Monsanto Blocked – Mexican Farmers Halt Law to Privatize Plants and Seeds

5th June 2012

By Occupy Monsanto

Progressive small farmer organizations in Mexico scored a victory over transnational corporations that seek to monopolize seed and food patents. When the corporations pushed their bill to modify the Federal Law on Plant Varieties through the Committee on Agriculture and Livestock of the Mexican Chamber of Deputies on March 14, organizations of farmers from across the country sounded the alarm. By organizing quickly, they joined together to pressure legislators and achieved an agreement with the legislative committee to remove the bill from the floor.

What’s at stake is free and open access to plant biodiversity in agriculture. The proposed modifications promote a privatizing model that uses patents and “Plant Breeders’ Rights” (PBR) to deprive farmers of the labor of centuries in developing seed. The small farmers who worked to create this foundation of modern agriculture never charged royalties for its use.

Although the current law, in effect since 1996, pays little heed to the rights of small farmers, the new law would be far worse. Present law tends to benefit private-sector plant breeders, allowing monopolies to obtain exclusive profits from the sale of seeds and other plant material for up to 15 years, or 18 in the case of perennial ornamental, forest, or orchard plants–even when the plants they used to develop the new varieties are in the public domain.

The legislative reform would extend exclusive rights from the sale of reproductive material to 25 years. Further, it seeks to restrict the rights of farmers to store or use for their own consumption any part of the harvest obtained from seeds or breeding material purchased from holders of PBRs.

The proposed law would also include genetically modified organisms (GMOs) among the plant varieties covered, converging with the so-called Monsanto Law (Law of Biosecurity and Genetically Modified Organisms). This is an absurd inclusion, since GMOs are created by introducing genetic material from non-plant species.

GMOs cannot be considered a distinct variety, because they do not result from the genetic variability that underlies natural selection. They are the result of manipulation through biotechnology that crosses the boundaries between species and realms. Another absurdity is the private appropriation of genetic information from live organisms, even those altered with genes of other species.

The proposed law would create a “Monsanto Police,” by giving the National Service for the Inspection and Certification of Seeds the authority to order and conduct inspection visits, demand information, investigate suspected administrative infractions, order and carry out measures to prevent or stop violations of PBR, and impose administrative sanctions, which are increased by the proposal. It would have a government agency promote PBRs held by individuals or corporations.

Holders of PBRs already gain exclusive rights to exploit plant varieties and material for their propagation. The bill under consideration would extend those rights over the products resulting from use of monopolized plant varieties so that, for example, a special license would have to be obtained to use the variety in foods for human consumption or industrial uses.

Farmers Win a Battle, but the Offensive Continues

Now that the regular session has been concluded and the bill wasn’t presented, it will have to wait for a new session. Withdrawal of the bill was a victory for the social organizations over the transnational beneficiaries of the bill, particularly Monsanto.

The battle was won, but the bill is still pending as Monsanto and other large corporations wait for a better time. With Mexican elections just months away, they’re waiting for a time when the political cost of these measures that harm producers’ rights won’t have immediate electoral repercussions.

As now formulated, the reform would further strengthen the legal underpinnings for pillage that the Mexican Congress has been shaping since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) began to be negotiated and then went into effect. The proposed reforms derive directly from the intellectual property agreements contained in annex 1701.3 of NAFTA.

In 2005, the Monsanto Law opened the door for cultivating genetically modified seed in Mexico. The seed is the property of the same transnational corporations that produce the agricultural chemicals used on the GMOs, to their own benefit and the detriment of the food supply, health, and economic well being of the Mexican people.

When the reforms went through the Senate and Chamber committee, members of the Mexican Congress–with the exception of members of the Party of the Democratic Revolution–tossed caution aside and disregarded the warnings of scientists not paid by the transnationals. They decided to forget that small farmers and native peoples, with their ancestral practices of cultivation, selection, and free interchange of seeds, are the ones who created existing plant varieties and are the real owners of the agro-genetic wealth of the country.

Organizations of small farmers declared their opposition because the proposed reforms would deepen the crisis of Mexican agriculture and increase poverty and food dependency, both of which have increased alarmingly under the present administration.

The organizations presented a document to the leaders of all factions in the Chamber of Deputies requesting them to send the proposed law back to Committee. They demanded that the legislature open up a discussion on the inadvisability of continuing to privatize the means of production of foodstuffs, given the Mexican government’s obligation to uphold the right to food.

The right to food was only recently approved as a constitutional reform in Mexico. The United Nations Special Rapporteur for the Right to Food, Olivier De Schutter, anticipated the debate by stressing the need to strengthen the legal framework to oppose the reform on Plant Varieties already approved by Congressional Committee.

In the final report of his visit to Mexico, submitted a few weeks ago, the UN official said that Mexico should approve a law establishing a framework for the right to food, declare a moratorium on planting genetically modified corn, and adopt measures against the monopolization of the production of seeds.

In addition, farmers argue that the nation needs community seed banks and decentralized, participatory programs to conserve agricultural biodiversity. The organizations are preparing to extend the debate and launch legal action against the bill, such as filing injunctions and claims of unconstitutionality, since Article 27 of the Mexican Constitution protects the genetic diversity of species as part of the national patrimony.

Source – occupymonsanto360.org

 


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  • Carmela

    I wish someone would do an expose’ on the organic farming that is now being done in desert areas in Mexico, which is ruining aquifers, and where they are using chemicals more toxic than conventional.

    As usual, there is much misinformation in this piece regarding Monstano, seed patents, etc. It is articles like this that actually made me start researching GMOs only to find out the claims being made by the anti-GMOs are usually not based on fact. I’m no longer anti-GMO.

    • Abe

      If they’re using chemicals it isn’t organic. You might want to look at the findings of Col. Donald Huber PhD. Maybe check out Jeffery Smiths “Seeds of Deception”. Poland beekeepers won against Monsanto the other day because it was proven that MON810 was killing there bees.

  • elmjcil

    Monsanto is a bully… plain and simple.
    With Monsanto, it is all about the bottom line and to heck with the consumers. If this is not true then tell me why they are so reluctant to label foods — so that we can make our own choices.

  • lokywoky

    Carmela: you know nothing about organic farming if you believe they are using toxic chemicals. Organic farming uses zero chemicals at all.

    GMOs are toxic to all life forms. They are killing the micro-organisms in the soil, the pollinators such as butterflies and bees, and are gurning up in the milk of pregnant women. Most countries in Europe and South America and several in southeast Asia have already banned them because of their proven deleterious health effects on humans. Those are the facts.

    Too bad you are being swayed by Monsanto propaganda.

  • dale burns

    Nice inclusion about GMOs containing genetic material from non-plant species. Most people think that genticaly modified food is simply an excelerated natural process with the laboratory practiving gene selection. They don’t realize that animal genes are also spiced into the plants, ie if you want frost-freeze strawberries just mix a cold water flounder fish’s genes into the strawberry. This is actually a real example. How will you know? You won’t. No labels are required at the supermarket. And even if labeling were required they would simply say “GMO”. Specifiying which animal/plant genes were mixed would be considered a trade secret. The times we live in!!!! Horrible that the farmers need to spend their time and money fighting something that should be a no-brainer. They should be spending their time growing food for us all to eat and stay healthy. You think Monsanto has studied the health effects from eating GMOs? Not. They say there are none. How do they know.