[4/20/06] MST Informa #114: Manifesto of the Americas: in Defense of Nature and Biological and Cultural Diversity

We live in a dominant economic system that for centuries has engaged in the unlimited exploitation of all ecosystems and their natural resources. This strategy has generated economic growth and, for some countries, what has been called "development," and has privileged the consumption and well-being of a small fraction of humanity. And, unfortunately, it has excluded the great majority of humanity from access to minimum conditions for survival.

The costs of this system of exploitation of nature and of human beings, and of uncontrolled consumerism, has been paid with the sacrifice of millions of poor working people, peasants, indigenous peoples, pastoralists, fisherfolk, and the poorer people in society, who give their lives every single day. And this is accompanied by on-going aggression against Nature, that has been and still is systematically devastating. The integrity and diversity of life forms, which are the basis of biodiversity, are under threat. Nature on our planet is threatened, as is human life, which depends on Nature. Even the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment conducted by the UN, and released in 2005, recognizes that, "human activities are fundamentally and irreversibly changing the diversity of life on planet Earth. These changes will only accelerate in the future." In this important recognition of the planetary crisis, it is critical that we recognize that it is not all human activity that is so damaging, but rather, above all, those actions guided by the uncontrolled drive for profit of transnational corporations.

Faced with this dramatic situation, we feel the need to affirm alternatives that can assure a hopeful future for life, for humanity, and for the Earth. We need to pass from an industrial production society, consumerist and individualistic, that sacrifices ecosystems and penalizes human beings, while destroying social and biological diversity, to a society that sustains life. This must be a society in motion toward a life that is socially just and ecologically sustainable, and that takes care of the community of life and protects the physio-chemical and ecological bases of support for all living systems, including that of human beings.

As inhabitants of the American continent we are conscious of our universal responsibility. Through us, also, passes the future of the Earth. The Amazonian and Andean countries, for example, like Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Venezuela and Brazil, are mega-diverse countries. Not just because of the presence of very rich ecosystems, but also because of of the many indigenous peoples, peasants, quilombolas and other local communities, that over centuries and millennia have learned to co-exist with biological and cultural diversity. The Amazon forest in our countries makes up a third of all tropical forests in the world, and contains more than 50% of the biodiversity. In it there are at least 45,000 species of plants, 1,800 species of butterflies, 150 species of bats, 1,300 species of freshwater fish, 163 species of amphibians, 305 species of reptiles, 311 species of mammals, and 1,000 species of birds.

Because of this richness, Latin America is the object of the greed of the "neoliberal global-colonizers," via the action of dozens of transnational corporations, principally companies from the Global North, who are shamelessly engaged in bio-piracy. If it once was the race for gold and silver, today it is the race to monopolize genetic and pharmacological resources and the traditional and local knowledge that accompanies them, which have become strategic resources for the future of business in the global market. And they want to impose upon us patent laws and protections for their windfall profits.

We want to confront, decisively, this process of exploitation and destruction. We propose consistent policies that:

1. Conserve the biological and cultural diversity of our ecosystems, including all the living organisms in their habitats, and protect the interdependencies among them, within the dynamic equilibrium that characterizes each ecological region, together with the socially and ecologically sustainable interaction with the peoples that inhabit each region.

2. Guarantee the integrity and beauty of ecosystems and of the peoples that conserve and depend on them. This implies preserving the features of ecosystems that assure their functioning and maintain the identity of living beings in their territorial, biological, social, cultural, landscape level, historic and monumental aspects. The preservation of biological and cultural diversity, and of the integrity and beauty of ecological systems, can assure the sustainability of the multiple environmental functions and benefits for human beings today and in future generations. Among these are: clean water, food, medicine, wood, fiber, climate regulation, and flood and disease prevention. At the same time they constitute the basis of recreation, esthetics, and of spirituality, while at the same time supporting the soil, photosynthesis, and nutrient cycling, among other vital functions for all of humanity.

3. We oppose, decisively, the introduction of exotic species that are non-adaptive for our ecosystems, as has happened in many biomes with the promotion of homogeneous, industrial plantations of Eucalyptus, pine, etc., that destroy natural ecosystems and have severe, negative social impacts on the peoples that inhabit these areas. What they produce is profit for a few, dollars, cellulose, carbon, polluted water, a degraded environment, and poverty.

4. We strongly oppose the liberation of transgenic organisms in the environment, whether in farms, plantations, ranching or whatever other activity in the environment. Beyond being unnecessary, they are essentially useless for anything other than transnational corporate profits. They represent potential risks to human health and can cause irreversible damage to Nature and ecosystems. We emphatically oppose the introduction of transgenic trees, which represent an even grater danger, because, among other reasons, their pollen can be disseminated over many miles or kilometers, inevitably contaminating other forest species, including native species, and they can have multiple impacts on flora, insects and other components of fauna, and can undercut the basis of the livelihoods of indigenous peoples, fisherfolk, peasants, quilombolas and other local communities.

5. We pledge to combat Terminator seeds because they put life itself -- and its reproduction -- at risk, as they are "suicide seeds" that only benefit the transnational corporations that control our seeds, imposing a position of dependence on farmers.

6. We oppose the attempt of the imperial government of the United States and its transnational corporations to impose the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) on us, as well as diverse bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs), treaties to protect foreign investment, and agreements adopted in totally undemocratic manners at Summits and in the WTO. These agreements put our Nature, our agriculture, our services, and the living conditions of our populations at greater risk, and only prioritize guarantees in the interest of profits.

7. We express our support for, and recognition of, the peoples and communities who over centuries and millennia have developed our agricultural biodiversity, through the selection and conservation of the seeds that today are the basis of the world's agriculture and of humanity's food supply. To maintain this basis of our sustenance, this enormous richness of agricultural and culinary diversity, we must recognize and affirm the rights of peasants, indigenous peoples, pastoralists, fisherfolk, quilombolas and others, to land, territory and to natural resources, so that they can continue to carry out the essential task for humanity of conserving diverse local seed varieties, which can only take place at the local level. We will fight those companies that seek control over our seeds, against the traditions of the peoples who are the stewards of our seeds, who always understood seeds as the source of life, which should never be turned into mere commodities.

Finally, we express our hope that these resolutions benefit our peoples and benefit our food sovereignty -- that is, the right of each and every people to produce their own food, in conditions of good health and social justice, and in balance with Nature. We defend those who work in the countryside, our farmers and peasants. We defend their right to live as farmers, and to thusly guarantee the sustenance of our populations. This peasant mode of production contributes decisively to the sustainability of our planet, and to integral, broad-based development, essential for the future of humanity.

April 20, 2006

Curitiba, capital of the state of Parana, Brazil, building an America free of GMOs and aggression against the environment.


1. Hugo Chavez, President of Venezuela

2. Roberto Requião, Governor of Parana

3. Pérez Esquivel, Nobel Peace Laureate, Argentina

4. Eduardo Galeano, writer. Uruguay

5. Peter Rosset, food sovereignty researcher. USA/Mexico

6. Pat Mooney, ETC-Group, specialist in the impacts of GMOs and other new technologies, Canada

7. Silvia Ribeiro, researcher ETC-Group, Mexico

8. Noam Chosmki, linguist, MIT, USA

9. Atilio Boron, social scientist, CLACSO, Argentina

10. Violeta Menjivar, Mayor of San Salvador, El Salvador

11. Camille Chalmers, Jubilee South, HAITI

12. Ramon Grosfoguel, Puerto Rico

13. Doris Gutierrez, Congresswomen, Honduras

14. Monica Batoldano, ex-comandante Sandinista. Nicaragua

15. Ernesto Cardenal, poet, priest and ex-minister of culture, Nicaragua

16. Gioconda Belli, poet. Nicaragua

17. Raul Suarez, Baptist pastor and congressman. Cuba

18. Miguel Altieri, professor of agroecology, Univ. California, USA/CHILE

19. Fernando Lugo, Catholic bishop. Paraguay

20. Blanca Chancoso, Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities, CONAIE - Ecuador

21. Hebe de Bonafini, Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, Argentina

22. Aníbal Quijano, social scientist, Peru

23. Leonardo Boff, theologian and writer, Brazil

24. Beth Carvalho, cantautora. Brasil

25. Mons. Pedro Casaldaliga, Bishop and poet - Brazil

26. Mons Ladislau Biernaski, Catholic bishop, Curitiba. Brasil

27. Monja Coen, Buddhist nun, Brazil

28. João Pedro Stedile, leader of MST-Via Campesina-Brazil

29. Temistocles Marcelos Netto. Nat. Sec'ty Environmet, CUT. Brazil

30. Leticia Sabatela, actress, Artists Human Rights Movement, Brazil

31. Nalu Faria, World March of Women, Brazil

32. Pedro Ivo Batista. Eco-socialist Network. Brasil