Sam Burcher dot com

Sam Burcher, news views and bits inbetween......
Total Site Hits

November 28th 2012

Sam Burcher met Paraguay’s Oscar Rivas, who described a recent GM-driven, political coup there

oscar rivas by sam burcherOscar Rivas is now Paraguay’s ex-environment minister because in June a de facto coup took place which ousted him and President Fernando Lugo, who were working to reform the takeover of agriculture by the multi-national corporations. Some 2,000 government workers sympathetic to the reforms were also sacked, while the vice-President Frederico Franco was quickly sworn in.

There is massive conflict over land ownership and land invasion in Paraguay where, one week before the coup, the attempted eviction of campesinos, or peasant farmers, on a farm in Caraguatay in the south, sparked a shoot-out between police and peasants resulting in 17 deaths.
The campesinos were protesting about lands that they say were illegally handed over to private ownership by President Lugo’s predecessor, General Alfredo Stroessner. Lugo had promised to return land to 87,000 landless peasants before he was elected in 2008.

An alliance between Friends of the Earth in Paraguay and the UK helped Oscar Rivas make a fleeting visit to Britain to explain his country’s economic situation and his concerns about the effects of the corporations on people and planet. In November he addressed the All Party Parliamentary Group on Agroecology, which was well attended by a number of cross-party MPs and food and farm organizations.

He stated that sustainable development has been hijacked by the oligopolies, which are dividing the land in South America into three main monocultures: trees for paper, sugar for bioethanol fuel and GM soya for factory farm animal feed. Some 40% of all exports are GM soya, owned by the corporations.

‘The domination of the mega companies is enabling them to create mega profits,’ Oscar Rivas said. However, this is creating debts for the people obliged to leave their homelands and go to the cities, where they are caught in a cycle of poverty. He gave examples of the positive projects that aim to improve rural livelihoods by sustainable farming and the use of local food markets.

In particular, the community of La Pastora is implementing Paraguay’s first-ever, land-use plan in order to protect small-scale family farms and pristine forests and wetlands from the advancing monocultures. After meeting Rivas, London MP Jeremy Corbyn is putting forward an Early Day Motion to support La Pastora.

La Via Campesina, the worldwide farmers rights movement has demanded an independent investigation into the shootings, Lugo’s reinstatement and the release of the political prisoners jailed in the so-called ‘express impeachment’.

A free-for-all following the coup saw the head of SENAVE, the National seed service, sacked after he destroyed illegal trials of GM corn and refused to register Monsanto cotton. Its new head immediately sanctioned the cotton and four GM corn and one GM soya crops await approval by Frederico Franco.

Oscar Rivas believes that another way is possible, where a healthy planet depends on a fair, democratic and sustainable world. He has returned to Paraguay to support local food projects and is contributing to the green movement, ‘Avanza Paiz’, led by Mario Ferreiro, a Presidential candidate in next April’s election.

There are shades here of the UK Government’s response when former environment minister, Michael Meacher MP, was sacked in 2003 after saying that strong questions needed answering over the safety of GM crops. Since then, successive governments have done nothing to address those questions.

Elsewhere in South America, Peru has already officially banned the planting or importation of GMO’s into the country for the next 10 years.  The decision was was made by the Agrarian Commission to protect the native great white and purple corn, as well as the famous species of Peruvian potato from the ‘danger that can arise from the use of biotechnology.’

Meanwhile, in Europe last week, a group of 100 protestors poured oil all over the silos of GM soya imported from South America at the port of Lorient in Brittany.  They are demanding the cultivation of grains in Europe and the labelling of all GM products.

Photo:  Oscar Rivas by Sam Burcher (c) 2012