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By Timothy A. Wise
May 12th, 2014
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.
By Jovanna Garcia Soto
March 31st, 2014
Berta Caceres, a Lenca indigenous woman who has been on the front lines defending the territory and the rights of the indigenous people for the last 20 years, is one of six finalists for the Front Line Defenders Award. Nominated for the award by Grassroots International, Berta is one of the founding directors of the National Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH), a Grassroots grantee and ally.
On New Year’s Day, 20 years ago, a group of indigenous peoples, known as the Zapatistas, occupied several municipalities of the state of Chiapas, Mexico. Not coincidentally, that same day the North American Free Trade Agreement went into effect. The Zapatistas considered the free trade agreement and the neoliberal political system that spawned it to be a death sentence for indigenous peoples in Mexico. The magnitude of the Zapatista uprising was due to the participation of different indigenous groups which joined forces to change a system that was marginalizing and exploiting them.
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
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.
In an unprecedented move last week, a Federal Mexican Tribunal suspended authorization for the planting of all genetically modified corn by transnational corporations such as Monsanto, Pioneer and Syngenta. The Tribunal recognized the legal interests of 53 individuals and 20 civil associations that filed a class action lawsuit against the Ministries of Agriculture and Environment, the federal government and the transnational corporations that applied for permits to plant transgenic corn. While this decision is not a permanent one, it is a groundbreaking victory in preventing commercial GMO plantations until the collective action lawsuit is resolved.
Whether it’s life imitating art or the other way around, the assault so dramatically captured in the Hollywood blockbuster film Avatar (2009) is not pure fiction. The reality is that countries and corporations that are hell-bent on extracting every last resource from the earth continue their relentless assaults on indigenous people, their land and waters, their cultures and ways of life, Whether it’s Afro-Brazilians on the Sao Francisco river in Brazil, Dongria Kondhs on Niyamgiri mountain in India, or Lencas in Honduras’ Rio Blanco territory, they all are facing not only the threat of displacement and devastation but violence, intimidation and even, in some instances, assassination.
Twenty years after La Vía Campesina International was founded, the global network of rural organizations has agreed to a new worldwide action plan based on small-scale farming and agro-ecology, food sovereignty, and self-determination of communities. At the same time, the group is reaffirming its stance against transnational corporations, industrial agriculture and agri-business.
President Obama announced his new Climate Action Plan before an audience of college students at Georgetown University on June 25, Countless young people, environmental activists, and most importantly, communities most impacted by climate change both in the US and around the world, have long awaited the chance to hear President Obama lay out a concrete roadmap to take action to address climate change.
The real costs of the industrial food system on people’s lives and the planet are as extensive as they are hidden. The article below by long-time Grassroots International friends, Beverley Bell and Tory Field of Other Worlds, offers a thought-provoking summary of those costs—all of which challenge small farmers in the Global South on a daily basis.
The True Costs of Industrialized Food