Monsanto in retreat: movement from the grassroots
Due to social pressure, the transnational had to abandon the construction of one of the biggest factories in the world for producing GMO seed that was to be installed in Argentina.
Since August 1st, the news is spreading that Monsanto had to abandon the construction of one of the biggest factories in the world for producing transgenic seed that was to be installed in Córdoba, Argentina, in the municipality of Malvinas Argentinas. From there they had planned to distribute seeds to Latin America and beyond. This is an occurrence of enormous importance, that the company has not wanted to admit publicly, because the reason for their exit is the persistent popular resistance from neighbourhoods, youths and mothers, who have blocked the factory since 2013.
This victory is meaningful, not only for the struggle of this town of 12,000 inhabitants, but also for the whole world, for the many people’s struggles from the grassroots confronting interests that appear gigantic and impossible to defeat. It is a brake on the poisons of the biggest transnational seed company, the most resisted on this planet; moreover it is a message of support for those who struggle for the defence of their territories and communities, both urban and rural, for their lives and those of their offspring, against the dominant logic that tries to convince us that such struggles are impossible.
The first news was transmitted by the Blockade Assembly in Malvinas last August 1, when the Astori Estructuras company came to dismantle the installations of Monsanto (http://tinyurt.com/i28T82f). Two days later, an article in Profesional indicated that sources of the transnational explained that they were leaving because of a reduction of the area dedicated to the culture of maize in the country and, given the protests of the neighbourhood, it was no longer profitable to continue building the plant. Monsanto has another factory for the production of transgenic seeds in Rojas, in the province of Buenos Aires, and with this they now say that a second factory is no longer necessary, although in 2012 they had declared that they would be making an investment of 1,500 million dollars.
Vanesa Sarton, a local member of the Assembly Malvinas Lucha por la Vida (Struggle for Life), declared to the portal lavaca.org that the argument of reduced production is merely formal, "an elegant way out" for the transnational Monsanto that could not publicly admit that ordinary people, local residents, young people and mothers organized against agri-toxins, have been able to defeat the biggest transnational seed company on the planet.
Although Vanesa notes that they are still awaiting final confirmation, she adds that "Malvinas has become an icon of resistance. It demonstrates that people can organize, and even though it had appeared that everything was ready, closed and sealed, these decisions can be overcome. If the people organize, it can happen.” (http://ltnyurl.com/imkbddh)
The struggle against Monsanto in this locality began immediately after the official announcement of the factory in 2012. The blockade, with a campsite that was maintained for nearly three years through the cold, heat, wind and rain, was installed at the end of the festival "Spring without Monsanto" in September of 2013. Local residents from the region, youths and mothers from Ituzaingó -- a neighbourhood of Córdoba affected by agri-toxins from the planting of GMOs, where many have lost children and other family members due to cancer -- have been at the heart of the resistance that grew to national and international levels, supported as well by medical doctors and critical scientists. They have suffered attacks and constant threats. The route has not been exempt from conflicts and internal divisions, as so often happens in struggles, but the efforts are bearing fruits.
In the festival of 2013, informing and accompanying the local people to install the blockade was the scientist Andrés Carrasco (who died in 2014), who denounced the effects of glyphosate and GMOs on health, for which he was strongly attacked by businesses and big agricultural associations. Mothers and neighbours recall him and dedicate this moment to him.
The news of the closure began to circulate on August 1, on a widespread day of protest against a new law on seeds, known as the "Monsanto law". It had been called by a broad coordination of campesina organizations, social groups, unions, environmentalists and neighbourhoods. Carlos Vicente, of Grain, Argentina, recalls that this law, that is now being presented to Congress, was announced by the Argentine government in 2012 at the same time as the new Monsanto plant in Córdoba, clearly as a requirement of the transnationals. The new law proposes to eliminate and criminalize the right of farmers to keep their own seed for the following harvest. As if this were a concession rather than a robbery, Syngenta has proposed creating a "social soy tariff" for small-scale farmers (http://tinyurl.com/h65aqop).
Adding to the reversal in Córdoba and to the resistance to this "Monsanto law", the company is involved in another confrontation in Argentina, exceptional in the world, in the Supreme Court of the Nation: the rejection in the courts in May of 2016 of a patent for a methodology for making transgenic seeds (http://tinyurl.comjx5apf9). The sentence questions whether the modification of the DNA of a plant allows the companies to appropriate the whole plant, which is not an "invention" but a work of nature and campesino labour. There is considerable social mobilization in support of this sentence, which would be the first time that a judicial sentence denies Monsanto a patent on genetically modified seeds.
In Mexico too, for three years there has been a collective lawsuit against transnationals that has suspended the sowing of transgenic maize. And also there and in many other areas the grassroots networks continue resisting and constructing, to make possible what seemed impossible,
(Translated for ALAI by Jordan Bishop)
- Silvia Ribeiro is a researcher for the ETC Group.
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