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By Sara Mersha
May 29th, 2014
During the Engaged Donors for Global Equity (EDGE) conference in Berkeley, Grassroots International facilitated a discussion about the history and vision of social movement struggles for trade justice. Activists and thought leaders from Mexico, the US and the Philippines – including Grassroots’ allies and grantees – shared the first-hand damages of Free Trade Agreements versus the dignity of Trade Justice.
We co-organized the workshop with our allies at International Development Exchange (IDEX). Participants included:
This presentation was given during the final thematic hearing of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal in Mexico on “Violence against Maize, Autonomy and Indigenous Peoples’ Rights” in November, 2013. Gabriela Linares Sosa is a member of the Union of Organizations of the Sierra Juarez of Oaxaca (UNOSJO), a partner of Grassroots International and a leading indigenous voice in efforts to unmask the presence of genetically-modified (GM) corn in the Oaxacan countryside.
On April 21, a Mexican judge dealt a blow to the efforts of agricultural behemoth Monsanto and other biotech companies to open the country to the commercial cultivation of genetically modified (GM) maize. The ruling upheld the injunction issued last October that put a halt to further testing or commercial planting of the crop, citing “the risk of imminent harm to the environment.”
In a fitting tribute to Mexican surrealism, Monsanto had accused the judge who upheld the injunction of failing to be “impartial.” I don’t know if the presiding judge smiled when he denied Monsanto’s complaint, but I did.
I had just arrived in Mexico to look at the GM controversy, and I could tell it was going to be quite a visit.
Chavannes Jean-Baptiste of Haiti’s Peasant Movement of Papaye (MPP) muses, “In the old days, Haitian peasants never sold seeds; seeds were for sharing and exchanging.”
Today the old ways have been pushed aside. Seeds have become big business.
This assault on the basic human right to food commercializes and commodifies one of life’s most essential assets. It jeopardizes human health, threatens the global food supply and steals away the livelihoods of small farmers around the world.
The term peasant often conjures up images of medieval serfs out of touch with the ways of the world around them. Such thinking is out of date. Today, peasants proudly and powerfully put forward effective strategies to feed the planet and limit the damages wrought by industrial agriculture. What’s more, they understand the connections between complex trade and economic systems, champion the rights of women, and even stand up for the rights of gay men and lesbians.
These are not your great ancestors’ peasants.
By Jovanna Garcia Soto
December 31st, 2013
This last year has seen many advances around the globe for communities and activists pushing to regain their fundamental human rights to land, water, and food. As we now approach the end of 2013, we take this opportunity a look back at some of the accomplishments that have marked the year. In spite of the great challenges—and seemingly insurmountable odds—there is much to celebrate. Below are some of many highlights from the last year.
Winning land for formerly landless farmers in Brazil
Being a farmer is hard. This is true no matter what policies exist. The work itself is difficult, and making money from farming requires many, many factors to line up just right. Get too much rain, too dry a season, too many bugs and the crop can be destroyed. Prices might be higher, but there’s just not that much to sell. Even a big harvest when everything goes well doesn’t guarantee success. A bumper crop means that there are a whole lot of tomatoes, corn, peaches, or eggplants at the market, so prices go down.
In January 1994, the Zapatistas - autonomous indigenous communities who organized themselves in a system of liberated zones within Chiapas, Mexico – emerged out of the jungles with a clear and unified voice in opposition to the system of neoliberalism being imposed upon their lives through the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). A trade deal between Canada, the US, and Mexico, NAFTA instituted a set of regulations that made it easier for transnational corporations to make profits across borders, no matter what the costs or consequences to people and the environment. As a result, thousands of workers in the US lost their jobs as companies moved their operations to Mexico where the costs of production were cheaper.
Carlos Henríquez can talk about fertilizer for hours. He knows what mix of ingredients will help certain crops grow better, the right “recipe” for creating well-balanced compost and fertilizers, the best ways to keep moisture in the soil even in dry spells.