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Brazil: Social Movements Win in Fight Against Genetically Modified Soy Experiments in National Park

November 2006

The Via Campesina and the Landless Workers Movement (MST) have successfully advocated for removing the global agribusiness Syngenta from a national park in Santa Teresa do Oeste, Paraná, in the south of Brazil.

Syngenta allegedly broke Brazilian federal law when they planted genetically modified soy within the Iguaçu Falls National Park. The social movements occupied the area, forcing Syngenta out, and began pushing for the government to rule Syngenta’s actions illegal.

In early September, Grassroots International received an action alert about Syngenta’s behavior and responded by sending a letter to the corporation, demanding that they respect local and international law. Today, we are pleased to post the letter below reporting on the Via Campesina’s success: the governor of Paraná signed a decree declaring Syngenta’s planting area as public land.

We at Grassroots International know that fighting for the rights to land, food and water is a long struggle with victories few and far between. We congratulate and thank the Via Campesina and the MST for this victory. Because of their efforts, a little more land and biodiversity has been secured for the patrimony of humanity.

For an account of their success read the letter below. Also, an article in Brasil de Fato provides a detailed description of the eight-month long fight against Syngenta.

Letter from Isabella Kenfield, Coordinator, International Campaign to Support the Expropriation of Syngenta, Terra de Direitos, Curitiba, Brazil:

November 23, 2006

Dear Friends and Supporters of the Via Campesina Occupation of Syngenta,

A truly historic moment is upon us: On November 9 Roberto Requião, Governor of the State of Paraná, signed a decree to expropriate the test site of the Syngenta corporation in Brazil, located in Santa Tereza do Oeste, for the public interest! This decision is unprecedented in Brazil and Latin America (indeed, possibly the world), as never before has any state or federal government in the region decided to expropriate land from a major multinational agribusiness corporation. This is a major victory in the global struggle against the hegemony of agribusiness.

While Requião’s decree to expropriate the site from Syngenta is first and foremost a result of the strength and resolve of the Via Campesina and the social movements, it is also the result of the international campaign to support the occupation, for which you all have provided immeasurable support. Requião’s act is proof of the growing power of the social movements, and highlights the potential and importance of international solidarity campaigns to support their struggles. The Via Campesina and Terra de Direitos thank you for your solidarity and support.

Requião decided to expropriate the site from Syngenta after an eight-month, non-violent occupation of the site by the Via Campesina, which occupied the site on March 14th after the federal government confirmed Syngenta had illegally planted 12 hectares of genetically-modified soybeans there. The corporation’s criminal activity resulted in a fine of US $465,000 by the federal environmental agency, which Syngenta still has not paid. Syngenta is a Swiss multinational agribusiness corporation that earned US $8.1 billion in 2005.

Requião’s legal recourse to expropriate the site from Syngenta is based in the Brazilian constitution, which gives Brazilian states sovereignty to natural areas and the environment, to combat pollution of whatever form, and to preserve the forests, fauna and flora. Requião intends to turn the site into a center for agroecological research and education for landless, rural workers and small farmers.

However, there is no doubt that Syngenta will fight this decision in the federal courts. Indeed, the battle is far from over. Terra de Direitos is preparing for the next phase of the international campaign to support Requião in the battle with Syngenta. WE NEED YOUR CONTINUED SUPPORT! We ask that you please heed our urgent action requests and always spread the word about Syngenta!

Another World is Possible….and Today that World is Palpable!

In Solidarity,

Isabella Kenfield
Coordinator, International Campaign to Support the Expropriation of Syngenta Terra de Direitos
Curitiba, Brazil

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