Mexican Farmers Block Monsanto Law to Privatize Plants and Seeds

Alfredo Acedo
Published: Wednesday 23 May 2012
“The proposed modifications promote a privatizing model that uses patents and “Plant Breeders’ Rights” (PBR) to deprive farmers of the labor of centuries in developing seed.”
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Progressive small farmer organizations in Mexico scored a victory over transnational corporations that seek to monopolize seed and food patents. When the corporations pushed their bill to modify the Federal Law on Plant Varieties through the Committee on Agriculture and Livestock of the Mexican Chamber of Deputies on March 14, organizations of farmers from across the country sounded the alarm. By organizing quickly, they joined together to pressure legislators and achieved an agreement with the legislative committee to remove the bill from the floor.

What’s at stake is free and open access to plant biodiversity in agriculture. The proposed modifications promote a privatizing model that uses patents and “Plant Breeders’ Rights” (PBR) to deprive farmers of the labor of centuries in developing seed. The small farmers who worked to create this foundation of modern agriculture never charged royalties for its use.

Although the current law, in effect since 1996, pays little heed to the rights of small farmers, the new law would be far worse. Present law tends to benefit private-sector plant breeders, allowing monopolies to obtain exclusive profits from the sale of seeds and other plant material for up to 15 years, or 18 in the case of perennial ornamental, forest, or orchard plants–even when the plants they used to develop the new varieties are in the public domain.

The legislative reform would extend exclusive rights from the sale of reproductive material to 25 years. Further, it seeks to restrict the rights of farmers to store or use for their own consumption any part of the harvest obtained from seeds or breeding material purchased from holders of PBRs.

The proposed law would also include genetically modified organisms (GMOs) among the plant varieties covered, converging with the so-called Monsanto Law (Law of Biosecurity and Genetically Modified Organisms). This is an absurd inclusion, since GMOs are created by introducing genetic material from non-plant species.

GMOs cannot be considered a distinct variety, because they do not result from the genetic variability that underlies natural selection. They are the result of manipulation through biotechnology that crosses the boundaries between species and realms. Another absurdity is the private appropriation of genetic information from live organisms, even those altered with genes of other species.

The proposed law would create a “Monsanto Police,” by giving the National Service for the Inspection and Certification of Seeds the authority to order and conduct inspection visits, demand information, investigate suspected administrative infractions, order and carry out measures to prevent or stop violations of PBR, and impose administrative sanctions, which are increased by the proposal. It would have a government agency promote PBRs held by individuals or corporations.

Holders of PBRs already gain exclusive rights to exploit plant varieties and material for their propagation. The bill under consideration would extend those rights over the products resulting from use of monopolized plant varieties so that, for example, a special license would have to be obtained to use the variety in foods for human consumption or industrial uses.

Farmers Win a Battle, but the Offensive Continues

Now that the regular session has been concluded and the bill wasn’t presented, it will have to wait for a new session. Withdrawal of the bill was a victory for the social organizations over the transnational beneficiaries of the bill, particularly Monsanto.

The battle was won, but the bill is still pending as Monsanto and other large corporations wait for a better time. With Mexican elections just months away, they’re waiting for a time when the political cost of these measures that harm producers’ rights won’t have immediate electoral repercussions.

As now formulated, the reform would further strengthen the legal underpinnings for pillage that the Mexican Congress has been shaping since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) began to be negotiated and then went into effect. The proposed reforms derive directly from the intellectual property agreements contained in annex 1701.3 of NAFTA.

In 2005, the Monsanto Law opened the door for cultivating genetically modified seed in Mexico. The seed is the property of the same transnational corporations that produce the agricultural chemicals used on the GMOs, to their own benefit and the detriment of the food supply, health, and economic well being of the Mexican people.

When the reforms went through the Senate and Chamber committee, members of the Mexican Congress–with the exception of members of the Party of the Democratic Revolution–tossed caution aside and disregarded the warnings of scientists not paid by the transnationals. They decided to forget that small farmers and native peoples, with their ancestral practices of cultivation, selection, and free interchange of seeds, are the ones who created existing plant varieties and are the real owners of the agro-genetic wealth of the country.

Organizations of small farmers declared their opposition because the proposed reforms would deepen the crisis of Mexican agriculture and increase poverty and food dependency, both of which have increased alarmingly under the present administration.

The organizations presented a document to the leaders of all factions in the Chamber of Deputies requesting them to send the proposed law back to Committee. They demanded that the legislature open up a discussion on the inadvisability of continuing to privatize the means of production of foodstuffs, given the Mexican government’s obligation to uphold the right to food.

The right to food was only recently approved as a constitutional reform in Mexico. The United Nations Special Rapporteur for the Right to Food, Olivier De Schutter, anticipated the debate by stressing the need to strengthen the legal framework to oppose the reform on Plant Varieties already approved by Congressional Committee.

In the final report of his visit to Mexico, submitted a few weeks ago, the UN official said that Mexico should approve a law establishing a framework for the right to food, declare a moratorium on planting genetically modified corn, and adopt measures against the monopolization of the production of seeds.

In addition, farmers argue that the nation needs community seed banks and decentralized, participatory programs to conserve agricultural biodiversity. The organizations are preparing to extend the debate and launch legal action against the bill, such as filing injunctions and claims of unconstitutionality, since Article 27 of the Mexican Constitution protects the genetic diversity of species as part of the national patrimony.



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14 comments on "Mexican Farmers Block Monsanto Law to Privatize Plants and Seeds"

Pedro Pompeyo O...

September 21, 2012 5:09am

Hello my friends beware for the transgenic damages in public health now anybody wants transgenic crops because see the tumors in rats by transgenic corn and the herbicide round up in water makes the same thing
For first time the people have a real study legal who show the dangers in transgenic crops who lawyers of transnational can not silence
Now every body can demand to the transgenic food because the people can say now "I have cancer because I eat transgenic food"

Sally_Oh

June 01, 2012 9:47am

Those are Peruvian farmers, not Mexican.

janjamm

May 28, 2012 6:50am

I'm interested in all the issues this org supports, but I can't figure out who they are. They have this slick site, but there is no history of activism, associations with other orgs, writings. They seem like a front for something. Does anyone know who these folks are? Where they came from? Their organizational integration with other progressives? Or, are they just raising money for which there is no accountability? I am concerned. Thanks.

SpectateSwamp

May 24, 2012 7:20am

Here in Canada we had a food sovereignty forum a couple months ago. Our Agriculture critic from the Official opposition explains how Monsanto and their Lobbyist Crop Life bought our politicians. Only the NDP and Bloc voted for transparency and the People of Canada. The Conservatives and Liberals never deserve our vote again. In bed with the evil witch from sleeping beauty.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uuap-Lc85LU (2-Min 2-Sec) more honest politicians like this is what we need.

Real Name: Doug Pederson AKA SpectateSwamp

People with spine. Good going Mexico...

Rebel with a Cause

May 24, 2012 2:10am

Well done, Mexican farmers! Viva la Revolution!
Now how about the American people? Are you going to take the cue and put those biotech monsters where they belong? A high security prison! And throw away the key! MonSatano is totally EVIL, the way they buy politicians and legislators so they can 'legally' destroy healthy farms, poison everything with their filth, hold entire nations to ransom and make obscene amounts of money out of it all.

anono

May 23, 2012 7:35pm

God gave Man the seeds of harvest. Any Man or group of Man in the pursuit of their selfishness claiming to hold sole possesion of what God has freely gifted all of us to feed our families and the peoples has committed an unforgiveable sin and shall hence forth be cast into the eternal pit of fire and damnation. May their graves be spit upon.

Ronni85

May 23, 2012 3:10pm

Hooray, Mexico. They have the guts to stand up to Monsanto.
Our government does not.

jeltez42

May 23, 2012 4:29pm

Monsanto owns a sizable piece of our government. Hooray for Mexicans that KNOW they have the right to protest and are not afraid to have their demands known.

We had that right once here in the US. Once we had a government By the People for the People. That might have only been a lie printed in a history book that I read though.

bmallon

May 23, 2012 2:13pm

about the monsanto poison seed scam. it would seem that if i was a farmer and the field next door was infested with monsanto poisonous seeds and some got on to my land i would sue that farmer for poisoning my field and sue monsanto for not controlling their products when used by their rules. they don't own nature the own seeds. we are less healthy for monsanto not better off. bruce

almacote

June 05, 2012 3:58am

@Bmallon... That's the scary part. Monsanto is getting verdicts in their favor against those very neighboring farms saying that IF the Monsanto seed gets onto their property, whether through wind or any other means, that that farmer has STOLEN the seed from Monsanto. It's just too ridiculous for the mind to process, I know, but people are not aware this stuff is really happening.

dwdallam

May 23, 2012 2:12pm

"Further, it seeks to restrict the rights of farmers to store or use for their own consumption any part of the harvest obtained from seeds or breeding material purchased from holders of PBRs."

So the new law would have made it illegal for farmers to eat their own food? Wow, the arrogance.

almacote

June 05, 2012 4:15am

Unfortunate, their arrogance has been working for them... People aren't aware of the unbelievable, yet current laws right here in the USA. That's why we need to share the knowledge!

DannyG

May 23, 2012 1:50pm

We could use a better articulated consensus defense policy for the many varieties of our public "commons"; environment, economic and educational opportunity, culture, sustain ability, to name some.

Jeffrey Hill

May 23, 2012 11:23am

Who needs the Constitutional Rule of Law. plant variety obtained through natural selection, and a winning game when you can have Monsanto, genetically-modified seeds that are Round Up-ready, and financial enslavement to agribusiness?!