Via Campesina occupation of Syngenta - Update
from Darcy Frigo, Coordinator, Terra de Direitos, Curitiba, Brazil
Thank you to everyone who made the effort to mail a letter in support of the Via Campesina's occupation of Syngenta Seeds' experimental test site in Santa Teresa do Oeste, Paran, Brazil, to Governor Roberto Requiao. The Via Campesina, an international movement of peasant social movements, and Terra de Direitos, a Brazilian human rights NGO, appreciate your efforts.
Syngenta is one the largest multinational agribusiness corporations in the world, and in 2005, realized profits of US$ 8.1 billion. Syngenta has a long history of human rights abuses, environmental contamination and illegal activities, including the largest case of genetic contamination in history (for an in-depth report on Syngenta's history and crimes, please see the attached document written by Terra de Direitos).
The occupation occurred on the 14th of March, 2006, after the Via Campesina learned that Syngenta had illegally planted genetically modified (GMO) soy at the site, situated within a protected boundary zone of the IguaÁu Falls National Park, which was declared the Patrimony of Humanity by the United Nations in 1986. This occupation is a non-violent method for Brazil's rural poor and disenfranchised to demand that Brazil's natural resources be used to produce food and livelihoods for Brazilians - not to enrich the coffers of Syngenta's shareholders.
Under Brazilian law, in Article 186 of Brazil's constitution, land in Brazil must fulfill a social function. The Via Campesina argues that the land at Syngenta's experimental site was not fulfilling its social function because profits generated at the site do not go to the Brazilian people; they go to shareholders in the Global North. Additionally, Syngenta's illegal planting of GMO soy endangered Brazil's biodiversity, which can be viewed as a human rights abuse because it threatens traditional food sources and livelihoods. The Via Campesina occupied the land to demand that Governor Requiao expropriate the land and put it to a use that will fulfill its social function through the creation of a school for agroecology for small, rural farmers.
Thanks to your letters to Governor Requiao, the Via Campesina occupants remain at the site, protecting Brazil's biodiversity, demanding that their rights be respected - and costing Syngenta lots of money.
Syngenta is threatening to divest from the country, and continues to refuse to pay the $500,000 that the federal environmental agency has fined the corporation. Syngenta is also stepping up the pressure on Requiao to expel the occupants. In an attempt to criminalize the Via Campesina, this week Syngenta's lawyers in Brazil (the same lawyers that represent Monsanto) filed a police inquiry against six Via Campesina members, including the state leader of the Movement of the Landless Rural Workers (MST). Syngenta is also trying to compel a state judge on the side of agribusiness to fine Requiao US$10 million for each day that the occupation continues. To his credit, Requiao has so far not expelled the occupants.
We are stepping up the pressure on Syngenta by asking you please send the... letter [below] to Pedro Rugeroni, the head of Syngenta in Brazil, as well as Syngenta's Board Members in Switzerland. This letter (in English) declares support for the Via Campesinaís occupation, demands that Syngenta pay the government's fine and obey federal environmental regulations, and that Syngenta stop criminalizing the Via Campesina and MST. It is important that these individuals understand that people and organizations outside of Brazil are aware of what is going on in the country.
To send the letter:
1. Cut and paste the... letter [below] into a blank email, inserting your name or the name of your organization into the highlighted areas.
2. Cut and paste this email into the 'address' line: [email protected]
3. Cut and paste these emails into the 'cc' line: [email protected] [email protected] [email protected] [email protected] [email protected] [email protected] [email protected] [email protected] [email protected] [email protected] [email protected]
4. Put [email protected] into the 'bcc' line so that Terra de Direitos can track this effort.
5. Hit send.
In advance, thank you for taking the time and effort to do this! It is very important!
Darcy Frigo, Coordinator
Terra de Direitos
Attention Mr. Rugeroni,
I, (insert name/organization here), write to you to declare that I support the Via Campesina's occupation of Syngenta Seeds in Santa Teresa do Oeste, in the state of Parana. The Via Campesina occupied the site after the federal government confirmed that Syngenta had illegally planted transgenic soy at the site.
Mr. Rugeroni, I am aware that Syngenta broke Brazilian federal environmental law by planting transgenic soy within the boundary area of the Iguaçu Falls National Park. Your corporation has endangered Brazilian biodiversity, and threatened the livelihoods of the rural poor. For this, I demand that you immediately pay the Brazilian Institute for the Environment (IBAMA) the fine that it has demanded. I also demand that Syngenta obey Brazil's federal environmental laws in the future.
I also demand that Syngenta immediately cease the criminalization of the Via Campesina and Movement of the Landless Rural Workers (MST) by retracting the criminal investigation you instigated this week. Under Article 184 in the Brazilian constitution, land in Brazil must serve its social function, and the land at Syngenta's experimental test site was not serving its social function. Thus, I believe the occupation of Syngenta is legal and just.
Thank you for your attention.
(insert name/organization here)
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