Guatemala Says No to Monsanto
Green San Miguel
By Mittie Roger, photos by Sean Reagan Photography
Sometimes I think really hard experiences, though they wear us down, teach us so much that they are worth living. In rural northern Guatemala, we encountered farmers protesting Monsanto, blocking international roads, and fighting back against a force they don’t yet know is sinister. They’d been seeing propaganda everywhere, ads both on television and in print saying that the seeds they’d used for generations were contaminated, carrying disease, and that the government had to “certify” them for use. Of course, the government didn’t certify any of their traditional seeds and the farmers were forced to buy Monsanto hybrids, seeds that were not only expensive, but didn’t produce their own seeds. The farmers had no choice but to buy more seeds from Monsanto when they were ready to plant or face fines for sowing contraband seeds.
Needless to say, the people were outraged. Not only was Monsanto underpaying their workers and overcharging for their product, but also the government hand-holding implied a tenuous future for traditional indigenous Guatemalan crops. The farmers worried about future generations who will have lost time-honored crops through using a genetically defunct replacement instead, and at the end of it all, have an expensive reaper to pay.
We got stuck between their roadblocks in Chisec and RuxRuha, in Verapaz. Their peaceful protest successfully closed an international highway. Hundreds of farmers from the surrounding areas created or guarded barricades from Chisec, nearly up to the Peten regional border. Sean and I introduced ourselves to some of the protesters, making our way to the people in charge, and explaining that, as a journalist and a photographer, we supported their cause and wanted to help. I’d write their story; he’d take the photos. They were appreciative and granted us access to take photos and pass between roadblocks.
They asked us to get on the microphone and discuss what we’d seen from Monsanto in the United States and Mexico, particularly in regard to Mexico’s wealth of corn. They had many questions regarding Monsanto, as it’s new in their country and veiled in propaganda. We talked about what we’d seen, the toxic effects that Monsanto produces with its variety of cancer-causing chemicals and genetic hybrids.
Afterward, we waited for over 24 hours in support of their protest.
Back at home, we found they had been successful, in overturning the Monsanto Law, as it’s popularly called, as of September 26. It’s truly inspiring to know that throughout the world communities are fighting to protect our food sources and our future.