GENET archive


9-Misc: Human and environmental rights violations related to GM soy expansion

                                 PART I
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TITLE:  Human and environmental rights violations related to GM soy
SOURCE: Grupo de Reflexión Rural, Argentina
DATE:   15 Mar 2006

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Human and environmental rights violations related to GM soy expansion
Report launched at U.N. Biodiversity summit

Grupo de Reflexión Rural from Argentina presents a new report providing
detailed accounts of the current violent acts against rural and
indigenous communities in Paraguay, which are strongly related to the
expansion of (GM) soy production. Witnesses of the cases exposed in the
report will be present at the coming United Nations conferences on
Biosafety (MOP3) and Biodiversity (COP8).

They will denounce the agroexport model that not only destroys (agro-)
biodiversity, but also leads to violent land evictions and intoxications
of the rural population through agrochemical fumigations.

The new report called 'Paraguay Sojero' (Soy producer Paraguay), compiled
by Grupo de Reflexión Rural, exposes the widespread human rights
violations, including biodiversity destruction, related to soy expansion
in Paraguay. Javiera Rulli, one of the authors, says: "Ongoing human
rights violations in Paraguay go hand in hand with the advancement of soy
monocultures. Agribusiness corporations knowingly take advantage of the
fact that in Paraguay corruption florishes, while environmental
regulations or human rights are not respected".

The report will be launched at the Alternative Forum to the MOP3-COP8
conferences, on Monday 20 March, from 9-13.30 hrs. The launch is part of
the Morning Panel titled: 'The real agenda of Monsanto and its
consequences in Latin America - Testimonies of the Victims of
Agribusiness', organised by the Agribusiness Observatory Network for a
Human Agriculture.

Grupo de Reflexión Rural, GRAIN and Accion Ecologica, part of this
network, have invited a delegation of 'Victims of Agribusiness' to a
range of activities during MOP3-COP8. From Paraguay, Petrona Villasboa,
member of CONAMURI (Coordination of Rural and Indigenous Women), will
present her fight for justice after her son was killed by agrochemicals
fumigations of GM soy fields. Jorge Galeano, leader of the Movimiento
Agrario y Popular, will account of the repression of peasant
organisations and violent land evictions taking place in, orchestrated by
soy producers. Both their cases are described in the report.

At the same time, two other publications dealing with GM soy expansion,
in Paraguay and Brazil, will be presented.

Javiera Rulli, one of the authors of the report, as well as Petrona
Villasboa and Jorge Galeano, will be available for interviews after the
Morning Panel, and further throughout the period March 13-21. Photos,
articles and press releases and the report 'Paraguay Sojero' are
available from the website of Grupo de Reflexión Rural:
Please contact during MOP3/ COP8: mobile: +55 (41) 88474893
Javiera Rulli:
Or Nina Holland:


The expansion of soy monocultures is causing a wave of environmental and
social destruction throughout the MERCOSUR. The Biodiversity Convention
does not succeed to counteract the free trade policies headed by the WTO,
that are at the basis of the expansion of industrial agriculture.
Equally, the Convention fails to provide any protection for local and
indigenous communities, that according to the Convention are main actors
in saving biodiversity.

The situation in Paraguay presents the most pronounced case of this
violence against the rural and indigenous population. So y monocultures
cover 2 million hectares, causing a great loss of (agro)biodiversity and
food security. Communities are frequently threatened by violent
evictions, carried out with help of corrupt police forces and
paramilitaries. Intensive fumigations with agrochemicals intoxicate
people, animals, destroy harvests, contaminate water sources and ruin
rural livelihoods. Companies like Cargill and Monsanto are amongst those
most benefiting from the expansion of soy production.

Jorge Galeano witnessed the infamous eviction of June 24 2005 in the
community of Tekojoja, where a group of soy producers and hired policemen
expelled 270 people from their lands, burnt 54 houses and adjacent
fields, arrested 130 people and killed two.

In 2003, Petrona Villasboa and her entire family were poisoned after
fumigations with glyphosate by a GM soy producer next to their farm. Her
11 years old son Silvino Talavera died. Petrona and CONAMURI is fighting
a legal battle for justice against the two soy producers envolved.

These cases are just examples of the consequences of soy expansion,
suffered by small producers and indigenous communities in the countryside
of MERCOSUR countries.

                                 PART II
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TITLE:  Victims of Glyphosate
SOURCE: IPS News, by Roberto Villar Belmonte
DATE:   16 Mar 2006

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Victims of Glyphosate

CURITIBA, Brazil, Mar 16 (IPS) - The pain and suffering of victims of
toxic agrochemicals invaded the international negotiations on biosafety
in Curitiba, Brazil this week with the accounts of a Paraguayan mother
whose son died from herbicide poisoning and local residents of a
neighbourhood in Córdoba, Argentina facing a severe health crisis caused
by the fumigation of surrounding fields.

The Third Meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety
(MOP3) is taking place Monday through Friday in this southern Brazilian city.

Ninety minutes before the start of a panel on "Victims of Agribusiness at
the Biodiversity Summit" on Wednesday, Paraguayan activist Petrona
Villasboa was describing to IPS the circumstances of the death of her 11-
year-old son Silvino Talavera when Brazil's federal police interrupted her.

The police were trying to detain two foreign activists from the groups
that organised the panel - the Rural Reflection Group from Argentina and
the Network for a Transgenic-Free Latin America - on charges that they
had entered the country illegally.

The police alleged that irregularities had been committed by people
entering the venue where MOP3 is being held, and that they were thus
checking the documents and entry visas of those taking part in the
"Victims of Agribusiness" panel.

The police action was called off after Brazilian diplomats and officials
from the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity intervened.

Because she was poor and lived in a community without health care,
Villasboa was unable to save her son when he was poisoned by
agrochemicals. The boy was directly sprayed when one arm of a machine
fumigating a nearby field jutted into the road along which he was riding
his bike.

The incident occurred on Jan. 2, 2003 in Itapua, in southern Paraguay,
next to a field of transgenic soy belonging to Brazilian farmer Herman

When he was sprayed, Silvino was carrying a package of meat that he had
just bought. The contaminated meat was eaten by the family, and after the
meal, Silvino said he had a stomach ache and felt nauseous.

Villasboa, a mother of 10, thought she had taken care of the problem with
a home remedy. But four days later, toxic agrochemicals were sprayed by
another local farmer, just 15 metres from the house, and the entire
family was intoxicated.

The cumulative effect was too much for Silvino. "He told me that night
that he no longer had pain in his stomach, but in his bones," said
Villasboa. In the wee hours of the morning, spots of blood appeared on
his body, and his desperate mother asked a neighbour to drive him to the
nearest health clinic.

Although the doctor diagnosed acute poisoning with agrochemicals, he said
he could do nothing because he did not have the necessary medication or

Several hours later, the boy's body was completely paralysed, and he was
taken to a hospital in the city of Encarnación. His stomach was pumped,
but in vain. His mother was beside him when he died.

In a panic, Villasboa rushed home to take her two-year-old daughter to
the hospital, and the little girl's life was saved. She did the same with
the rest of her children, who were taken to the hospital the next day in
an ambulance.

Blood tests revealed that her children had been contaminated with three
kinds of agrochemicals, including glyphosate, an herbicide used in the
cultivation of Roundup Ready transgenic soy beans, which are produced by
U.S. biotech giant Monsanto.

Villasboa decided to give her personal testimony at the MOP3 in order to
seek international assistance in the face of the power of the rural
producers who are responsible for poisoning her family.

A judge found the two farmers involved - Herman Schelender and Lauro
Lautenlager - guilty of involuntary manslaughter, and sentenced them to
two years in prison. The day after the verdict was handed down, Villasboa
received a death threat. The farmers have appealed the ruling.

Villasboa is now the head of the National Coordinating group of
Indigenous Women, an organisation of 4,000 rural women, in her province.

In the other case reported Wednesday, the victims are the 500 residents
of a neighbourhood in the central Argentine city of Córdoba. The
district, Ituzaingó Anexo, is surrounded by fields of transgenic soy,
which are sprayed from crop-duster planes.

The number of cases of leukemia and other cancers, skin diseases, and
birth defects has soared since glyphosate began to be used on the
surrounding fields.

"Less than a month ago, Dr. Edgardo Schinden released the results of an
independent study that states that our neighbourhood should be
evacuated," said Sofía Gatica, a women's group activist. "But the
government of Córdoba has not recognised the findings of the report, and
has offered to pave the streets and set up a health post, rather than
making any effort to eliminate the source of contamination."

Blood tests have detected several types of toxic chemicals in 30
children, she said.

"The authorities told us that the contamination is within acceptable
limits. Is there a limit to how contaminated we can be? Is there a limit
to the illnesses invading our families?" asked the activist.

Transgenic soy involves "farming without farmers, where the only thing
you hear is the wind," said one of the organisers of the panel.

An ad produced by the Syngenta seed company, which was shown at the
beginning of the panel's meeting, shows a map of Argentina, Bolivia,
Brazil and Paraguay, dubbed "The United Republic of Soy".

"The transnational agribusiness corporations are promoting a new
colonialism in Latin America, and the worst thing about it is that all of
these damages are caused just to feed livestock in Europe and China,"
said Jorge Ruli, an Argentine activist with the Rural Reflection Group.

At the MOP3, a global coalition of non-governmental organisations
protested the New Zealand delegates' defence of the U.S. position in the
negotiations on biosafety. The United States, which has not signed the
Cartagena Protocol, is opposed to the labeling of transgenic crops in
international trade, even though it implements strict controls itself on
imports containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

The Protocol, which entered into force in September 2003, is aimed at
protecting biological diversity from the potential risks posed by living
organisms modified by means of biotechnology.

The United States is the world's biggest producer of transgenic or
genetically modified varieties of crops, which are produced in
laboratories by inserting genes from different plants or even animals
into a crop.

The environmentalists urged New Zealand not to block the negotiations on
the Cartagena Protocol with its unexplained opposition to strict labeling
rules that would clearly identify the presence of GMOs in cross-border
shipments of foodstuffs and animal feed.

In a statement distributed to the press, the activists noted that the
import laws in New Zealand itself are among the most stringent in the
world, requiring zero contamination with GMOs and clear labeling for
consumers. So why is that country trying to keep others from having
similar controls? they asked, complaining about double standards.

Switzerland and Brazil chair the contact group set up to unblock the
Cartagena Protocol negotiations on labels that would clearly state
"contains GMOs".

Brazilian Ambassador Luiz Figueiredo Machado, the co-chair of the contact
group, told IPS that a proposal set forth by his country was serving as
the basis for the search for a consensus on the Protocol's clause on
labeling, the most controversial aspect of the treaty. The proposal would
give countries four years to adjust to the new rule on labeling and
separation of transgenics.

European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

Hartmut MEYER (Mr)
news & information

phone....... +49-531-5168746
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