Guatemala rejects ‘Monsanto Law’ that would have given multinational seed companies control over agriculture

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(NaturalNews) New legislation dubbed the “Monsanto Law” has been roundly rejected by activist groups and citizens in Guatemala, who argue that it has put the nation’s food security and farm economy in jeopardy.

The law, formerly called “Law for the Protection of New Plant Varieties,” was approved by the Guatemalan congress June 10, but has been widely panned since. Supporters say it is designed to protect the intellectual property of plant breeders who were deemed to have “created” or “discovered” new plant varieties, or who have genetically modified existing varieties.

The law effectively permits “breeders” — which are typically biotech giants like Monsanto — to obtain property rights over the use of plant varieties, in the form of both plants and seeds.

Violates the rights of indigenous peoples

In a new report, the activist organization CER Ixim warned about the consequences of the “Monsanto Law.” The group said that, under the new law, the possession or exchange of seeds of protected varieties without the owner’s consent will be illegal and could lead to jail sentences for violators.

In addition, noted CER Ixim, it will be illegal to possess any harvest from such seeds or to save them for future plantings. The law goes on to say that a breeder’s rights extend to “varieties essentially derived from the protected variety.” That also means a hybrid produced from a covered variety after crossbreeding with an uncovered variety is automatically covered under the law as well.

The group said the new law promotes privatization and seed monopolization, which is a danger to food sovereignty, especially for indigenous peoples. And the group’s report warned that the country’s biodiversity will now fall “under the control of domestic and foreign companies.”

The law, known as Decree 19-2014 in Guatemala’s law books, is the result of a process stemming from the 2005 signing of a free-trade agreement between Central American countries and the U.S., the Central America Free Trade Agreement, or CAFTA. Under terms of that pact, Guatemala is bound to abide by the International Convention for the Protection of New Plant Varieties agreement.

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