Tensions rise over GM soya production
2.WWF still accomplice to greenwashing
NOTE: Welcome to the nightmare world of GM soya.
EXTRACTS: The leaders of the associations organising the protest are demanding a stop to land occupations by groups of small farmers, who have especially targeted large-scale producers of transgenic soybeans.
Alto Parana in the southeast has the largest number of Brazilian soybean producers, who are opposed by small farmers because of the indiscriminate use of toxic agrochemicals, which have caused death and illness among children and adults, water pollution, destruction of ecosystems and loss of traditional food resources in rural communities, according to the U.N. Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Geneva.
TAKE ACTION: Tell WWF to stop legitimating this nightmare:
See item 2 for more info.
1.PARAGUAY: Rural Associations Protest Land Occupations
By Natalia Ruiz DÃaz
IPS, Dec 15 2008
ASUNCION - Agribusiness and landowners’ associations in Paraguay began two days of demonstrations around the country Monday, demanding a stop to invasions of large estates by landless farmers.
The measure drew fire from social organisations, especially small farmers’ associations.
The landowners parked tractors and other agricultural machinery along the sides of roads early Monday morning, mainly in the farming departments (provinces) of San Pedro in central Paraguay and ItapÃºa and Alto ParanÃ¡ in the southeast.
The call for the demonstration was issued several weeks ago by the Coordinadora AgrÃcola del Paraguay (CAP), which was joined by two other rural associations, the UniÃ³n de Gremios de la ProducciÃ³n (UGP) and the AsociaciÃ³n Rural de Paraguay (ARP), as well as the FederaciÃ³n de la ProducciÃ³n, la Industria y el Comercio (FEPRINCO), a trade and industrial association.
The organisers hope to line at least 1,000 km of roads with their machinery at some 60 spots in the country’s most productive agricultural areas, although the so-called "tractorazo" will not include roadblocks.
The leaders of the associations organising the protest are demanding a stop to land occupations by groups of small farmers, who have especially targeted large-scale producers of transgenic soybeans.
"Violence is not the route for solving the country’s problems," said UGP president Héctor Cristaldo, speaking along the highway that runs between the towns of Hernandarias and Salto del GuairÃ¡, in Alto ParanÃ¡. "What is needed is a huge national demonstration that brings together all the sectors," he added.
Alto ParanÃ¡ in the southeast has the largest number of Brazilian soybean producers, who are opposed by small farmers because of the indiscriminate use of toxic agrochemicals, which have caused death and illness among children and adults, water pollution, destruction of ecosystems and loss of traditional food resources in rural communities, according to the U.N. Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Geneva.
Cristaldo said the demonstration was not against the administration of Fernando Lugo, but was aimed at drawing the attention of the three branches of the state to the situation of violence and insecurity in the country.
"Fights and clashes will only bring mourning to Paraguay," he said.
The Convocatoria Ciudadana citizen movement and FEPRINCO will hold their own demonstrations in the capital Tuesday.
The Frente Social y Popular (FSP), which groups a variety of social organisations, especially peasant farmers’ movements, rejected the landowners’ mobilisation as "authoritarian."
"This demonstration is cloaking itself in slogans designed to lie to Paraguayan society, like ‘work for everyone’, which is ironic given that the soybean growers exploit their workers," FSP leader Marcos IbÃ¡Ã±ez told IPS.
The highly mechanised soybean industry generates few jobs, and workers on the plantations and cattle ranches are subjected to near-slavery conditions, he said.
Several environmental organisations urged people to hold a peaceful parallel demonstration to protest landowners’ failure to respect environmental standards, and the wholesale destruction of forests by ranchers to create pasture land.
The crisis in the countryside is one of the most pressing problems facing the government of former Catholic bishop Lugo, who took office on Aug. 15.
According to a report published this month by the Coordinadora de Derechos Humanos del Paraguay (CODEHUPY) human rights group, this landlocked South American country exported more than 4.3 million tons of soybeans in 2007 and 370 million dollars worth of beef -- figures that stand in sharp contrast to another statistic: the country’s 600,000 malnourished children.
As causes of the widespread malnutrition, CODEHUPY’s Human Rights in Paraguay 2008 report cites the poor distribution of wealth and the lack of an effective land reform policy.
The production of soybeans, the main farm export, grew 26 percent in the 2007-2008 period with respect to the previous harvest.
Despite the boom, the government of Lugo’s predecessor, Nicanor Duarte (2003-2008), failed to implement a tax on unprocessed soybeans, and the agribusiness sector is staunchly opposed to paying taxes, which would contribute to redistributing wealth.
Paraguay is the Latin American country with the greatest concentration of land ownership. According to the last national agricultural census, a full 77 percent of the country’s fertile land is controlled by just one percent of all landowners. Meanwhile, small farmers, who represent 40 percent of the population, own just five percent of all farmland.
"Campesino (small farmer) families cannot possibly compete on the market with the small quantities that they produce," said Diego Segovia of the Base Investigaciones Sociales, the non-governmental research group that produced the article on the agricultural sector contained in the CODEHUPY report.
"This system is driving an accelerated rural exodus while generating poverty and hunger, sending small farmers and food producers to the slums surrounding the cities," said Segovia.
Lugo, who became well-known in Paraguay for his work on behalf of the landless rural poor in the province of San Pedro, said in his campaign that changes to the country’s economic and social structures were needed, through comprehensive land reform, the growth of employment and the reduction of poverty. (END/2008)
2.WWF still accomplice to greenwashing
GMWatch, 15 December 2008
First, a big thank you to all of you who sent WWF letters criticizing their participation in a GM Soy Debate about sustainability criteria for GM soy.
Your intervention has been VERY effective with WWF issuing a statement in which they apologise for appearing to endorse GM soy.
So well done! This is a step forward BUT the response on their website is otherwise very weak.
The statement is filled with justification of an existing WWF project, the RTRS - the Round Table on Responsible Soy, but this project is also deeply flawed and dangerous - see below.
WWF also needs to go further than the precautionary approach on GM that it asserts in its statement. Promoters of GMOs in Europe could, and do, say exactly the same about supporting case by case assessments and a strong regulatory framework. A leading environmental organization should be asking for far more than this which will only lead to the release of GMOs in the open environment.
WWF needs to take account of the growing evidence of health effects and environmental damage, and the lack of long term testing on both.* WWF needs to work for "presumed rejection" of GMOs, rather than "case by case assessment".
With regard to the RTRS, WWF's logic is that the Round Table on Responsible Soy is about assuring the sustainable production of soy whether it is GM or non-GM. This is total sophistry. GM soy is overwhelmingly what is being grown in those South American countries where soy is proving destructive both socially and environmentally. GM soy is fundamentally NOT sustainable.
The history is that the WWF started the RTRS with what were doubtless good intentions but in order to get the big guns - ADM, Bunge, Cargill, etc. - to participate, they had to greatly weaken the exercise. That included dodging the whole issue of GMOs, and also weakening the requirements around deforestation. As it stands now, the RTRS "criteria" totally ignore the critical issue of GMOs - and they allow deforestation of the Amazon as long as it is in an area that is "zoned" for agricultural use.
What that means is that big farmers will continue to bribe local government to "zone" areas of the Amazon as open for clearing for agriculture. And so clearing of the rainforest will simply continue, but now painted green with a big "RTRS Approved" seal.
In their response to your letters re the GM Soy Debate, WWF talk about the "successful completion of the RTRS process." The fact is that unless it gets strengthened to (1) reject GM soy completely and (2) have real teeth in its protection of the rainforest, it will be a success only for the big soy processors, the big exploitative farmers, and Monsanto!
Spraying glyphosate from the air should also be a basic reason to say no to "sustainable" soy! The impact on biodiversity and people is obvious. The problem of resistant weeds and volunteers requiring stronger chemicals is also a major problem. And people should have the right to GM-free zones and not to be contaminated. WWF should be asserting that right not legitimating contamination.
Don't forget that WWF has never succeeded in engaging the local communities most directly affected by the soy invasion in the RTRS.
If you've already been in contact with WWF, please reply by telling it that it needs to take a far stronger line on GM soy and that it is an accomplice to greenwashing through the RTRS.
If they haven't written to you, you can let them known your concerns here:
or via their offices around the world http://www.panda.org/about_wwf/who_we_are/offices/index.cfm
For more on the problems of RTRS, see:
*THE ROUND TABLE ON IR-RESPONSIBLE SOY
Certifying Soy Expansion, GM Soy and Agrofuels
This report shows how the Round Table is legitimising the existing environmentally and socially destructive practices of soy monocultures which have drawn widespread concern from around the world.