«by Kirsten Francescone A thesis submitted to the Faculty o f Graduate and Postdoctoral Affairs in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the ...»
2.3 Genetically Modified Organisms There is abundant literature that explores the negative effects of genetically modified organisms, including the ways in which they create increased inequality, exacerbate farmer’s dependency, and are environmentally destructive.1:1 In Canada, the famous precedent-setting case regarding Percy Schmeizer was the first of still ongoing examples within the North American context where capitalist giants like Monsanto have sued farmers for millions o f dollars for producing patented seeds. Genetically modifying organisms with the end o f patenting-for-profit is another example o f primitive accumulation whereby displacement occurs as capital unrelentingly seeks out new markets- during this process social relations o f production become com m odified for the purpose o f the continued extraction o f surplus- in this example, at the behest o f socially owned and communally produced and shared seeds.
With regards to the Global South, there is also literature, which focuses on the ways in which the imposition (consensual or through the use of coercion) o f genetically m odified seeds has been a neo-colonial capitalist project.124 A project often imposed on countries of the ‘global south’, which, like we saw with cases like the Green Revolution and are seeing with Mexican m aize.15 This model was envisioned to bring modern agricultural 123 Raj Patel, Stuffed a n d Starved: M arkets, P o w e r a n d the H idden B a ttle for the G lo b a l F o o d S ystem (N ew York: Portobello Books, 2007); Tony W eis, The G lo b a l F o o d Econom y: The Battle fo r the future o f farm ing (London: Zed Books, 2007): 89-120.
124 Annette Desmarais, La Via Cam pesina: G lobalization a n d the p o w e r o f peasants (W innipeg: F em w ood Publishing, 2007), 40-74; and W eis, The B attle f o r the Future, 2007.
123 Elizabeth Fitting, The Struggle for M aize: Cam pesinos, Workers, a n d Transgenic Corn in the M exican C ountryside (United States: Duke University Press, 2011).
systems and thus development to the “third world.” '2" This process has had irreversible economic, political, socio-cultural and environmental impacts, and is incorrectly based on the assumption that the ways to solving hunger and poverty in the w orld are through increased production, a thesis which has been negated time and time again in practice.
La Via Campesina, a global campesino m ovement seeking to link the experiences o f campesinos in the Global South to those in the Global North has adamantly expressed the dangers o f corporate GMO research and provision o f inputs, seeds in particular, that result in a shi ft o f the power away from farm ers.1 This results in a loss o f control over seed saving and a dependency on patented seeds to which they might not have access.
2.4 Genetically modified Organisms in Bolivia: Past and Present Specifically in Bolivia, (in the years following the New Economic Plan o f 1985 the imposition o f extreme neoliberal restructuring) reform seed technology packets were introduced as part o f the conditions placed on internationally funded developm ent projects which included modified seeds, along with the required chemical inputs to ensure their grow th.1 8 Because these seeds have been modified to grow under controlled conditions they always require chemically intensive inputs in fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides.1 9 These inputs may increase production rapidly in the short-term but 126 Norman Borlang, The G reen R evolution R e visite d a n d the R o a d Ahead. Online Lecture PDF format.
A ccessed Online, October 12, 2010 at http://nobel.prize.org/nobel prizes/peace/laureates/1970/borlaugarticle.htm l'/print.
127 Desmarais, La Via Cam pesina.
128 Heber Araujo, Etnodesarrollo, Tierra Y Vida: Gna a ltern a tiva a la crisis alim entaria y en erg etica (Cochabamba: C E N D A, 2010).
129 As such, several cam pesino producing com m unities both in the highland and valley regions in B olivia still display the remnants o f these im positions. S om e com m unities still use fertilizers and p esticides, their contribute to such environmental destruction and economic dependency in the long-term that they destroy the possibilities for prolonged sustainable food production. Campesino dependency and vulnerability to fluctuations in international market prices for foodstuffs and oil, to unforeseen climate or environmental changes, and their inability to produce to reduce growing debt resulted in the sale o f land.13 This in turn increased migration to the urban centers like El Alto,1 1 or to the diversification and expansion o f work, often doubling with labour in formal and informal sectors.1 2 The W est’s 13 philanthropic G reen Revolutionary ‘gift’ which promised increased production for Bolivia in fact continued to produce more generalized and deepened inequality.1 4 The LRPCA has three articles that contain the possibility for the legalization and production of genetically modified seeds.1 5 For example, the LRPCA claims that it will establish “disposiciones para el control de la produccion, importacion y comercializacion de productos geneticamente modificados,” making the assumption that first, genetically traditional or past means o f production having been destroyed by the seed packets, or by their inability to com pete with local food stuffs in a market that with the deregulation o f internal markets, allow ed for the flooding o f national markets with cheap food imports from the Global North.
130N icole Fabricant, “Ocupar, Resistir, Producir: Reterritorializing Soyscapes in Santa Cruz,” in:
Rem apping Bolivia: Resources, Territory a n d Indigeneity in a P lu rin ation al State, eds: N ico le Fabricant & Bret Gustafson (Santa Fe: SA R Press, 2011).
131 Gill, Teetering on the Rim; and Carlos Revilla, “Understanding the M obilizations o f Octubre 2003:
Dynam ic Pressures and Shifting Leadership Practices in El A lto,” in: Remapping Bolivia: Resources, T erritoiy an d Indigeneity in a P lu rin ation al S tate, eds: N ico le Fabricant & Bret G ustafson (Santa Fe: S A R Press: 2011).
132 Gill, Teetering on the Rim; and Valdiva, A grarian C apitalism a n d Struggles o ve r H egem ony.
133 World Bank, U SAID, NGOs. See Araujo, E tnodesarrollo, T ierra Y Vida.
134 A s was common with the majority o f global South countries that had the Green R evolution m odel o f agricultural developm ent im posed on them through structural adjustment policies. See Vandana Shiva. “Un ataque contra ios recursos y el patrimonio de los paises”. R ebellion (2007).
133 Interestingly enough, w hile the M AS governm ent was drafting up a law that w ould perm it the legalization o f genetically m odified organism s, the Peruvian and Chilean governments were review ing their legislation on the matter, with the Peruvian governm ent placing a 10 year moratorium on GM Os in order to conduct thorough environmental analyses.
modified organisms had entered the country, and second, assuming that in that event, the government must regulate and control them, p o st fa c to. 1 6 This became a central point o f contestation within organizations mobilizing around the law. As history has dem onstrated however, the manipulation, not only o f the seeds in particular, but o f the ecological environment in general is not only difficult, but also impossible in practice.13 Regulating genetically modified seeds in particular, without modifying the agro-industrial capitalist process in general is not a sustainable solution to structural inequalities. Instead o f structurally altering the ways in which production occurs and is organized, it becom es the responsibility o f individual consumers to choose to purchase genetically m odified seeds, which will be required by state to be labeled1 8 when entering into m arkets for consumption. For Licarion Soto o f the CSUTCB, ticketing provides a way o f controlling GMOs upon their entry,...entonces, los transgenicos los que estan ya estan en soya, trigo, y tambien girasol pero a partir de esta ley ya no entramos no se podrian introducir. Pero, si introducen algun producto transgenico tiene que llevar el sello que diga como el cigarro el cigarro mata entonces este es un producto transgenico entonces el consumidor dira pues consume o no consumo.” 1 9 3 Instead o f the government taking a stronger and less-subjective position on genetically modified seeds by banning them completely, they have allowed for the entrance o f seeds into the country which opens up a whole new arena o f politics and possibilities for capitalist intervention mechanisms.
136 Article 19.5.
137 See Araujo, Etnodesarrollo, Tierra Y Vida; and V illegas, A nalysis o f the LRPCA.
138 Article 15.3. NB: This w ould also practically prove com pletely im possible. B olivians still m ajorly purchase food in outdoor markets, which are sporadically spread out though rural and urban areas- the practical im plications o f a labelling campaign w ould only be possible in the context o f supermarkets or grocery stores, which, then limits accessibly to a purely m iddle-class exercise o f individual choice.
139 Interviewee was the secretary o f Culture o f the CSUTCB, and was a part o f the internal working o f the LRPCA. Interview took place September 9, 2011: La Paz.
The LRPCA similarly attempts to define the parameters o f genetically modified organisms in a way that attempts to consolidate campesino and indigenous m em ory o f the
seed technology packets introduced p o st-1985:
No se introduciran en el pais paquetes tecnologicos agricolas que involucren semillas geneticamente modificadas de especies de las que Bolivia es centro de origen o diversidad, ni aquellos que atenten contra el patrimonio genetico, la biodiversidad, la salud de los sistemas de vida y la salud hum ana.1 0 Despite the fact that consumerism is central to neoliberal ideology, the MAS governm ent continued to use it as a solution to GMOs within a law that was being called “anti neoliberal.11 The “choice/consum erism” solutions were managed in order to garner and maintain consent within the middle class, whereas the “anti-neoliberal” discursive practices o f the MAS were used to maintain hegemony within MAS supporters, primarily campesinos. People’s memories o f struggle against genetically modified organisms were not easily distracted, however, and the LRPCA became a clear target for civil mobilizations in June o f 2011. This resulted in the re-surfacing of genetically m odified organisms in the public arena for political debate and contestation. Thus, despite the M AS’ attempts to pass the law without popular contestation, civil society mobilizations emerged in opposition to the LRPCA.
140 LRPCA, Article 15.2.
141 The government often uses neoliberalism as the point from which to differentiate their p olicies discursively and politically. Materially how ever, this tool has actually been quite effectiv e in reproducing consent within the popular classes and m aintaining the “not-neoliberal” image o f the governm ent w hile continuing to implement or permit the existence o f past neoliberal policies.
The issue o f genetically modified seeds became central to the popular rejection o f the LRPCA. In fact, CONAMAQ initially rejected the law simply on the basis o f the articles, which would allow for the introduction o f genetically modified organism s.1 2 According to Andres Saavedra Vargas, authority o f CONAM AQ, the government in “ las ultimas horas, y a su gusto, hasta lo que quieren se han metido los articulos 19, 15 el numeral 4, 5, 19 el numeral 3, esos articulos nosotros no queriamos que se apruebe, queriamos que abrogue el presidente, que dijeron que ellos, estan equivocados.”1 3 CONAM AQ was not alone in the outright rejection o f the possibility o f GMOs. The organization for organic producers in Bolivia (AEOPEB), along with the M ovimiento Sin Tierra (M ST) as well as other varios civil urban institutions and organizations from Cochabamba and La Paz actively took a role in taking up the fight against the LRPCA and transgenic seeds.1 4 Beyond the official statements o f two o f the five Pacto de Unidad Organizations (C1DOB and CONAMAQ), individual members within the other three signing organizations (Bartolinas, CSUTCB and Interculturales) expressed their concerns to me regarding the insertion of transgenic seeds into the law. According to Dora Martinez Colque, A Bartolina Sisa and founding member o f the Asamblea y Soberania para el
...en los transgenicos tambien quiero decir, lo que he vivido, el transgenico a nosotros nos han afectado a traves del tratado de fibre comercio, asi de clarito...entonces eso ahora estamos queriendo frenar, de acuerdo a lo que ya nos han hecho mal nuestras tierras, con esos fertilizantes ya no producen como antes 142 They later rejected it in its entirety.
143 Interview took place July 15th, 2011: Cochabamba.
144 These groups were part o f the initial organizations that took a stand against the law, over the next few w eeks follow ing its rejection, other organizations like the CIDOB, and a group o f intellectuals and activists in Cochabamba also took on the issue o f transgenic seeds.
han producido, y tal comiendo esa produccion nuestros abuelos han vivido mas de 100 anos, ahora eso ya no vivimos, nuestros hijos posiblemente, peor ya no van a vivir a nuestras edades, por que ya dicen m e duele cualquier cosa, pero nosotros aunque todavia no nos duele, pero estamos ya consumiendo eso a traves de esos transgenicos transportados de otros palses, pero la misma materia prima que nosotros producimos, eso ya esta mezclado, ya esta fertilizado, asi ^no?, entonces no estan trayendo de alia, si no para que no mezclen, asi de clarito tiene que ser, eso no varnos a permitir, eso vamos a poner a la m esa y discutir, que comemos, que debemos com er... 1 5 For Dora, as for the majority o f people I spoke and worked with regarding the issue o f transgenic seeds, it was not simply a health issue, but it represented a much larger stmctural problem, a “free-exchange” one.146 For more than ten years indigenous and campesino organizations had been actively fighting and blocking the full im plementation o f transgenic seeds in Bolivia. As early as 2002, the CSUTCB and Bartolina Sisas were actively opposing147 the potential legalization o f transgenic seeds in Bolivia. In a newspaper article published by them in 2005, Roman Loyaza, the then head o f the
CSUTCB was quoted saying: