02 Oct Guatemala Says No to Monsanto
Guatemala Says No to Monsanto
Sometimes I think really hard experiences, though they wear us down, teach us so much that they are worth living. In rural Northern Guatemala, we encountered farmers protesting Monsanto, blocking international roads and fighting back against a force they don’t yet know is sinister. They’ve been seeing propaganda everywhere, ads in television and print saying that the seeds they’ve used for generations are contaminated, carrying disease, and the government has to “certify” them for use. Of course, the government doesn’t certify any of their traditional crops and the farmers are forced to buy Monsanto hybrids, seeds that are not only expensive, but don’t produce their own seeds. The farmers have no choice but to buy more seeds from Monsanto when they’re ready to plant, or face fines for sowing contraband seeds.
Needless to say, the people are outraged. Not only is Monsanto underpaying their workers and overcharging for their product, the government hand holding implies a tenuous future for traditional indigenous Guatemalan crops. The farmers’ worry about future generations who will have lost time-honored crops, using a genetically defunct replacement instead, and at the end of it all, have an expensive reaper to pay.
We got stuck between their roadblocks in Chisec and RuxRuha, in Verapaz. Their peaceful protest successfully closed an international highway. Hundreds of farmers from the surrounding areas created or guarded barricades from Chisec, nearly up to the Peten regional border. Sean and I introduce ourselves to some of the protesters, making our way to the people in charge, and explaining that, as a journalist and photographer, we supported their cause and wanted to help. I’d write their story; he’d take the photos. They’re appreciative and grant us access to take photos and pass between roadblocks.
They ask us to get on stage and discuss what we’ve seen from Monsanto in the United States and Mexico. They have many questions regarding Monsanto as it’s new in their country and veiled in propaganda. We talk about what we’ve seen, the toxic effects that Monsanto produces with its variety of cancer causing chemicals and genetic hybrids.
After, we wait for over 24 hours in support of their protest.
Back at home we found they had been successful overturning the Monsanto Law, as it’s popularly called, though it appears to have happened earlier in the month. We’re staying glued to the news to see if anything new appears on the protests we saw in the Verapaz region and the response they received.