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GMO debate turns deadly in Brazil

A clash between peasant farmers and security guards at a genetically modified seed farm in Brazil turned violent as two people died and several others were injured. The clash followed an occupation of the farm by the farmers who protested the growing of GM seed at the 304-acre farm owned by Syngenta Ag.

According to international peasant movement Via Campesina, Syngenta’s farm was occupied by about 150 peasants who want to turn the farm into a GMO-free center for sustainable agriculture. The peasant farmers lit fireworks, and the farm’s security guards left. Later in the day, a small bus arrived with armed gunman, who opened fire on the peasants.

One peasant farmer, Valmir Motta, 32, was shot in the chest and killed. One of the security guards was also killed, according to Associated Press (AP) reports. Five other peasants were wounded, according to Via Campesina. The AP report said eight people were injured.

The state government of Parana, where the farm is located, issued a statement saying that seven security guards were taken into custody and face charges of homicide and gang formation.

The same farm had been occupied by peasant families in March 2006, who wanted “to denounce to public authorities and civil society the illegal reproduction by Syngenta of GM soy and maize seeds in the area.” This past July, Syngenta won a court order to evict the families.

Parana’s state government tried to confiscate the farm, saying Syngenta’s research is illegal and that the property should be transformed into an educational center for sustainable/organic agriculture.

Via Campesina claims that Syngenta had been hiring security guards who act in an “irregular way.” Syngenta spokesman Medard Schoenmaeckers told the Associated Press that his company’s contract with a security firm stated that the guards would be unarmed.

Angela B. Caudle, executive director, International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movement (IFOAM) denounced the attack. “This tragic incident shows that GMOs represent a culture of violence. Organic and agroecological approaches try to bring peace to this world. IFOAM offers its condolences to the family of Valmir Motta, the fallen farmer.”
(Sources: Associated Press, Via Campesina, IFOAM)