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Argentine Activists Win First Round against Monsanto Plant

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Millions Against Monsanto page and our Genetic Engineering page.

CORDOBA, Argentina - Residents of a town in Argentina have won the first victory in their fight against biotech giant Monsanto, but they are still at battle stations, aware that winning the war is still a long way off.

For four months activists in Malvinas Argentinas, a town in the central province of Cordoba, have maintained a blockade of the construction site where the U.S. transnational company is building the world's biggest maize seed treatment plant.

In this previously peaceful town, protestors continue to camp in front of the construction site and to block access to it, even after a provincial court order this month put a halt to the works.

The campaign against the plant, led by Asamblea Malvinas Lucha por la Vida (Malvinas Assembly Fighting for Life) and other social organizations, began Sept. 18 in this town 17 kilometers from the capital of Cordoba.

Tense situations ensued, with attempts by the provincial police to disperse the demonstrators and provocations by construction union envoys, but a provincial labour court ruling on Jan. 8 upheld the activists' cause.

"The ruling shows that the residents' arguments are just, because they are claiming basic rights that are recognized and established in the constitution and federal legislation," Federico Macciocchi, the lawyer representing opponents of the plant, told IPS.

The court ruled that the municipal ordinance authorizing construction of the plant in this mostly working class town of 15,000 people was unconstitutional.

It ordered a halt to construction work and banned the Malvinas Argentinas municipality from authorizing the construction until two legal requirements are fulfilled: carrying out an environmental impact assessment and a public hearing.

"This is a big step forward in the struggle, achieved by working together on institutional demands, along with social activism on the streets," Matias Marizza, a member of the Malvinas Assembly, told IPS.

"This struggle has resulted in guaranteeing respect for the law," the activist said.

The Malvinas Assembly and other organizations have decided to continue to camp out at the site and block access until the project is abandoned for good.

Monsanto replied to IPS's request for comment with a statement that describes local activists as "extremists" who are preventing their contractors and employees from "exercising the right to work."

The court ruling arose from a legal appeal lodged by local residents and the Club de Derecho (Cordoba Law Club), presided by Macciocchi.

The labor court has ordered an environmental impact study and a public hearing, he emphasized.

The views expressed in the public hearing will be "highly relevant," he said, although under the General Environment Law, participants' objections and opinions "are not binding."