Following the Monsanto Case
The Guatemalan Congress has moved to repeal the country’s contentious “Monsanto Law,” meant to protect new plant varieties. The decision came on Thursday, September 4, after heavy pressure from environmental and agricultural organizations.The legislation was originally passed three months ago, and was designed to protect intellectual property rights regarding new varieties of vegetable seed. Civil society organizations and activists immediately spoke out against the law, arguing it placed the interests of major corporations ahead of individual liberties. On September 1, 120,000 Guatemalans held a march in opposition to the so-called Monsanto Law, demanding that Congress act. Of the 158 deputies in Congress, 117 voted in favor of repealing Decree 19-2014, signed into law by President Otto Pérez Molina, and originally scheduled to take effect on September 26.In addition to indigenous organizations, other civil society groups marched in support of the law’s repeal, including the National Network for the Protection of Biodiversity, the College of Agricultural Engineering, San Carlos University of Guatemala, The Agrarian Platform, and the University of Rafael Landívar." According to this law, the rights of the seed producer take priority over the right of the people’s free use of the seeds. It is a direct attack on ancestral knowledge, on biodiversity, on life, on culture, on the economy, on the worldview of the people, and on food sovereignty,” read a statement from the Alliance for the Protection of Biodiversity.Five years ago, in an effort to prevent and combat dependency against seed giants such as Monsanto, we formed an organic greenhouse in the indigenous community of Llanos de Pinal. Managed by women in the community, the Llanos de Pinal greenhouse enables participation in the local organic market, increasing the women’s income and allowing a greater voice within their community. This coming November, we will be visited by Joe and Kim Costion—organic agriculture experts and professors—who will help devise a curriculum for our upcoming Sustainable Agriculture Program. The aim for this program is to educate more communities by instilling organic agriculture practices, thus combating dependency against multinational seed companies and providing the opportunity for farmers to grow organic food for their families as well as local markets.