Venezuela and the Battle against Transgenic Seeds

monnsanto

The Council on Hemispheric Affairs reports that over the past two months, efforts to introduce a bill in the Venezuelan National Assembly that could have paved the way for the entrance of transgenic seeds into the country met stiff opposition from the agroecology and ecosocialist movements, stopping Monsanto and other GM firms from getting a foothold in the country. These movements also managed to place the construction of a new seed law in the hands of the major stakeholders, and in particular, farmers and consumers. As the authors of this piece—Frederick B. Mills and William Camacaro—state, “Ecosocialism in Venezuela is part of a diverse worldwide movement that despite philosophical and political differences is still united in opposition to use of transgenic seeds and in support of agroecological farming.” The article below gives a detailed look at the current battle against transgenic seeds in Venezuela; see excerpts with a link to the full article below:

On November 4, 2013, the Country Plan (2013 – 2019) proposed by the late President Hugo Chavez, which includes an explicit commitment to ecosocialism, was voted into law by Venezuela’s National Assembly with the tenacious support of President Nicholas Maduro. As a result the measure gives a boost to the current legal and political struggle of the ecosocialist movement to prevent transgenic seeds from entering the country. [. . .] In Venezuela, successful resistance to the privatization of seeds was made possible by what Venezuela scholar George Ciccariello-Maher describes as dual power, the leverage that popular power has in relation to revolutionaries at the highest levels of the state. [. . .] The popular sectors include significant agroecology and ecosocialist movements. On account of their intense and rapid mobilization over the past month, the venue for deliberations on the Seed Law and overall seed policy has been extended from the legislature, where hasty action might have legalized transgenics, to the pueblo legislador, the people as legislators. What follows is approximately how events have unfolded.

Ecosocialists Mobilize to Stop Ambiguous Seed Law: Venezuela’s seed policy is based on an earlier 2002 Seed Law that was passed in a highly polarized political environment, just months after a short-lived coup against President Hugo Chavez and just weeks prior to an opposition led strike and sabotage of the oil industry. This law was superseded in April of 2004, when after halting a project to plant Monsanto transgenic soybeans on 500,000 acres of land, then President Hugo Chavez declared, “The people of the United States, of Latin America, and the world, ought to follow the example of a Venezuela free of transgenics.” [. . .] This declaration constituted a virtual ban of transgenics. It was also consistent with the government’s emphasis on endogenous development. [. . .]

The ban on transgenics received further support when in June 2012, Chavez made the Country Plan (2013 – 2019) his campaign platform; it includes among the five major objectives, “the construction of an ecosocialist economic model of production based on a harmonic relationship between human and nature that guarantees the rational and optimal use of natural resources, respecting the processes and cycles of nature” (introduction). [. . .] The ink on the Country Plan hardly had been dry when Venezuela became a member of Mercosur (Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, Chile) in July of 2012, joining a commercial block that had already become major consumers of transgenic seeds. [. . .]

[. . .] On the 21st of October 2013 a coalition of agroecologists, ecosocialists, members of cooperatives and other agricultural production units, and peasant activists gathered outside the National Assembly in Caracas to demand that the proposed Seed Law be drafted and debated — not within the confines of the National Assembly building, but rather among the pueblo legislador, and in particular among the peasant-producers who are among the major stake holders. [. . .] In a communiqué published that same day, the coalition maintained that the attempt to open Venezuela to a transgenic seed regime is part of the economic war against the Bolivarian Revolution and an effort to compromise the move towards food sovereignty. The coalition also expressed concern that the bill would threaten the biodiversity and ancestral bio-cultural traditions of the peoples of Venezuela. This argument clearly links ecosocialism to the indigenous and Afro-descendant contributions to ecological agricultural techniques. The communiqué singled out several features of the proposed Seed Law that the coalition interpreted as particularly ominous. [. . .]

International Implications of Seed Policy in Venezuela: This debate over seed policy in Venezuela has critical national and international implications. On the eve of critical municipal elections and in the midst of the manipulation of supply by major food distributors, Venezuela is on the front lines of a significant resistance in South America against the ingress of transgenic seeds and in defense of the traditional semilla compesina. When the authors visited Venezuela during the summer of 2013, they witnessed an all-out effort to increase agricultural production, using agroecological and organic farming methods, both in urban and rural areas of the country.

For full article, see http://www.coha.org/venezuela-and-the-battle-against-transgenic-seeds/

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