Second Round Table on Responsible Soy conference, Paraguay 2006

Taking into account the deplorable human rights and socio-economic situation in Paraguay, the choice for this country to organise a Round Table conference on "responsible" soy was a bit of a strange one. The second RTRS conference inspired a united resistance among small farmers organisations, unions and NGOs in Paraguay.
read declaration below

On the 31st of August, early in the morning peasant organisations, women and neighborhood associations, NGOs and many more gathered to protest against the agro export model of monoculture crops promoted by government officials and the main national and multilateral corporations who met in the Yacht and Golf Club in Asunción, Paraguay. A march, colored by stilt walkers, murga drum players, banners, pictures and the presence of approximately 300 people.

On September 1st they organised a boat action in front of the hotel to again voice their resistance to the model they are proposing, stating that monoculture soy production will also affect river life.

They all met in front of an ecological park, known as Ita Enramada, from where they marched to the hotel, closely followed by police and riot cops who stopped them 100 meters away from the entrance of the hotel. They installed a Popular Tribunal to denounce monoculture (soy) production.

Different representatives of peasant organisations, highlighted the importance of this event by showing to the public and international opinion that there are groups, peasant organisations, neighborhood associations, fisher syndicates and women’s movements who mobilise against ´responsible´ soy, and the production model that drives this.

The National Coordination of Indigenous and Peasant Women, CONAMURI, opened the tribunal, highlighting that the only case of intoxication that has been taken to court is the one of Silvino Talavera, an 11 years old kid who died as a consequence of intoxication by agrotoxins in 2003. “Now we raise the flag of our struggle to denounce the indiscriminate use of agrotoxins so they stop destroying life in the rural areas.”

Obdilón Espinola from the National Peasant Federation made clear that the only responsibility linked with soy is theirs in “the eviction of peasants from their plots, the contamination of the environment, the migration from rural areas to the cities and abroad and on top of this there are many peasants who are have been taken to court, imprisoned and murdered because of this production model. “ This model is responsible for the enduring misery, hunger, unemployment and extreme poverty.”

Luis Aguaya of the MCNOC, said : “there exist two models in the world, one from the agroexporters, the mafia, criminals who evict the peasant and indigenous communities, contaminate our natural resources; they are the ones who are meeting and they are the ones representing to the government, the agro-business and producers to gain profit, that soy production is responsible and sustainable. But in fact this model is destroying the environment, murders the social strugglers, destroys our forest and contaminates us”

Finally Jorge Galeano from the Movimiento Agrario y Popular stated that “at this moment around 30 peasants were murdered in 4 years time, defending their land. The cultivation of soy takes 250 000 hectares every year which leads to the expulsion of 90 000 peasants. This all for the production of soy to be fed to the animals the Europeans are consuming.”

Declaration: The Development Model for Soy in Paraguay: Irresponsible, Unsustainable and Anti-Democratic.

The role of large scale soy production in the destruction of land, water, communities and ecosystems in Paraguay.

Indigenous Peoples’ and peasant Farmers' organisations, community associations and other civil society groups in Paraguay who are signatories to this Declaration categorically reject the raw material export development model which has been condemned worldwide because of the environmental devastation it causes.
In particular, we reject large scale soy production which uses massive amounts of agro-chemicals, pesticides and genetically modified organisms, plunders our natural and cultural heritage, excludes and evicts communities from their land, concentrates power and decision-making about our national economy into the hands of a few, and thus undermines the sovereignty of our nation and its peoples and communities.
Large scale soy production is intrinsically unsustainable and is part of the oppressive, elitist, irresponsible, self-serving and socially exclusive agro-industrial model. The President of the Republic of Paraguay, despite the fact he has done nothing to challenge this situation,recently acknowledged that “Latin America does not need this kind of economic model..”

The expansion of monocultural “green deserts”, such as large scale soy production, non-native grasses and exotic trees, promotes and increases a mechanized agriculture without small farmers; without people. All monocultures are damaging to the ecosystems they supplant; they cause poverty, unemployment and the eviction and exodus of communities in rural areas. They destroy biological and agricultural diversity, poison water sources and the soil and undermine the food security and sovereignty of the people and their countries.

The so-called “responsible” soy production being promoted by the Round Table on Responsible Soy is a fallacy; a smoke screen used to try to hide the alliance of business interests between transnational corporations from a public which is increasingly aware of national and regional economic alternatives based on democracy, participation, inclusion and social, political, economic and environmental sustainability.

Who will take responsibility for the environmental pollution caused by approximately 20 million litres of chemicals dumped on Paraguay this year?, The destruction of streams, rivers, springs and wetlands? The eviction of almost a hundred thousand small farmers from their homes and fields? The assassination of more than one hundred peasant leaders? The forced relocation and ethnocide of Indigenous Peoples and communities? The charges pressed against more than 2,000 small farmers for their legitimate resistance to this predatory system? Large scale soy monocultures are NOT possible without this litany of adverse impacts.

The concept of “sustainability” applied to soy monocultures tricks us into believing a conservationist and conservative “greenwash” spun by some sectors in Europe and Latin America in anticipation of the increase in the worldwide demand for soy to provide fodder in Europe and China. (It is estimated that there will be a 60% increase in soy production that will translate into 300 millions tonnes grown a year by 2020, 1.5 million square kilometres of cultivated land devoted to soy - about half the area of the Plata River Basin, and an additional 220,000 square kilometers of forests and savannah destroyed to grow soy.)

The Round Table on Responsible soy does not question the agro-export model of large scale production systems dependent on chemical pesticides, nor of the role of transnational GMO seed and agro-chemical companies such as Monsanto, Pioneer, Syngenta, Dupont, Cargill and Bunge. Neither is the role of international financial institutions and development banks called into question, even though it is they who promote and bankroll economic models based on monocultures, agro-exports and unsustainability. To ensure its own survival and proliferation, the agro-export model has contributed to the criminalisation not only of social struggles, but of poverty itself.

The mega-soy model systematically violates labour, civil and environmental legislation. It is in direct opposition to the basic principles of human rights, especially economic, social, cultural and environmental rights. It is incompatible with the rule of law. For the good of all nations and peoples, we defend the rights of communities to healthy and sovereign lives, with guaranteed recognition and protection of our fundamental human rights, and the full exercise of sovereignty over our territories, food, culture and economy.

We reject the second Round Table Meeting on “Responsible soy” being held in Paraguay which we consider an affront to the misery caused to its people.

NOTES:

1. The establishment of a market of “obligations towards conservation” is based on the so-called “Basel Principles” on responsible soy production, that permits soy cultivation on lands deforested after 1994, if and when the deforestation has been offset with 'pro-biodiversity compensation' (which is often in the form of financial contributions to the same organizations that promote the adoption of these principles). The social movements fear that, on the contrary, these will result in a greater concentration of land tenure and will distract attention from the other environmental and social problems created by the expansion of large scale monocultures like soy.

2. More than 24,000,000 litres of toxic agro-chemicals are used in soy cultivation in Paraguay each year. These chemicals pollute the water, air and soil and destroy the biological diversity. The herbicides used in soy production include those in the red category, that is to say that are “extremely dangerous” or “very dangerous” according to the classification contained in Resolution 295/03 of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock. These include Paraquat, which has no antidote if ingested, Gramoxone, Metamidofos which reduces the number and health of sperm in exposed males, and Endosulfan, a teratogenic (a substance that causes birth defects in the infants of mothers who have been repeatedly exposed) according to the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States –EPA.

3. With regard to GMO soy, it is worth noting that 'RoundupReady' soy is used with a potent herbicide and the necessary precautions are not taken. Furthermore, while all the effects of genetic engineering seeds are yet not known, GMO seeds do pose threats to germplasm and human health. Approximately 95% of soy production in Paraguay is genetically modified. However, because of GMO contamination and illegal ownership it is not possible to guarantee non-GMO soy in Paraguay.

4. The area of large scale grain and hay cultivation (not just in Paraguay but in all of the Southern Cone of South America) coincides almost entirely with the Guaraní aquifer. This means the little forest cover that remains is rapidly being destroyed, even in key zones like the recharge areas, resulting in the pollution of the subterranean waters by the toxic agro-chemicals used to grow soy.

5. We propose the creation of a new development model for the country, that promotes community sustainability and sovereignty, based on the specific characteristics of each territory. Such a model would produce healthy and competitive crops, while simultaneously promoting the decentralization of power and democratic decision making about land use and production. Furthermore, it would be based on equitatable land distribution and would halt social exclusion, eviction and forced displacement by reviewing legal land tenure and titles to ensure that they regulate and limit extensive large scale agricultural production.

6. We demand recognition and protection of fundamental human rights, as well as the right to a diversity of modes of production and sustainable rural livelihoods. Natural, ecological and organic production is possible and its viability and its profit potential should not be discredited. The profits of organic agriculture are obtainable for small farmers in contrast to monocultures whose profits are concentrated in the hands of a few growers.

This statement (till august 31, 2006) has been signed by the following organisations and individuals:

Paraguay

* Central Nacional de Organizaciones Campesinas, Indígenas y Populares (CNOCIP)
* Coordinadora Nacional de Mujeres Rurales Trabajadoras e Indígenas (CONAMURI)
* Coordinadora de Productores Agroecológico de Paraguari
* Cooperativa de Productores Agroecológico, Regina Marecos
* Escuela Agroecológico San Juan, Regina Marecos
* Federación Nacional Campesina (FNC)
* Grupo de jóvenes Trabajadores Tetâ Pyahura
* Mesa Coordinadora de Organizaciones Campesinas (MCNOC)
* Movimiento Agrario Popular (MAP)
* Movimiento Foro Social Universitario (MOFSU)
* Movimiento Nacional por el Derecho a la Salud
* Organización Nacional Campesina (ONAC)
* Paraguay Sin Excusas, Paraguay
* Sindicato de Periodistas del Paraguay (SPP)
* Unión Nacional de Pescadores Comercialización y Afines (UNA – PESCA – CNT)
* Via Campesina Paraguay
* Alter Vida
* Base. Investigaciones Sociales
* Base ECTA
* Centro de Capacitación de Desarrollo Agrícola CCDA
* Centro de Servicios y Estudios Rurales (CSER)
* Colectivo 25 de Noviembre
* Colectivo Ybytyrusu
* Coalición Mundial por los Bosques, Paraguay
* Red Rural de Organizaciones Privadas de Desarrollo
* Servicio Ecuménico de Promoción Alternativa (SEPA)
* SOBREVIVENCIA Amigos de la Tierra Paraguay
* TESAI REKA PARAGUAY (TRP)
* Tierra Nueva
* Agustín Barúa. Docente Universitario
* Elizabeth Duré
* Ing. Ignacio Morales, Prof. Investigador

rest of the world

* Acción Ecológica, Ecuador
* A SEED Europe (Action for Solidarity, Environment, Equality and Diversity), The Netherlands
* Alejandro León Villa Auliel
* Carlos A. Vicente, Acción por la Biodiversidad GRAIN
* Centro de Políticas Públicas para el Socialismo CEPPAS, Argentina
* Clara Leticia Peña, GRR
* Coalición Mundial por los Bosques, Global Forest Coalition
* Cristina Delgado, Vida,Sí! de Alberdi-Tucumán, Argentina
* Damian Verzeñ, Red de Salud y Ambiente ALAMES
* Dra. Noemi Abad, Ecoportal.net, Información Alternativa en Ecología Social
* Federación Amigos de la Tierra América Latina y Caribe (ATALC)
* Friends of the Siberial Forests, Rusia
* Grupo Reflexión Rural (GRR), Argentina
* ICTI, Indonesia (org. de pueblos indígenas)
* Instituto de Estudios Ecologistas del Tercer Mundo
* La Red por la Defensa de la Vida y La Naturaleza
* La Red por una América Latina Libre de transgénicos (RALLT)
* l'Assemblea Pagesa de Catalunya, España
* Nina Holland, The Netherlands
* Organización Mapuche Meli Wixan Mapu Argentina, Chile
* PIPEC – New Seeland (org. de pueblos indígenas del Pacifico)
* Sandra Nicosia, GRR
* Social Equity in Environmental Decisions (SEEDS), England
* Veterinarios sin Fronteras, España
* Observatorio de la Deuda en la Globalización,
* Ecologistas en Acción y Red de Consumo Solidario, España
* Camila Moreno, Terra de Direitos, Curitiva, Brasil
* Ing. Agr. Alberto J. Lapolla, Argentina
* Susana Romo
* Nilo Cayuqueo, Co-Coordinador Abya Yala Nexos, Californía
* Teofilo Cuellar Mayhua
* Bernardo Reyes, Instituto de Ecología Política, Santiago, Chile
* María Virginia Rodríguez Guesz Máecico, Fundación para las Amas de Casa (FAC), Apodera, Argentina
* José Enrique Baldassari Salcedo, Coordinador Nacional Frente Nacional por la Defensa de la Vida de los Pueblos Productivos y Montuvios, Ecuador
* Gerardo Roberto Martínez, GRR, Chaco
* Asoc. Fomento Villa Berna
* Jose Ma. Guevara
* Gustavo Adolfo Ayala, El Salvador
* Argelia Arriaga
* Eduardo Percy Pérez García
* Nestor Cervellin, Argentina
* Lucrecia Marcelli Luis Skupieñ, Asociación Civil Encuentro
* Victor Poggi, Bs.As. Argentina
* Beatriz Pillado
* RAP-AL Uruguay