By Mina Remy
May 21st, 2013
By Jonathan Leaning
May 20th, 2013
In the news lately for asserting its [extended] patent rights and squelching attempts to label genetically modified foods, the mention of the word ‘Monsanto’ likely conjures up images of family farmers being sued, Agent Orange, the notorious rBGH growth hormone for cows, the suspected carcinogen saccharin, and many other notorious legacies. Now Grassroots International’s ally Food and Water Watch has produced a fascinating and comprehensive report that traces the corporation’s history and close links to legislators, academic researchers, and government regulators.
On this International Day of Peasants’ Struggle, we recognize the courage, tenacity and absolute necessity of grassroots struggles across the world for rights to land, life and dignity.
And we recognize that all-too-often peasants continue to face threats, repression and even death. In fact, that is why this day was first commemorated, following the murder of 19 peasant land rights activists in Brazil in 1996.
Thousands of small farmers joined students, activists, unionists , human rights advocates and others at the World Social Forum in Tunisia last week. Among the many demonstrations and calls for action, the plea for seed sovereignty resonated with the peasant organizers who have seen their lands and livelihoods threatened by the “Green Revolution” and the incursion of industrial agriculture.
For 37 years, March 30 has been celebrated as Palestinian Land Day, a day of action for land rights. On this date in 1976, Palestinians inside Israel mobilized to protest Israel’s plans to take 2,000 hectares of land from Palestinian communities in Galilee. Six Palestinian citizens of Israel were killed by Israeli forces, and hundreds more were injured and arrested. Though the repression was severe, people around world celebrate this date as an important moment in history, bringing Palestinians together in a common struggle for their rights to land wherever they live.
“There are thousands upon thousands who weren’t as lucky as I was—I survived hunger....I probably would not have survived had it not been for the support and solidarity of groups like Grassroots International.” Janaina Stronzake, an internationally known woman leader in the Brazilian land rights movement
Peasant farmers from Brazil’s central plateau delivered more than three tons of fresh vegetables and homemade cakes, cookies and cheese to local schools last week. This was the first delivery as part of the National Program of School Meals (PNAE) and marks a significant step toward food sovereignty in a region threatened by the expansion of agro-fuels plantations and GMO seeds.
Spearheaded by Grassroots International partner, the Popular Peasant Movement (MCP), 40 families delivered the locally grown, organic food to local schools in Goiás state. And MCP families are already working in the next batch.
“The Conquistadors came and they subjugated us and they killed us, but they couldn’t make us disappear because we always had corn. Through corn, we survived and we kept our feet in our territories. With corn at the center of our homes we kept our languages, kept writing our histories. We continued as villages, as families, as workers, as fighters, as a community with our own government, because we had and because we have corn. Now, with the invasion of genetically modified corn they are trying to throw a mortal blow at our existence, the blow that they have not been able to throw in 500 years.”
--The Organizations and Communities of the Network in Defense of Maize (Translated from Spanish from the article El maíz, corazón de la esperanza de los pueblos—Corn, heart or the hope of the village—by Veronica Villa of the Red Maiz—Network in Defense of Corn)
Below is a letter from the National Union of Autonomous Regional Peasant Organizations (UNORCA) to officials in Mexico. UNORCA members began a hunger strike last week to prevent Monsanto from large-scale planting of genetically modified corn. They have called for international support in their efforts to protect their the biodiversity of this essential seed and staple of their lives.