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Guatemala: People Reject "Monsanto Law" for Threatening Food Security

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

The controversial "Law for the Protection of New Plant Varieties," also known as the "Monsanto Law", has been widely rejected by Guatemalan civil society. Groups say the rules will jeopardise food security and affect the farm economy.

On 10 June, the Congress of Guatemala approved Decree 19-2014 or the "Law for the Protection of New Plant Varieties" which led to an outpouring of criticism from various sectors of civil society.

This law, published on 26 June, protects the intellectual property of plant breeders deemed to have "created" or "discovered" new plant varieties, or genetically modified existing ones.

This way, the beneficiaries of the law - "breeders", which are typically companies producing transgenic seeds like the transnational corporation Monsanto - obtain property rights over the use of such varieties, in the form of plants or seeds.

Seed Monopoly

In a publication, the Rural Studies Collective (Cer-Ixim) warned about the consequences of this "Monsanto Law".

They explained that under this law the possession or exchange of seeds of protected varieties without the breeder's authorisation will be illegal and punishable by imprisonment.

It will also be illegal, and punishable by prison, to posses the harvest from such seeds or to save them for future plantings.

According to the law, the breeder's right extends to "varieties essentially derived from the protected variety." In this sense, a hybrid produced from a protected variety crossed with an unprotected variety would automatically belong to the breeder of the patented variety.

The law thus promotes privatisation and monopolies over seeds, endangering food sovereignty, especially that of indigenous peoples, said Cer-Ixim.