Guatemala Resists 'Monsanto Law' Required As Part Of Trade Agreement With US

from the saving-seed-sovereignty dept

One of the less well-known projects of the West is to convince developing countries that they need to convert traditional approaches to agriculture, which have functioned well for hundreds of years, into a system of intellectual monopolies for seeds -- the implicit and patronizing message being that this is the "modern" way to do things. Last year we wrote about how this was happening in Africa, and an article on bilaterals.org reports on similar moves in Guatemala:

On 10 June, the Congress of Guatemala approved Decree 19-2014 or the "Law for the Protection of New Plant Varieties" which led to an outpouring of criticism from various sectors of civil society.

This law, published on 26 June, protects the intellectual property of plant breeders deemed to have "created" or "discovered" new plant varieties, or genetically modified existing ones.

This way, the beneficiaries of the law -- "breeders", which are typically companies producing transgenic seeds like the transnational corporation Monsanto -- obtain property rights over the use of such varieties, in the form of plants or seeds.
Here's how that is likely to impact Guatemalan farmers:
In a publication, the Rural Studies Collective (Cer-Ixim) warned about the consequences of this "Monsanto Law".

They explained that under this law the possession or exchange of seeds of protected varieties without the breeder's authorisation will be illegal and punishable by imprisonment.

It will also be illegal, and punishable by prison, to posses the harvest from such seeds or to save them for future plantings.

According to the law, the breeder's right extends to "varieties essentially derived from the protected variety." In this sense, a hybrid produced from a protected variety crossed with an unprotected variety would automatically belong to the breeder of the patented variety.

The law thus promotes privatisation and monopolies over seeds, endangering food sovereignty, especially that of indigenous peoples, said Cer-Ixim. It also warned that Guatemala's biodiversity will fall "under the control of domestic and foreign companies."
The new law was brought in as part of the process of complying with the 2005 CAFTA-DR free trade agreement between Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic and the US. Under its terms, signatories are obliged to sign up to the International Convention for the Protection of New Plant Varieties -- exactly the same one that was being foisted on Africa last year. However, as bilaterals.org reports, despite that obligation, there is mounting resistance to handing over the country's seed sovereignty in this way:
The growing opposition to the "Monsanto Law" comes from diverse sectors of civil society such as indigenous organisations, environmental groups, scientists, artists and members of Congress.

...

Artists and television celebrities have joined an online signature campaign to reject the law.

Their petition is addressed to the President, Otto Perez Molina, via the Avaaz website, and argues that the law is unconstitutional.

"This law violates articles of the Constitution relating to the Protection of Individuals, Cultural Identity, Natural Heritage, Right to Health, the principles of the Economic and Social Regime, in addition to the obligation of the state to protect consumers," the petition states.
Just recently, the Constitutional Court, Guatemala's highest legal body, provisionally suspended the entry into force of the law, giving 15 days for the various parties to to present their arguments. Despite the broad-based support for repealing or modifying the law, it is not clear what options the government has. After all, passing the law is a requirement of CAFTA-DR, and if Guatemala refuses to comply, we can expect the US to apply considerable pressure to encourage it to toe the line. Ultimately, the US can refuse to bring into force the agreement; given the presence of corporate sovereignty (pdf) and other onerous provisions in CAFTA-DR, maybe that wouldn't be such a bad thing for the people of Guatemala.

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Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    Anonymous Howard (profile), Sep 3rd, 2014 @ 2:01am

    "Trade" agreements

    These so called FTAs with the US sound less and less about "Trade" and "Agreement", and more and more about "Corporate monopolies" and "Coercion".

    Just step back for a minute and look at the ridiculous insanity the US propagate:
    - You can not use a fuckin' seed as it is, because some greedy company decided that the sequence of chemicals in it is their property.
    - They don't provide any safeguards that it won't spread, but claim that any crop it infects is their property.

    According to the law, the breeder's right extends to "varieties essentially derived from the protected variety." In this sense, a hybrid produced from a protected variety crossed with an unprotected variety would automatically belong to the breeder of the patented variety.

    It would be interesting to cross two "patented variety" and see the two "breeder" fight to death over the result.

     

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  2.  
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    abraham linchpin, Sep 3rd, 2014 @ 3:14am

    funny

    funny perhaps those artists and such should see then how copyright also affects in simular fashion but far far worse

     

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  3.  
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    Violynne (profile), Sep 3rd, 2014 @ 3:14am

    If the citizens of Guatemala knows what's good for them, they'll block this law and take whatever "punishments" the US gives them because they'll still be better off in the long run.

    Farmers in the US can't stand Monsanto because it's rather conspicuous how their genetic seeds tend to end up in the fields of farms who don't buy their seeds and these farmers wind up in court.

     

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  4.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 3rd, 2014 @ 3:19am

    Re: "Trade" agreements

    Free trade is synonym with getting legislation out of everything. In the context of intellectual property, the rights are being peddled as the best of market trades since it doesn't necessitate government involvement and incentivize "creation" (of paperwork that is!).

    It is a return towards aristocracy legitimisation (money makes right and with the current lenghts we are nearing vassallage given the specification of what is cosher by authorities!), takes extreme amounts of surveillance to ensure compliance of and doesn't necessarily ensure positive priorities for society at large.

    But as long as the government cannot "steal" private capital, it is all free trade and the legislation of the future.

     

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  5.  
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    Christopher (profile), Sep 3rd, 2014 @ 4:02am

    Paolo Bacigalupi

    All you really need to know about how this will play out, was written by Paolo already. And it will scare the living shit out of you.

     

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  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 3rd, 2014 @ 5:59am

    when are other nations going to realise that every one of these 'Trade Agreements' are induced by the USA and will benefit no one other than the USA and it's companies? it's about time the USA was told, in no uncertain terms, to fuck off! these other nations would do much better if they had agreements between themselves. at least they could help each other if things went crap shaped!

     

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  7.  
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    art guerrilla (profile), Sep 3rd, 2014 @ 6:21am

    not just the GMO, etc angle...

    ...it is that it -essentially- favors Big Agri over family farms such that they are disappeared...
    when we 'help' other countries with their agriculture, etc, almost always that means we are IMPOSING a huge, COSTLY system of farming which locks you into Big Agri's system from beginning to end: you are dependent upon them for EVERYTHING, and the banks, etc WILL FORCE you to adhere to their regimen, or you don't get shit...
    FURTHER, it is all to grow 'commercial' crops which WE fat westerners might 'need', but it doesn't grow ANYTHING for the locals to eat: they go from raising most of their own food, to raising NOTHING they can eat, but ONLY whatever Big Agri wants them to grow...

     

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  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 3rd, 2014 @ 6:39am

    Maybe the US will invade them for failing to toe the line, they have invaded countries for less.

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Michael, Sep 3rd, 2014 @ 6:46am

    Re:

    Do they have any oil?

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 3rd, 2014 @ 7:10am

    Re:

    I don't even think these benefit the US. I think they only benefit the companies... Remind me to found a multinational company, when I have the time and money.

     

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  11.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 3rd, 2014 @ 7:27am

    Monsanto = Seed Mafia = the Borg collective , you can see the effects this has had on American Farmers , Why would any country In their right mind even consider signing on for it , How many generations of seed diversity will be wiped out by this push . This getting ridicules,and it's In the name of the American people.

     

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  12.  
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    Irving, Sep 3rd, 2014 @ 7:45am

    They can protest all they like; the fact is that money buys law, and it will eventually pass.

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 3rd, 2014 @ 8:52am

    Re:

    Surely they learned their lesson from the last time:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1954_Guatemalan_coup_d'%C3%A9tat

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Michael, Sep 3rd, 2014 @ 11:37am

    Just recently, the Constitutional Court, Guatemala's highest legal body, provisionally suspended the entry into force of the law, giving 15 days for the various parties to to present their arguments.

    The have a body of government that actually stops bad laws from being put into place before they are debated? I would say the US should do that, but copying ideas is wrong.

     

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  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 3rd, 2014 @ 11:40am

    Re: "Trade" agreements

    You laugh but they are actively looking for ways to make their product incompatible with natural or other varieties.

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    Oh THAT Brian!, Sep 3rd, 2014 @ 11:55am

    Ridiculous!

    Let me bring up a totally ridiculous idea. What if the protected seeds crossed with a noxious plant, such as poison ivy? Does that mean that the owner of the original plant, according to the law, now owns the new, unwanted plant?

    And it started to become a problem with farmers? Does that mean that they are liable for damages?

     

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  17.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Sep 3rd, 2014 @ 1:02pm

    Re: Re:

    This.

    This is a point I think many people overlook. These actions are absolutely not intended to benefit the US. They're to benefit multinational corporations who have no allegiance to any particular nation at all. They're just using US power to accomplish their own goals.

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 3rd, 2014 @ 1:26pm

    "a hybrid produced from a protected variety crossed with an unprotected variety would automatically belong to the breeder of the patented variety."

    Nothing like having the wind blow GMO pollen into non-GMO fields. Pollinating the non-GMO crops. Then having Monsanto claim property rights on the non-GMO fields.

    I wish God would come down and sue Monsanto for patent infringement. Patenting nature and the food supply. How evil can you get?

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 3rd, 2014 @ 2:04pm

    ITS time the world woke up,
    and realised these free trade agreements ,
    are mostly one sided ,
    designed to mainly benefit mainly the usa and large international corporations,
    meanwhile these large companys are constantly looking for ways to reduce their tax bills.
    Like human genes and medical procedures ,
    plants and seeds should not be allowed to be patented .
    ITS not like drugs which may take to years of expensive research in
    a lab.
    Even drugs hav e a limited patent term.

    And these agreements are a way of imposing bad us laws and patents on other countrys .

    Which would not allow such wide ranging patents
    to be passed in their own patent bodys.

    eg other countrys have mostly avoided allowing broad stupid patents on software ,
    which encourages software trolls to exist.

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 3rd, 2014 @ 2:24pm

    bargaining leverage @ US/Russia trade war

    As an agricultural exporter, Guatemala might do well to consider ditching the USA entirely and making a deal with Russia, a country desperately hungry for trading partners right now. (Or at the very minimum, use the threat of forming an exclusive Russian partnership as a bargaining chip in any US trade negotiations).

    During the current US/Russia trade war, third world countries now have a rare opportunity to leverage their bargaining power and get a much better deal than they could have gotten last year. Brazil already seems to be warming up to a Russian trade deal, but the remaining question is, will the rest of Latin America follow?

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 3rd, 2014 @ 2:36pm

    Defying another American agribusiness? Looks like it's time for another coup

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 3rd, 2014 @ 3:17pm

    Re: "Trade" agreements

    Brings to mind a bit of legal trolling, plant something potentially that would turn into a highly invasive rapidly growing pest if cross-bred with the product. Start suing them for damages done by the hybrid since it is their property now. If it worked that would be a hilarious way to get them begging to reintroduce first sale rights for plants.

     

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  23.  
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    got_runs? (profile), Sep 3rd, 2014 @ 6:14pm

    One world order under US law.

     

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  24.  
    identicon
    Joey, Sep 3rd, 2014 @ 8:14pm

    Techdirt is a rag

    Tech Dirt is a rag. Please stop promoting these bullshit anti-GMO, anti-Monsanto lies. GMOs are better than conventional seeds.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    Rekrul, Sep 3rd, 2014 @ 9:19pm

    It's funny how they call these "free trade agreements", but all they seem to do is limit what countries can do.

     

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  26.  
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    nasch (profile), Sep 4th, 2014 @ 6:08am

    Re:

    Farmers in the US can't stand Monsanto because it's rather conspicuous how their genetic seeds tend to end up in the fields of farms who don't buy their seeds and these farmers wind up in court.

    I think if the public knew more about Monsanto, they would be in the running for worst company in the world.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    icon
    nasch (profile), Sep 4th, 2014 @ 6:10am

    Re: Techdirt is a rag

    Please stop promoting these bullshit anti-GMO, anti-Monsanto lies.

    I don't suppose you want to point out what's incorrect in the article.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Sep 4th, 2014 @ 9:44am

    Re: Re:

    I believe that in the public's mind, Monsanto actually is in the running for the worst company in the world. It has some pretty stiff competition, though.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 4th, 2014 @ 11:57am

    Re: Techdirt is a rag

    Please point to studies that examined the long-term effects on human health. And, yes, the onus is on the pro-GMO side to prove its safety: it's known as the precautionary principle.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 4th, 2014 @ 3:06pm

    Re: Techdirt is a rag

    A bit defensive here. He hasn't said anything about the quality of the GMO crops period. Just that the existing agriculture is technically "good enough" and the abhorrent legal practices from the absurdity of patenting life. I'm a supporter of GMOs and I hate the absurd corrupt rent-seeking legal regime set up around them.

     

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  31.  
    identicon
    Lawrence D’Oliveiro, Sep 6th, 2014 @ 10:32pm

    Covered On Al Jazeera

    Just saw this item on TV, which is remarkably sympathetic to the anti-patent stance. It points out that over 100 varieties have been developed for local growers to use free of charge, without patents.

    Does Al Jazeera count as “mainstream” media? They’re probably the best news network in the world right now.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    Tim Wigley, Sep 7th, 2014 @ 11:23am

    Exploitation under the name of free trade

    How can such perversion of language be allowed for these to be called free trade agreements? The only freedom they bestow is freeing companies like Monsanto to further exploit us

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    identicon
    GEMont, Sep 7th, 2014 @ 3:05pm

    Hooda thunk it!!

    Ya know, I always wondered how the American Courts could find Monsanto to be the victim when Monsanto contaminates neighboring farms with their wind-blown mutant seeds.

    But apparently its just another secret part of one of those secret trade agreements!

    The courts HAVE to find Monsanto as the victim because the government made a deal with Monsanto to always find Monsanto as the victim when they contaminate other people's non-mutant crops!

    I'll be damned.

    Then again, at this rate, we'll all be damned.

    ---

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 25th, 2014 @ 8:03am

    Monsanto Law

    Seeds are for anyone to grow their own FOOD. It's a criminal act in itself to monopolize food. We are all just human beings, all are equal to the right to eat. It is a true insane mind to think otherwise.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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