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Paraguay - Soy expansion nightmare (30/8/2006)

1.The Development Model for Soy in Paraguay - Irresponsible, Unsustainable and Anti-Democratic
2.Paraguay: Platform for Hemispheric Hegemony
3.Peasant Family in Paraguay Condemned by Agrotoxins
4.Paraguay: Soy Expansion Triggers Repression, Eviction of Peasants

EXCERPTS

FROM ITEM 3: Apparently soy is too big a business in Paraguay for the government to attack it. The price tag of 6% of Paraguay's GDP seems to make the government blind to the fact that 20 litres of glyphosate is being used for every hectare of transgenic soy.

Silvino Talavera, then 11 years old, was fumigated with a cocktail of agrotoxins which are being used to crop Roundup Ready soybeans. The children of Petrona; Silvino, Sofia (then 13 years) and Patricia (2 years), had to be hospitalised the following days due to extreme exposure to the agrotoxins. When their condition stabilised they were able to return home, where they were then exposed to yet another fumigation from another neighbouring soy farmer. Silvino died a few days after. Traces of fenol, carbamato and glyphosate were found in his sister's blood.

FROM ITEM 2: Paraguayan sociologist Tomas Palau... considers the two effects of the soy explosion: environmental, worsening the disappearance of the last pockets of forest in the eastern region and the indiscriminate use of herbicide and pesticide; and social, that "had dramatic results in a country that was undergoing an accelerated process of impoverishment and now must attend to a massive expulsion of farming families from their lands."

It is estimated that 25% of rural Paraguayans live in absolute poverty. The country suffered, according to Palau, a triple loss of sovereignty. "It depends on the exports of a single product (soy) whose seeds will be provided by a single business (Monsanto);" it loses territorial sovereignty, seeing that large pieces of land are acquired by foreigners, especially Brazilians, the so-called "brasiguayos;" and also a loss of food sovereignty, as the monoculture substitutes the diversity of subsistence crops grown by farming families.

FROM ITEM 4: According to studies of Serpaj the worst cases of repression against farmers have taken place in areas with the highest concentration of US troops... National sovereignty, the welfare and sustainability of its population don't seem to have much value for this government as long as the agribusiness keeps filling its pocket. The next cropping season for (mainly transgenic) soy starts in September. Is this why the level of evictions is accelerating?
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1.The Development Model for Soy in Paraguay - Irresponsible, Unsustainable and Anti-Democratic
Press Release

"All monocultures are damaging to the ecosystems they supplant; they cause poverty, unemployment and the eviction and exodus of communities in rural areas. They destroy biological and agricultural diversity, poison water sources and the soil and undermine the food security and sovereignty of the people and their countries." Declaration "The Irresponsible, Unsustainable and Antidemocratic Development Model in present day Paraguay " August 2006, Asuncion, Paraguay

"The Irresponsible, Unsustainable and Antidemocratic Development Model in present day Paraguay " is the title of the Declaration launched by Paraguayan and international organisations with various backgrounds, to express their opposition to large scale soy production, considering its close connection to an agroindustrial model which is antidemocratic, excluding, irresponsible and which concentrates all the benefits in the hands of a few.

The document is signed by MCNOC (National Coordination of Peasant Organisations), FNC (National Peasant Federation), ONAC (National Peasant Organisation), CNOCIP (National Center of Indigenous and Popular Peasant Organisations), CONAMURI (National Coordination of Rural and Indigenous Women), the organisations BASE IS, SOBREVIVENCIA - Friends of the Earth Paraguay, (all of which are Paraguayan organisations); and the Global Forest Coalition and ASEED Europe,Social Equity in Environmental Decisions (UK) which continues to be an open list to be signed by others. This is an absolute rejection by these organisations of the raw material export model of soy monocultures, based on the use of massive amounts of pesticides and toxic chemicals and the dangerous introduction of genetically modified organisms. They also reject the hosting of the Second Round Table on 'Responsible' Soy, in Asuncion, Paraguay, an initiative stimulated by multinational corporations and conservationist foundations.

"Who will take responsibility for the environmental pollution caused by approximately 20 million liters of chemicals dumped on Paraguay this year?, The destruction of streams, rivers, springs and wetlands? The eviction of almost a hundred thousand small farmers from their homes and fields? The assassination of more than one hundred peasant leaders? The forced relocation and ethnocide of Indigenous Peoples and communities, the charges pressed against more than 2,000 small farmers for their legitimate resistance to this predatory system?", question the signing organisations, to come to the conclusion that "Large scale soy monocultures are NOT possible without this litany of adverse impacts".

For more information please contact:
In Europe
Javiera Rulli – GRR, Grupo Reflexion Rural Argentina
Tel. (0046) 8 42021226
javierarulli@yahoo.com
Nina Holland
Cel. (0031) 6 30285042
buen-aventura@gmx.net
In Paraguay:
[Spanish]
Julia Franco – CONAMURI, National Coordination of Rural and Indigenous Women Tel. (595 21) 490 203 Mob. (595 971) 322 100
conamuri@rieder.net.py
Beatriz Silvero - SOBREVIVENCIA, Friends of the Earth Paraguay Tel. (595 21) 480 182 Mob. (595 981) 921 850 ecolegal@sobrevivencia.org.py
Mirna Mochet – ONAC, National Peasant Organisation
Mob. (595 981) 881 442
onac@telesurf.com.py
Marcial Gomez – FNC, National Peasant Federation
Tel. (595 21) 512 384
Mob. (595 971) 984 413
fncparaguay@gmail.com
Tomas Palau - BASE IS, Social Investigations
Tel. (595 21) 451 217
tpalau@baseis.org.py
[English-Dutch]
An Maeyens - A SEED Europa, Action for Solidarity, Environment, Equality and Diversity
Tel. (595 21) 451 217
Mob. (595 981) 893 511
an@aseed.net
[Spanish-English]
Miguel Lovera – GFC, Global Forest Coalition
Cel. (595 971) 201 957
lovera2@conexion.com.py
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2.Paraguay: Platform for Hemispheric Hegemony
Written by Raul Zibechi, IRC Americas Program
Source: IRC Americas Program, 29 August 2006
http://upsidedownworld.org/main/content/view/408/1/ [EXCERPTS ONLY]

In Paraguay four powerful groups co-exist: transnational capital interests, among whom are included the soy farmers (closely linked to the U.S. corporations Cargill and Monsanto); the latifundistas or large estate owners; drug lords, who control extensive terrain where they grow marijuana and ingredients for cocaine; and the pseudo-businessmen (in Spanish, called empresaurios) that form part of or benefit the government. 8 There is no real business community, because each time that there was an industrialization process, as in the majority of South American countries, the empresaurios benefit from biased public works elicitations, contraband, and the misuse of public funds. 9

The militarization and para-militarization of the Paraguayan countryside is related to the rise of the peasant farmers' movement and the expansion of soy cultivation, which is not grown on the lands of the large landowners, but of the small farmer. Transgenic soy began expanding in the 1999-2000 agricultural season. It is the second wave of intensive agriculture; the first was in the 70s, with the entrance of Brazilian farmers that expanded the traditional soy-farming border from the southern Brazilian states. Paraguayan sociologist Tomas Palau assures that "without the availability of regulated lands, the soy borders will expand over peasant lands, converted pastures, and the rest of the country." 10 The progression of cultivated land is surprising. In 1995, 800,000 hectares of soy were cultivated; in 2003 it reached 2 million. In the same production period the yield went from 2.3 million tons to 4.5 million tons. In the same decade the extension of the cotton crops - those that sustain the small- and medium-size farmers - fell 20%, and the volume of production was cut in half.

Palau considers the two effects of the soy explosion: environmental, worsening the disappearance of the last pockets of forest in the eastern region and the indiscriminate use of herbicide and pesticide; and social, that "had dramatic results in a country that was undergoing an accelerated process of impoverishment and now must attend to a massive expulsion of farming families from their lands." It is estimated that 25% of rural Paraguayans live in absolute poverty. The country suffered, according to Palau, a triple loss of sovereignty. "It depends on the exports of a single product (soy) whose seeds will be provided by a single business (Monsanto);" it loses territorial sovereignty, seeing that large pieces of land are acquired by foreigners, especially Brazilians, the so-called "brasiguayos;" and also a loss of food sovereignty, as the monoculture substitutes the diversity of subsistence crops grown by farming families.
---

3.Peasant Family in Paraguay Condemned by Agrotoxins
Written by BASE-IS, Paraguay and GRR Argentina
Tuesday, 29 August 2006
http://upsidedownworld.org/main/content/view/412/1/

The tragedy faced by Petrona Villasboa's peasant family doesn't seem to come to an end. The family has been affected by agrotoxic contamination for more than 3 years. This time Petrona's 3 month-old grandchild is suffering from hidrocefalia. Even after 3 years of judicial battle the family is still waiting for the conviction of those responsible for the poisoning of Petrona's son.

In 2003, in the department of Itapua, Paraguay, Silvino Talavera, then 11 years old, was fumigated with a cocktail of agrotoxins which are being used to crop Roundup Ready soybeans. The children of Petrona; Silvino, Sofia (then 13 years) and Patricia (2 years), had to be hospitalised the following days due to extreme exposure to the agrotoxins. When their condition stabilised they were able to return home, where they were then exposed to yet another fumigation from another neighbouring soy farmer. Silvino died a few days after. Traces of fenol, carbamato and glyphosate were found in his sister's blood. With the support of CONAMURI, a Paraguayan organisation of peasant and indigenous women, Petrona started a court case in 2003 to try to get justice for the murder of her son and the poisoning of her entire family.

But the Talavera Villasboa family is not only suffering from toxic exposure. During the past 3 years they have been facing threats and violence that tried to silence them. Their animals have been killed and the soy producers planted a strip of eucalyptus bordering the family's land, drying it up. In May, Petrona's brother, Serapio Villasboa, was brutally murdered, stabbed eleven times. Serapio was a member of the national peasant movement, and it is suspected that his murder was one of many committed by the Civil Guards, a repressive force under the conduct of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. The Ministry is linked to the big landowners and large scale soy producers, especially focusing to prosecute peasant leaders. In the case of Silvino Talavera Villasboa, the public prosecutor refused to continue with the case, stating that the family only wants to get compensation payments out of the murder of one of their family members1.

Vidal, son of Sofia Talavera Vilasboa

Sofia, the oldest sister of Silvino, cooked the food Silvino was carrying on the day he got fumigated. Following that day her health started to deteriorate. In 2005 she suffered from chronical head- and stomach aches, nausea and loss of sight for 3 months. The 17 year-old Sofia gave birth last April to a child that looked healthy at birth, until his head volume began to increase after two months. The diagnose was HYDROCEFALI, a disease which causes the accumulation of excessive cefaloraquìdeo liquid in the brain. For the moment the child is hospitalized in the Children´s Hospital of Asunción (Paraguay' s capital) waiting for an operation to insert a valve to remove the liquid. This disease, genetic or acquired, is considered a malformation of the central nervous system. A genetic predisposition to agrotoxins might be triggered during fetus development by environmental factors like Sofia's exposure to agrotoxins.

In Mexico, health researchers the department of Nayarit discovered a causal relationship between the exposure to pesticides and genetic malformations, especially amongst women who are being exposed to agrotoxins during the first 3 months of pregnancy. The study shows that the risk on these malformations amongst women being exposed to agrochemical products is three times higher than in an non-exposed population; including the ones who live in fumigated villages, those who live close to fields where agrotoxins are used, those who have a partner working with agrochemicals and those who wash contaminated clothes2.

In Misiones, Argentina, 5 out of every 1000 children is born with meliomeningocele, a malformation of the central nervous system related to hydrocephali. The cases are more frequent in paper and tabaco producing zones, where they use agrotoxins. This problem is being transferred to the whole environment, resulting in soil degradation, air contamination and poisoning of water sources. On top of this, it is estimated that in Misiones close to 13% of the population has some form of disability, being the double of the national average3.

In Chile, this problem has sprung up in he last 15 to 20 years in the industrial forest and fruit regions, leading to one of the highest rates of genetic malformations in Latin America. The Sixth Region of Chile has seen the rapid development of industrialised agriculture, with the massive use of pesticides. Preliminary work conducted in the region suggests an association between the exposure and an increase of the prevalence of genetic malformations at birth. In Rancuaga 4.1% of the incidents of genetic malformations were registered amongst newborns, 27,65% had an agricultural background linked to the use of pesticides and 19,11% of the cases show an incidence of exposure caused by the location of the house4.

Dr. Martin of the University of Passo Fundo in Rio Grande do Sul, Brasil, realised a study on the cases of newborns whose mothers have been exposed directly to agrotoxins; finding that 38% of the malformations were neurological, of which the biggest amount corresponds to hydrocephali (44%) amongst other types like mielomenigecele, microcefalia, spina bifida and anencefalia. Soy monocultures stands out for the high incidence of malformations and neurological problems, 78% of the cases correspond to this type of monoculture while 22% is attributed to the cultivation of wheat5.

The studies presented above are just a small fraction of all the studies that show the devastating impact of agrotoxins on health. In the hospitals of Asunción, cases of children with malformation, tumours, leukemia and respiratory problems are increasing. In the Children´s Hospital, next to he grandchild of Petrona, lies another baby with hydrocephali. The child is in a very critical state after 4 operations that didn't improve its condition. The baby comes from the area around Capiata where in 2004, agrotoxins were spilled by a passing truck. A truck that was illegally transporting more than 20 thousand litres of agrotoxins (Metadof, Duron, Novafate and Novaquat) turned over and caused a spill that reached a stream and the Ypacarai lake. Thirty people were hospitalized after the accident. Six other babies were born with anencefalia (no brain) during the first months of 2006 in the community of Pirapo'i in Itapúa 100 km from Encarnación. 57 families live in this community, of which 17 live surrounded by soy, wheat and sunflower monocultures. Three of the cases of anencefalia were from these 17 families. Health personnel from this area told the press that the majority of the cases are diarrhoea, vomiting, and skin problems such as allergies, stains and boils. The Minister of Health publically denied that the cases could be attributed to agricultural fumigation, and presented the press a report by Dr. Cardozo, the person responsible for running blood tests on the affected population. But this report has never been signed by Dr. Cardozo. Meanwhile, Dr. Carrillo, from the Instituto Privado del Niño, irresponsibly suggested that what they were seeing was a generalized case of folic acid deficiency. Encarnación is commonly described as the illegal cementary for agrotoxins in Paraguay. Two illegal dumps were discovered there in February 2005. The first one included 80 drums of highly toxic insecticide, and the second one was full of empty herbicide and fungicide containers 20 kilometres from the capital6.

It looks as though, on top of the poverty caused by soy expansion in Paraguayan peasant communities, a wave of diseases is also threatening to kill them. The government keeps their eyes closed to this genocide, denying the connection between these incidents and the use of agrotoxins. Apparently soy is too big a business in Paraguay for the government to attack it. The price tag of 6% of Paraguay's GDP seems to make the government blind to the fact that 20 litres of glyphosate is being used for every hectare of transgenic soy. And glyphosate is used with even stronger agrochemicals like endosulfan, paraquat and even DDT. The more the private sector of agribusiness gains, the less budget there is for health. Paraguay is investing in the Hidrovia, a large scale infrastructure project, to facilitate the export of soy. The country is indebted and the only proposed solution to tackle the country's poverty is the World Bank's program of Swapt Debt for Health and Nature, which distributes USAID money through local NGOs. It seems that incapacity, lack of vision and impunity are the dominating characteristics of this government, which is willing to sacrifice its people to maintain the agro-export model.

The nephew of Silvino Talavera, like many newborns in Paraguay, is born with a malformation which will affect the rest of his life. His entire family has to face chronic health problems caused by agrotoxins like stomach aches, allergies, respiratory difficulty and hormonal deregulations. The soy producers responsible for the murder of the child, Herman Schelender and Alfredo Laustenlager, are still free after 3 years of juridical struggle. The case is struck in the Paraguayan Supreme Court, right where the soy lobby wants it. Unperturbed, they keep on producing transgenic soy, fumigating peasant communities and causing disease and the devastation of future generations.
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4.Paraguay: Soy Expansion Triggers Repression, Eviction of Peasants
Written by An Maeyens, A SEED Europe
Tuesday, 29 August 2006 [EXCERPT ONLY]
http://upsidedownworld.org/main/content/view/411/1/

...current president Nicanor Duarte Frutos has stated publicly that 'the capitalist soy producers' are confiding in a production project that is "selfish and excluding, and are not even capable of giving 2 hectares of land to the farmers to sow it", assuring that "Latin America doesn't need this style of economic model."8 Meanwhile he has permitted numerous operations of police and militaries repressing the demonstrations and peasant communities. Under the government of Nicanor Duarte Frutos more than 2000 peasant leaders got charged, hundreds of families mutilated and more that 15 peasant leaders were murdered9. The presence of North American troops in Paraguay has aggravated the criminalization of peasant organizations. According to studies of Serpaj the worst cases of repression against farmers have taken place in areas with the highest concentration of US troops: "The US military is advising the Paraguayan police and military about how to deal with these farmer groups…they are teaching theory as well as technical skills to Paraguayan police and military…the US troops form part of a security plan to repress the social movement in Paraguay"10. National sovereignty, the welfare and sustainability of its population don’t seem to have much value for this government as long as the agribusiness keeps filling its pocket. The next cropping season for (mainly transgenic) soy starts in September. Is this why the level of evictions is accelerating?

The events of the last weeks show that repression against the peasant movements is intensifying.

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