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Struggle for Survival in Brazil In Focus
Business Impacts on Human Rights
"It is essential that the state and federal authorities investigate individuals, organizations or companies which use security companies that commit human rights violations or criminal acts. . . . Those found to have failed in their duty to adequately vet or oversee their security company must be held to account."
– Susan Lee, Americas Program Director, Amnesty InternationalAmnesty Int’l, Contested Land in Brazil Handed to State, Oct. 22, 2008, http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/good-news/contested-land-brazil-handed-state-20081022.
Over many generations, Brazilian farmers have identified, selected, and enhanced wild seeds in order to stabilize food production and sustain traditional agriculture.ANTONIO C. GUEDES AND MARIA JOSE´ SAMPAIO, BRAZILIAN AGRICULTURE RESEARCH CORPORATION, GENETIC RESOURCES AND TRADITIONAL KNOWLEDGE IN BRAZIL 4 (2000), http://www.unctad.org/trade_env/docs/brazil.pdf. This process has become integral to a life of dignity for rural communities and has helped farmers secure an adequate standard of living, maintain local culture, and ensure a sustainable environment.ANTONIO C. GUEDES AND MARIA JOSE´ SAMPAIO, BRAZILIAN AGRICULTURE RESEARCH CORPORATION, GENETIC RESOURCES AND TRADITIONAL KNOWLEDGE IN BRAZIL 4 (2000), http://www.unctad.org/trade_env/docs/brazil.pdf.
The Brazilian government first approved the use of genetically modified (GM) seeds in 2005.Laura Nelson, Biosafety Law Brings Stem-Cell Research to Brazil, 434NATURE 10, 10 (2005), available at http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v434/n7030/pdf/434128b.pdf. Since that time, the production of such crops has overtaken traditionally-grown yields. Today, Brazil is the world’s second largest producer of GM crops.INT’L SERVICE FOR THE ACQUISITION OF AGRI-BIOTECH APPLICATIONS, GLOBAL STATUS OF COMMERCIALIZED BIOTECH/GM CROPS: 2009, http://www.isaaa.org/resources/publications/briefs/41/pptslides/Global_Status_Map-2009.pdf. In the soybean sector, for example, GM crops account for two-thirds of Brazil’s overall production, which is among the highest in the world.GMO COMPASS, GENETICALLY MODIFIED SOYBEAN: GLOBAL CULTIVATION AREA (2010), http://www.gmo-compass.org/eng/agri_biotechnology/gmo_planting/342.genetically_modified_soybean_global_area_under_cultivation.html. The US Foreign Agricultural Service predicts that GMO Brazil will become the second largest producer of genetically modified crops in the world, due to subsidies from the Brazilian Government.USDA FOREIGN AGRICULTURAL SERVICE, BRAZILIAN ANNUAL BIOTECHNOLOGY PRODUCTION & OUTLOOK 7 (2010), http://gain.fas.usda.gov/Recent%20GAIN%20Publications/Biotechnology%20-%20GE%20Plants%20and%20Animals_Brasilia_Brazil_7-23-2010.pdf. Agribusinesses catalyzed this change, introducing genetically modified crops as a tool for improving local production. However, genetically modified agriculture can negatively affect the rights of local communities in multiple ways.
Many local communities have opposed the expansion of GM practices and have tried to regain control of food production. Social movements, such as the Landless Workers’ Movement (MST), aim to reincorporate traditional farming methods into Brazilian agricultural practices.See Boaventura de Sousa Santos and Flavia Carlet, American Bar Association, The Landless Rural Workers’ Movement and its Legal and Political Strategies for Gaining Access to Law and Justice in Brazil (prepared as part of the ABA’s World Justice Project, Preliminary Draft, Subject to Revision) 13 (2008) (describing how MST settlements promote cultivation of local seeds), available at http://www.lexisnexis.com/documents/pdf/20080924043058_large.pdf. However, to engage in traditional agriculture and secure their right to food and safe drinking water, rural farm workers need access to land—a problem with a long history in Brazil. Local landowners and private security contractors hired by agribusiness have also reportedly used violence and intimidation to suppress land reform efforts and those who oppose GM practices.See, e.g., Amnesty Int’l, Amnesty International Report 2010: the State of the World’s Human Rights – Complete Report 86 (2010) AI Index POL 10/001/2010, available at http://thereport.amnesty.org/sites/default/files/AIR2010_EN.pdf.
Unsustainable, Chemical-Intensive Monoculture Crop ProductionLarge-scale, chemically-intensive, monoculture farming techniques used throughout Brazil and other parts of the world can have grave impacts on the larger ecosystem, and the health of farm workers, and surrounding communities.See, e.g., Fernando Bejarano González, Monocultures and agrotoxins in Latin America, inJENNIE JONSÉN ET. AL., RED SUGAR, GREEN DESERTS 99-106 (2009), available at http://www.hic-al.org/publicaciones.cfm?pag=publicderviv. The frequent use of pesticides for example can harm nearby indigenous fauna, concentrate in local food supplies, and leach into local drinking water.See, e.g., U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Ag 101: Risks of Pesticide Use, http://www.epa.gov/oecaagct/ag101/pestrisk.html (last visited Jun. 6, 2011). The pesticide glyphosate, for instance, has been linked in some studies to multiple myeloma cancer in humans as well as fetal malformations and infertility in farm animals.Carey Gillam, Cancer Cause or Crop Aid? Herbicide Faces Biggest Test,REUTERS, Mar. 13, 2009, http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/04/08/us-glyphosate-epa-idUSTRE7374WX20110408.
Agribusiness actors in many countries including Brazil are also increasing their use of genetically-modified (GM) crops to augment local yields. Plant genes are altered to produce inherited traits, like virus resistance, that improve individual plant survival and harvest rates. This artificial method of natural selection can, however, produce unintended consequences. The economics of tending to these scientifically created strains means many farms using GM crops must plant only this single type – a technique called planting in monoculture – which, over time, may increase susceptibility to other pests, requiring the additional use of harmful pesticides and fertilizers.See generally Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Mission 2014: Feeding the World, Organic Industrial Agriculture, http://12.000.scripts.mit.edu/mission2014/solutions/organic-industrial-agriculture (last visited Jun. 6, 2011) (detailing the problems of monoculture and increased pesticide use as part of industrial agriculture).
While large-scale, industrialized farming techniques used by agribusiness may offer certain benefits, rural farm workers argue that traditional methods better ensure their livelihood and sustainably, and provide the basis for the country’s food and water securityMovimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra [MST], Platform of Via Campesina for Agriculture (May 26, 2010), http://www.mstbrazil.org/about-mst/platform-campesina-agriculture (last visited Jun. 6, 2011). —a belief that is proving true in some regions.Inae Riveras, Biggest Brazil Soy State Loses Taste for GMO Seed,REUTERS, Mar. 13, 2009, available at http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE52C5AB20090313. Ultimately, the expansion of large-scale industrial agriculture may jeopardize rural Brazilians’ rights to sufficient, safe food,UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, International Standards, http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/food/standards.htm (last visited May 26, 2011). uncontaminated drinking water,UN Independent Expert on the Issue of Human Rights Obligations Related to Access to Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation, International Standards http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/WaterAndSanitation/SRWater/Pages/InternationalStandards.aspx (last visited May 26, 2011). and health in general.UN Special Rapporteur on The Right Of Everyone to the Enjoyment of the Highest Attainable Standard of Physical And Mental Health, International Standards, http://www2.ohchr.org/english/issues/health/right/standards.htm (last visited May 26, 2011).
Syngenta’s Testing of GM MaizeFrom 1986 up to 2008, Syngenta, a global agribusiness company, planted GM maize in its research station in the village of Santa Tereza do Oeste in the state of Paraná.Syngenta Global, Background Summary Note on Events at Syngenta's Seeds Research site in Santa Teresa do Oeste, Paraná, Brazil: March 2006 – October 2007, 1, http://www2.syngenta.com/en/downloads/background_summary_note_Cascavel_BR_EN.pdf (last visited Apr. 21, 2011). Adjacent to the Iguaçu National Park, part of Syngenta’s land fell within a restricted no-GM buffer zone, aimed at preventing the expansion of modified plants into the protected ecosystem.Ação Ordinária (Procedimento Comum Ordinário) Nº 2007.70.05.002039-8 (PR), 4th Regional Federal Court (2007), available at http://viacampesina.net/downloads/PDF/The%20Case%20of%20Syngenta%20-%20Human%20Rights%20Violations%20in%20Brazil.pdf. In 2006, IBAMA (the enforcement agency of the Environment Ministry of Brazil) fined Syngenta approximately US $500,000 for planting GM crops within the restricted zone. Syngenta has been fighting this fine in court ever since. Ação Ordinária (Procedimento Comum Ordinário) Nº 2007.70.05.002039-8 (PR), 4th Regional Federal Court (2007), available at http://viacampesina.net/downloads/PDF/The%20Case%20of%20Syngenta%20-%20Human%20Rights%20Violations%20in%20Brazil.pdf. See also Greenpeace, Statement: Greenpeace Reaction to Syngenta Fine, March 23, 2006, http://www.greenpeace.org/international/press/releases/greenpeace-reaction-to-syngent/ (last visited on Oct. 21, 2010); Raj Patel, Urgent Action: Syngenta versus Family Farmers in Brazil, http://rajpatel.org/2009/10/30/urgent-action-syngenta-vs-family-farmers-in-brazil/ (last visited Apr. 21, 2011). All updates on the legal battles between IBAMA and Syngenta available in Portuguese only at: http://www.trf4.jus.br/trf4/processos/acompanhamento/resultado_pesquisa.php?txtValor=200770050020398&selOrigem=TRF&chkMostrarBaixados=&todaspartes=S&selForma=NU&todasfases=S&hdnRefId=ea137355c5d2283db792297878a60b0e&txtPalavraGerada=uYWv&PHPSESSID=03278ac88993ccf3e61bad19a6b09b8b
On October 27, 2007, MST advocates occupied Syngenta’s research station in an attempt to stop the testing of GM seeds. They were met by armed guards from NF Segurança, a private security firm hired by Syngenta.VIA CAMPESINA, THE CASE OF SYNGENTA: HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN BRAZIL – 2008, 5 (2008), available at http://viacampesina.net/downloads/PDF/The%20Case%20of%20Syngenta%20-%20Human%20Rights%20Violations%20in%20Brazil.pdf. According to La Via Campesina, violence ensued, causing severe injuries and deaths on both sides. Among those killed was prominent MST leader Valmir "Keno" Mota de Oliveira.VIA CAMPESINA, THE CASE OF SYNGENTA: HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN BRAZIL – 2008, 5-6 (2008), available at http://viacampesina.net/downloads/PDF/The%20Case%20of%20Syngenta%20-%20Human%20Rights%20Violations%20in%20Brazil.pdf.
Eight MST workers, the owner of NF Segurança, and nine NF Segurança guards were criminally prosecuted in connection with the violence at Santa Tereza do Oeste.Terra de Direitos, In the Matter of Syngenta: GMOs, Pesticides and Violence, Fe. 30, 2010, http://www.mstbrazil.org/?q=node/642 (last visited Apr. 21, 2011). While Syngenta is not party to these proceedings,One of the defendants is Isabel Nascimento de Souzo, who was shot through the head that day. See Marcos Paulo de Maria, Confronto Armado em Área da Syngenta Faz um Ano Sem Nenhum Preso [Armed Confrontation in Syngenta Area has Gone One Year Without Any Convictions],GAZETA DO POVO, Oct. 10, 2008, http://www.gazetadopovo.com.br/vidaecidadania/conteudo.phtml?id=819731. advocates continue to seek avenues to investigate the company’s role in the violence.See, e.g., Terra de Direitos, Caso Keno: Assassinato de trabalhador rural sem-terra fez 3 anos nessa quinta, http://terradedireitos.org.br/biblioteca/caso-keno-assassinato-de-trabalhador-rural-sem-terra-completa-3-anos-hoje/ (in Portuguese; last visited May 4, 2011).
MST has alleged that NF Segurança’s violence against MST leaders is part of a larger pattern of attacks against the landless. Prior to the violence, local rights groups reported that armed security forces employed by landowners and agribusinesses used violence to attack or evict the landless.Amnesty Int’l, Brazil: Fear for Safety (2007), AI Index AMR 19/019/2007, available at http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/AMR19/019/2007/en/91810295-232c-4baa-907f-3d2bdf0a7eb0/amr190192007en.pdf. MST leaders alleged that they received death threats on numerous occasions.Amnesty Int’l, Brazil: Fear for Safety (2007), AI Index AMR 19/019/2007, available at http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/AMR19/019/2007/en/91810295-232c-4baa-907f-3d2bdf0a7eb0/amr190192007en.pdf. Amnesty International, too, echoed this concern and issued an Urgent Action request to protect MST leaders.Amnesty Int’l, Brazil: Fear for Safety (2007), AI Index AMR 19/019/2007, available at http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/AMR19/019/2007/en/91810295-232c-4baa-907f-3d2bdf0a7eb0/amr190192007en.pdf.
Unauthorized Land Use and Violent Suppressions of Land Reform MovementsIn Brazil, a mere one percent of the population owns half of the agricultural land.UN SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON THE RIGHT TO FOOD, MISSION TO BRAZIL: ADDENDUM, ¶40 (2009), available at http://www.srfood.org/images/stories/pdf/officialreports/20100305_a-hrc-13-33-add6_country-mission-brazil_en.pdf. See alsoINTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS, CHAPTER VII, REPORT ON THE SITUATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN BRAZIL (1997), available at http://www.cidh.oas.org/countryrep/brazil-eng/chaper%207%20.htm (stating that 1% of the population controls 47% of all real estate). In 1964, the Brazilian Government initiated a program of land reform to address this inequity. However, local governments have been slow to implement the reform.HANS P. BINSWANGER-MKHIZE, CAMILLE BOURGUIGNON, ROGIER VAN DEN BRINK EDS., AGRICULTURAL LAND REDISTRIBUTION, TOWARD GREATER CONSENSUS 283 (2009), available at http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTARD/Resources/Ag_Land_Redistribution.pdf. The 2006 Census of Agriculture, conducted by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics, reported a Gini coefficient for land distribution in Brazil of 0.872, up from 0.856 in 1996. Fabiana Frayssinet, Agribusiness Driving Land Concentration,INTER PRESS SERVICE, Oct. 5, 2009, http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=48734. In 1988, the Government tried to further the land reform process by specifically providing for it in the Constitution, wherein landowners are required to fulfill the "social function of property."On the definition of, controversy over, and problems with this concept, seeFLAVIA SANTINONI VERA, THE SOCIAL FUNCTION OF PROPERTY RIGHTS IN BRAZIL (2006), at 5-6, available at http://escholarship.org/uc/item/0tp371xs. This enables the Brazilian Government to "expropriate for the purpose of agrarian reform, rural property that is not performing its social function."FLAVIA SANTINONI VERA, THE SOCIAL FUNCTION OF PROPERTY RIGHTS IN BRAZIL (2006), at 5-6, available at http://escholarship.org/uc/item/0tp371xs. According to MST, this entails reallocation of land to the landless, and the non-use of toxic pesticides and GM crops.Friends of the MST (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra) [hereinafter MST], Need and Basis for Agrarian Reform, http://www.mstbrazil.org/about-mst/agrarian-reform-need-basis (last visited 22 Apr. 2011); MST, Proposal for People’s Agrarian Reform, http://www.mstbrazil.org/resource/msts-proposal-peoples-agrarian-reform (last visited 22 Apr. 2011).
To pressure the government to implement the "social function" requirement, MST and other social movement groups have occupied land owned by others.MST, Roundup of Recent Occupations - National Campaign for Agrarian Reform, http://www.mstbrazil.org/news/roundup-recent-occupations-national-campaign-agrarian-reform (last visited 22 Apr. 2011). Access to these lands has allowed landless farmers to engage in traditional agriculture, fulfill their right to food, and improve their quality of life. Land occupations have also reportedly been met with violent suppression including, threats, assassination attempts, and even killings at the hands of the police and armed security forces hired by landowners and agribusinesses.Erin C. Heil, The Brazilian Landless Movement, Resistance, and Violence, 18CRITICAL CRIMINOLOGY 77, 80-81 (2010), available at http://www.springerlink.com/content/528583l3681u6163/fulltext.pdf.;AMNESTY INT’L, BRAZIL – AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL REPORT (2010), http://www.amnesty.org/en/region/brazil/report-2010. Between 1971 and 2004, 772 landless workers and others linked to the land struggle were reportedly murdered in the state of Paraná.SE´RGIO SAUER ED., COMISSA~O PASTORAL DA TERRA, JUSTIC¸A GLOBAL, AND TERRA DE DIREITOS [PASTORAL LAND COMMISSION, GLOBAL JUSTICE MOVEMENT AND LAND RIGHTS MOVEMENT], VIOLAC¸A~O DOS DIREITOS HUMANOS NA AMAZO^NIA: CONFLITO E VIOLE^NCIA NA FRONTEIRA PARAENSE [BREACHES OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE AMAZONIA: CONFLICT AND VIOLENCE IN THE PARAENSE BORDER] 33-34(2005), available at http://fdcl-berlin.de/fileadmin/fdcl/Publikationen/relatorioparaportugues.pdf. According to Human Rights Watch, 28 people were killed in land conflicts in Brazil in 2008.Human Rights Watch, Brazil: Events of 2009, http://www.hrw.org/en/node/87511 (last visited Apr. 26, 2011). Such violence imperils landless workers’ rights to life, security of person, and freedom of expression.See Constituiçao Federal[C.F][Constitution] art. 5º (Braz.); UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Interim Report, U.N. Doc. A/65/281 (Aug. 11, 2010), available at http://www.srfood.org/images/stories/pdf/officialreports/20101021_access-to-land-report_en.pdf.
In June 2008, the Rio Grande do Sul State Public Ministry, throughthe government’s Military Brigade, removed MST occupants of the Serraria Settlement Camp.SE´RGIO SAUER ED., COMISSA~O PASTORAL DA TERRA, JUSTIC¸A GLOBAL, AND TERRA DE DIREITOS [PASTORAL LAND COMMISSION, GLOBAL JUSTICE MOVEMENT AND LAND RIGHTS MOVEMENT], VIOLAC¸A~O DOS DIREITOS HUMANOS NA AMAZO^NIA: CONFLITO E VIOLE^NCIA NA FRONTEIRA PARAENSE [BREACHES OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE AMAZONIA: CONFLICT AND VIOLENCE IN THE PARAENSE BORDER] 8-10 (2005), available at http://fdcl-berlin.de/fileadmin/fdcl/Publikationen/relatorioparaportugues.pdf. In 2009, the Military Brigade engaged in another eviction of MST families that reportedly resulted in the death of MST leader Elton Brum da Silva.SE´RGIO SAUER ED., COMISSA~O PASTORAL DA TERRA, JUSTIC¸A GLOBAL, AND TERRA DE DIREITOS [PASTORAL LAND COMMISSION, GLOBAL JUSTICE MOVEMENT AND LAND RIGHTS MOVEMENT], VIOLAC¸A~O DOS DIREITOS HUMANOS NA AMAZO^NIA: CONFLITO E VIOLE^NCIA NA FRONTEIRA PARAENSE [BREACHES OF HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE AMAZONIA: CONFLICT AND VIOLENCE IN THE PARAENSE BORDER] 25-27 (2005), available at http://fdcl-berlin.de/fileadmin/fdcl/Publikationen/relatorioparaportugues.pdf. Investigations have pointed to this being carried out by a member of the Military Brigade, through shotgun blasts to da Silva’s back. According to a report of the Brazilian Council for the Defense of the Rights of the Human Person’sThe Brazilian Council for the Defense of the Rights of the Human Person is a Council founded under the auspices of the Ministry of Justice by Federal Law nº 4.319 of the 16th March 1964, with the goal of promoting and defending human rights in the application and implementation of the law. See DHNet, Conselho de Defesa dos Direitos da Pessoa Humana, http://www.dhnet.org.br/3exec/cddph.html (last visited Apr. 21, 2011). Special Commission, "all branches of government" have acted to evict landless occupants.CONSELHO DE DEFESA DOS DIREITOS DA PESSOA HUMANA [COUNCIL OF DEFENSE OF THE RIGHTS OF THE HUMAN PERSON], SECRETARIA ESPECIAL DOS DIREITOS HUMANOS DA PRESIDE^NCIA DA REPU´BLICA [SPECIAL SECRETARIAT OF THE PRESIDENCY OF THE BRAZILIAN REPUBLIC], RELATO´RIO DA COMISSA~O CONSTITUI´DA PELA RESOLUC¸A~O NO 08/2008 [COUNCIL REPORT PER RESOLUTION 08/2008] (2008), available at http://www.ptsul.com.br/pdf/29263.pdf. The Commission called upon the state to halt the use of stun guns, assassination, and torture, and to cease violation of serious rights such as the right to food.CONSELHO DE DEFESA DOS DIREITOS DA PESSOA HUMANA [COUNCIL OF DEFENSE OF THE RIGHTS OF THE HUMAN PERSON], SECRETARIA ESPECIAL DOS DIREITOS HUMANOS DA PRESIDE^NCIA DA REPU´BLICA [SPECIAL SECRETARIAT OF THE PRESIDENCY OF THE BRAZILIAN REPUBLIC], RELATO´RIO DA COMISSA~O CONSTITUI´DA PELA RESOLUC¸A~O NO 08/2008 [COUNCIL REPORT PER RESOLUTION 08/2008] (2008), available at http://www.ptsul.com.br/pdf/29263.pdf. Organizations around the world, too, have condemned violence against land reform advocates.See, e.g., FoodFirst Information and Action Network, Brazil: Increasing Repression and Criminalization Against Landless People Movement (MST), http://www.fian.org/cases/letter-campaigns/brazil-increasing-repression-and-criminalization-against-the-landless-people-movement-mst (last visited Apr. 26, 2011); Amnesty Int’l, supra note 18. For an example of condemnation of criminalization of land reform movements more broadly, see, e.g., América Latina en Movimiento, Final Declaration: "Land, Territory and Dignity" Forum, Mar. 9, 2006, http://www.sarpn.org.za/documents/d0001933/Land_Declaration_March2006.pdf.
Source: PBS Frontline - "Brazil: Hired Guns"
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