Swiss biotech giant, Syngenta, has been found guilty of murder and attempted murder by a Brazilian court.
The judge described the incident, which was a direct result of a bad outsourcing choice of security services by Syngenta, as a "massacre".
Long-term followers of GM-free Scotland may remember the original shocking report of deaths and serious injury to peasant GM-protesters in Brazil (MURDER IN BRAZIL - December 2007).
The violence erupted in a Syngenta-owned GM experimental field centre, which had been the scene of anti-GM activism for over a year, and which the State Governor had unsuccessfully tried to turn into an agro-ecological research centre to benefit poor farmers.
Having overturned the Government decree, Syngenta evicted 70 families camped on its land and, using a front company, hired private security guards. Syngenta insists its contract specified the (four) guards would be unarmed, but 'Via Campesina'* protesters re-invaded the site, and confiscated (apparently illegal) weapons from them.
A short time later, a bus of 40 heavily armed men arrived. They shot five activists, shot and killed one, and severely beat another. One guard was mysteriously killed and four others injured.
Syngenta tried to evade responsibility by claiming that the attack was not made by the company it had hired, but was an ideological confrontation between peasant activists and local private militiamen (a.k.a. thugs) hired by landowners. However, the biotech company's pivotal role in setting the scene for the massacre was clear.
The ruling provides a welcome land-mark in making Big Biotech accountable for human rights violations. One Brazilian lawyer involved in the case said "Transnational companies currently have considerable freedom to operate on a transnational basis, but there are no national or international norms or mechanisms sufficient to oblige companies to respect human rights or to hold them accountable for cases of human rights violations. In this case, Syngenta having been found responsible is an exception to the rule".
*Via Campesina denounces biotechnology companies who work to impose a farming model that causes environmental harm through the use of GM crops and pesticides, who appropriate natural and genetic resources, and who make it impossible for rural workers, indigenous peoples and traditional communities to produce the healthy food they need.
It's about time this 'exception' became the rule. Ask for biotech industry accountability before there are any more tragedies.
- Syngenta convicted Justice finds company responsible for armed attack on encamped rural workers, Terra de Direitos (Brazil), 18.11.15