta testing station of around 50 hectares, is occupied by MST. Twelve hectares are grown with GM soya (probably Roundup Ready, but it is not exactly known), and half a hectare of GM maize. Especially the maize must be a big worry of farmers in the regions, because of easy cross-pollination.

Substantial parts of the state of Parana is officially 'GMO free zone', although a lot of GM soya must be transported through its territory, like the soya from Paraguay.

video, audio and pictures soon on various indymedias.

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