Raúl Zibechi: Is it possible to defeat Monsanto?


 By: Raúl Zibechi

Diverse movements and multiple actions, both programmed and spontaneous, through denunciations, and all types of mobilizations that converge against a corporation that represents a serious danger to the health of humanity are besieging one of the world’s largest multinationals. Establishing the variety of existing initiatives and learning about them can be a way of comprehending a new kind of cross-border movement, capable of articulating activists all over the world in concrete activities.

The encampment at the gates of the seed plant that Monsanto is building in Malvinas Argentinas, 14 kilometers from Córdoba, is one of the best examples of the mobilization underway. The multinational plans to install 240 silos of genetically modified corn seeds for the purpose of arriving at 3.5 million hectares planted. The plant will use millions of liters of agro-chemicals for the care of the seeds and a part of the effluents “will be released into the water and soil, provoking grave harm,” as Medardo Ávila Vázquez of the Network of Doctors of Fumigated Peoples maintains.

The movement against Monsanto won victories in Ituzaingó, a Córdoba barrio near the place where they intend to install the corn seed plant. The Mothers of Ituzaingó (movement) was born there ten years ago. The movement discovered that 80 percent of the children in the barrio have agro-chemicals in their blood and that it is one of the causes of the deaths and deformities in their families. In 2012, for the first time they won a lawsuit against a producer and a fumigator, (who were) condemned to three years of conditional incarceration without going to prison.

The encampment at Malvinas Argentinas is now one month old, maintained by the Struggle for Life Malvinas Neighbors Assembly. They achieved winning the support of a good part of the population: according to official polls, 87 percent of population want a popular consultation and 58 percent reject the multinational’s installation, but 73 percent are afraid to express an opinion against Monsanto for fear of being harmed (Página 12, 09/19/13).

The campers resisted an attempt to evict them from the construction union (UOCRA) that is adhered to the CGT, harassment from police and provincial authorities, although they have the support of the mayor, the unions and the social organizations. They received support from Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, a recipient of the 1980 Nobel Peace Prize, and from Nora Cortiñas, of the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo. They were able to paralyze the plant’s construction by impeding the entry of trucks.

The siege of Monsanto also arrived in the small tourist town of Pucón in southern Chile, on Villarrica Lake, where 90 of the transnational’s executives coming from the United States, Argentina, Brazil and Chile arrived at a luxury hotel to hold a convention. Environmental groups, cooperatives and Mapuche collectives from Villarrica and Pucón dedicated these days to “exposing” the presence of Monsanto in the country (El Clarín, 10/13/13).

Those are just two of the many actions that are happening in the whole Latin American region. To my way of looking at it, the varied mobilizations in more than 40 countries permit us to draw some conclusions, from the point of view of anti-systemic activism:

In the first place, the mass actions in which tens of thousands participate are important, because they permit demonstrating to the general population that the opposition to corporations like Monsanto, and therefore to genetically modified foods, is not a question of minority criticism. In this sense, worldwide days, like that of October 12, are indispensible.

Raging Grannies in march against Monsanto in San Jose

Raging Grannies March Against Monsanto in San Jose

The mobilizations of small groups, dozens or hundreds of people, like the ones that happen in Pucón and in Malvinas Argentinas, as well as in various mining undertakings in the Andean Cordillera, are as necessary as the big demonstrations. On the one hand, it is a way to be permanently present in the media. Above all, it is the best path for forging militants, besieging the multinationals and publicizing criticisms of all their business initiatives.

It is in the small groups where ingenuity usually flourishes and within their breasts the new forms of being able to innovate with political culture and protest methods are born. There is where community ties and strong ties between people can be born, which are so necessary for deepening the struggle. After one month of camping in Malvinas Argentinas, the demonstrators “began to put up adobe walls; they constructed a clay oven and started an organic vegetable garden by the side of the route” (Día a Día de Córdoba, Octubre 13, 2013).

In the third place, it is fundamental to support the denunciations with scientific arguments and, if possible, to involve authorities in the matter. The case of the Argentine biologist Raúl Montenegro, Alternative Nobel Prize in 2004 (Right Livelihood Award), who committed himself to the cause against Monsanto and to the Mothers of Ituzaingó, shows that the commitment of scientists is as necessary as it is possible.

The fourth question is the importance of the opinions of the common people, distributing their beliefs and feelings about genetically modified foods (or any initiative of the extractive model). The subjectivity of the people is accustomed to showing traits that do not contemplate the most rigorous academic studies, but their opinions are just as important.

Finally, I believe that it’s necessary to place within view not only one multinational like Monsanto, one of the worst of the many that operate in the world. In reality, this is just the most visible part of a model of accumulation and development that we call extractivism, which turns around the expropriation of the commons and the conversion of nature into merchandise. In this sense, it is important to emphasize what there is in common between the transgenic monocrops, mining and real estate speculation. The latter (real estate speculation) is the mode that extractivism assumes in the cities. If we defeat Monsanto, we can conquer the other multinationals.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Translation: Chiapas Support Committee

Friday, October 18, 2013

En español: http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2013/10/18/opinion/024a1pol

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