Teacher: Stella Maris Saubidet Oyhamburu
Lengua y Expresión Escrita IV-ISFD 41
October 31st, 2014
Food Sovereignty: a Path to Regional Sustainability and Prosperity
Food Sovereignty constitutes the fundamental right of all peoples, nations and States to control their food production systems, and make decisions on their political concerns regarding this issue. It must provide every citizen of every country high-quality, adequate, economical, nutritious, and culturally appropriate comestibles. This movement also promotes the importance of local and sustainable food systems, fair prices for products and agriculture, and fair trade between countries. But what is more important, it stands for the protection of the common goods of society –that is, against their appropriation and/or privatization. And it is at this point that this issue has turned into a matter of great importance for different societies worldwide. In 1914, Monsanto, the biggest and most important transgenic seeds and fertilizer producer and seller in Latin America, Canada and the USA, started to be active.
This giant of the genetically-modified-seeds business has been responsible of numerous misfortunes along its history. In 1947, for instance, a French freighter that had to transport tons of ammonium nitrate exploded 90 metres from Monsanto’s plastic factory in Texas. 500 people died approximately, and this event is known as the worst incident in the history of the chemical industry. Nowadays, CONICET associates Monsanto with cases of fertility reduction, spontaneous abortions and genetic defects in babies, abnormalities in the development of children, leukaemia and other types of cancer. Related to these situations, there are the cases of people who have been victims of the negligence of enormous corporations like this one and have attempted to take actions against the responsible of their losses and tragic outcomes.
Sofía Gatica, a woman from Argentina who lost her 3-day old daughter to kidney failure, decided to “spearhead an anti-Monsanto movement with other mothers of sick children” (Barrett, 2012). Roundup, a chemical weed-killer created by Monsanto, is used by farmers near her home. She soon noticed that her neighbours had been having health complications.
In fact, researchers found that people in her area had three to four agricultural chemicals in their blood, including one chemical, endosulfan, which is banned in over 80 countries (Barrett, 2012).
After having co-founded the group Madres de Ituzaingó, several researches have been carried out by scientists. They discovered that the cases of deaths and diseases in the area were “more than 40 times the national average” (Barrett, 2012). Thanks to Sofía Gatica’s actions, a decision that no weed-killers could be used near residential areas has been made by the Supreme Court of Argentina. Incidentally, she received threats during this process. She stated that somebody broke into her house with a weapon and told her not to mess with the soybeans. She also said that she received phone calls from men who told her that only two of her children would be left alive. This is only one of the many cases that have been reported in which a world-renowned firm results to be the cause of major inconveniences in a particular region. But these misfortunes not only have to do with people’s physical affections.
Food Sovereignty stands for the regional control of food production and “the right of peoples to define their own food systems” (WDM, 2014). In 2003, INDEC (Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Censos) revealed that the major supermarket chains in Argentina (most of them international corporations) concentrate 82% of the total food sales, and the 67% of the operations performed with consumers. At the same time, according to the Argentine Ministry of Agriculture, six of these important corporations reunite approximately 60% of the total food sales in the region. Among these six, three sell 70% of these products. As well as these firms control the sales of most regional agricultural products, Monsanto appears to be controlling who the producers’ seed suppliers have to be and what exporters they have to operate with. This would be done through the signing of a contract. For this reason, the genetically-modified-seeds company was sued in 2012. These examples illustrate the damage international corporations are capable of causing to regional economies.
Not having control over the local food production system is not only harmful for health, but also for economy. People’s freedom to decide the way in which food should be produced and distributed ends up being violated. Food Sovereignty respects people’s right to know what is being consumed. It creates regional sustainability by letting producers choose who to negotiate with and by regulating the local business. Monsanto is only an example of what the results of letting corporations be the owners of most agricultural production valuables will be. Cases like Gatica’s can only be prevented with a regulating system that controls the way in which crops are taken care of. Eventually, peoples’ wellbeing is in the hands of governments and politicians. Nevertheless, as Gatica has shown us, there is always something we can do in order to support Food Sovereignty and defend our rights as members of a free society.
Barrett, Mike. "Woman Receives Anonymous Threats after Opposing Monsanto." Natural Society. 23 Apr. 2012. Web. 31 Oct. 2014. <http://naturalsociety.com/woman-receives-anonymous-threats-opposing-monsanto/>.
Carballo González, Carlos. "Soberanía Alimentaria Y Agricultura Familiar En Argentina." Http://www.unicen.edu.ar/content/soberanía-alimentaria-y-agricultura-familiar-en-argentina. UNICEN, 27 Mar. 2014. Web. 31 Oct. 2014.
Giachino, Sergio. "¿Usted Sabe Que Es MONSANTO?" Diario El Argentino. El Argentino, 8 June 2011. Web. 31 Oct. 2014. <http://www.diarioelargentino.com.ar/noticias/92489/usted-sabe-que-es-monsanto>.
Premici, Sebastián. "Abuso De Monsanto Con La Venta De Semillas." Página 12. 1 Sept. 2014. Web. 31 Oct. 2014. <http://www.pagina12.com.ar/diario/economia/2-254264-2014-09-01.html>.
RIA. "Argentina: Soberanía Alimentaria." Revista De Investigaciones Agropecuarias. RIA, 31 Oct. 2011. Web. 31 Oct. 2014. <http://ria.inta.gov.ar/?p=5119>.
"What Is Food Sovereignty?" World Development Movement. WDM, 1 Jan. 2014. Web. 31 Oct. 2014. <http://www.wdm.org.uk/food-sovereignty>.