[05/22/08] Friends of the MST Protest Syngenta Outside Chicago

Protesters target seed company in Lisle May 9, 2008 The Lisle Sun By Eva McKendrick emckendrick@scn1.com About a dozen activists May 2 staged a protest at the Syngenta Seeds facility in Lisle, seeking a response from its Swiss headquarters on alleged environmental and human rights violations in Brazil. The protesters, members of a group called Friends of MST (the Brazilian Landless Workers Movement) from the Chicago area, marched to the facility's doors at 4343 Commerce Court to demand the company send a fax with the group's requests to corporate headquarters. And they weren't leaving until they got results.

Friends of MST is a worldwide group that "supports the Brazilian Landless Workers Movement in the struggle for social and economic justice while securing respect for human rights," according to the MST Web site. The group alleges that Syngenta is violating Brazilian environmental regulations by researching genetically modified seeds in a protected natural area. The group also wants answers about the October death of Valmir Mota de Oliveira, an activist who was shot and killed during protests at a Syngenta farm in southern Brazil In a statement, the company said they are "shocked and saddened by these tragic events" and that the private security firm involved in the reported actions were under strict contractual obligation to not bear or use arms. Niki Fabricant, a student at Northwestern University in Evanston, said the Friends of MST sent numerous letters to the Lisle Syngenta but were ignored, so the group decided to take more drastic action. "Something can happen in Brazil and 20 people from Chicago are doing something about it," said Duff Morton, one of the MST members. Friends of MST never got to speak face to face with Syngenta officials. They arrived to find the doors locked, the lights turned off and the majority of the employees exiting through the back door. Police were called, and the MST members were asked to leave or be arrested - but the group members were pleased with their effort. They were able to slide information under the door, and one member knocked on the glass doors so hard, he was left with a bloody hand. "We have definitely achieved the objectives that we wanted," MST member Maristela Zell said. A receptionist at the Syngenta branch in Lisle said the branch had no comment about the protest. In a statement, Anne Burt, from Syngenta communications and public affairs in Washington, D.C. said, "We are grateful that the authorities responded so quickly to protect our employees and property."