Thus far, I have written posts on what sustainable development is, sustainable development in Peru, the ways indigenous land entitlement can be seen as sustainable development, the differences between community sustaining development and government mandated development and the role of microfinance and digital payment in development in Peru. To conclude this set of blog posts, I would like to write more about agriculture and development with a focus on terminator seeds (seeds that are genetically modified so that the second generation of seeds are sterile). Many problems arise from terminator seeds including soil degradation and increased farmers’ dependency on large seed providers such as Monsanto and Syngenta because new seeds need to be bought each year.
An article in a Mexican news forum, Quadratin, points out that agricultural chemicals and nitrogen fertilizer were not actually invented for agriculture but were a product of war. They report that these strong chemicals, can have serious health consequences. For example, in Peru in 1999, 24 children died because they were poisoned by eating food contaminated by Parathion, an insecticide. Problems of contamination, however, are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of all the problems caused by terminator seeds and chemical farming.
The organization Quechua-Aymara Association for Nature and Sustainable Development (ANDES) held a community meeting in 2005 to discuss the potential impacts of terminator seeds on Peruvian agriculture. About 70 indigenous leaders met together for this discussion and produced a report for the UN working group to submit at the next Convention on Biological Diversity. The main worries voiced included fear that the “pollen from terminator seeds could transfer sterility to and effectively kill off other crops and plant life (ANDES),” worry about increased dependence on monster seed distribution companies such as Monsanto and Syngenta, and concern that terminator seeds could put Peru’s 3,000 varieties of potatoes at risk as reported on History Commons. The concerns also include loss of biodiversity, “erosion of indigenous knowledge and innovation systems” which include knowledge of seed saving and exchange, loss of food sovereignty, cutting back of indigenous human rights and marginalization of women (quoted from the report itself). History Commons quoted Felipe Gonzalez, a member of the indigenous Pinchimoro community who said, “[t]erminator seeds do not have life…[l]ike a plague they will come infecting our crops and carrying sickness. We want to continue using our own seeds and our own customs of seed conservation and sharing.”
A letter signed by representatives of 34 indigenous communities provides another example of the struggle against ending the international de facto moratorium on terminator seeds. As IIED reports ‘the coalition says Syngenta’s claims that its patent for ‘terminator technology’ potatoes is neither relevant nor applicable in the region are “deeply offensive.”’ The coalition requests that Syngenta disown the patent of a genetic modification that can stop potatoes from sprouting. Despite the de facto moratorium, research continues and corporations want to see the ban revoked. One quote that really stuck out to me in this same article was said by Alejandro Argumendo who is part of ANDES. He said “We feel greatly disrespected by corporations that make a single genetic alteration to a plant and then claim private ownership when these plants are the result of thousands of years of careful breeding by indigenous people.” In the end, the moratorium on terminator seeds was not relaxed to the relief of the indigenous Quechua working so hard against it in Peru as well as to people all over the world yet an end to the moratorium in the future is still a very real possibility.
One prime example of a program ANDES operates that works with bio cultural conservation is the Potato Park where six Quechua communities live and cultivate about 1,500 varieties of potato. As the ANDES website explains “[t]he communities’ traditional knowledge, customary laws and spiritual beliefs that nurture these resources are in turn shaped and sustained by the Andean ancestral landscapes and their sacred mountain gods or Apus.”
Respect for indigenous values and traditional knowledge of indigenous peoples “is a key component in the response to climate change.” Various organizations, including ANDES are coming together to bring attention to the power of having indigenous cultural and spiritual values as central in the fight to slow global warming. The brief “Indigenous spiritual and cultural values to guide climate change adaptation” quotes Karenna Gore, the director of Center for Earth Ethics saying, “[i]ndigenous spirituality seeks powerful connection to larger purposes and meaning, celebrates biodiversity and promotes inclusion…[t]he world especially needs that kind of worldview at this time. This great body of knowledge has a wealth of adaptive capacity. It not only protects the wellbeing of indigenous peoples; it also promotes an awareness of our deep interconnected relationship with nature that can enhance our world as a whole.” This powerful quote resonates with me personally. I strongly believe that indigenous valuation of the earth must be central to a reformed society that is truly able to take care of the earth, which is why I chose to write my blog posts on the topic of sustainable development and the Quechua and Aymara peoples of Peru.
Alcalá, Salvador. “Los Orgánicos.” Quadratin. 04 Mar. 2015. Web. 10 Apr. 2016. <https://www.quadratin.com.mx/opinion/Los-organicosSalvador-Alcala-6/>.
“Biocultural Conservation – Sallqa Ayllu.” ANDES. Web. 10 Apr. 2016. <http://www.andes.org.pe/program-biocultural-conservation-sallqa-ayllu-about>.
“COP21 ANDES in Paris.” Asociación ANDES. 9 Dec. 2015. Web. 10 Apr. 2016. <http://www.andes.org.pe/note-cop21-andes-in-paris-2>.
“Indigenous Peoples of Cusco, Peru on the Potential Impacts of Terminator.” Letter to Hamdallah Zedan. 27 Sept. 2005. 27 Sept. 2005. Web. 10 Apr. 2016.
“‘Insulted’ Andean Farmers Pick GM Potato Fight with Multinational Syngenta.” International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED). 12 Jan. 2007. Web. 10 Apr. 2016. <http://www.iied.org/insulted-andean-farmers-pick-gm-potato-fight-multinational-syngenta>
Profile: Quechua-Aymara Association for Nature and Sustainable Development (ANDES).” History Commons. Web. 10 Apr. 2016. <http://www.historycommons.org/entity.jsp?entity=quechua-aymara_association_for_nature_and_sustainable_development>.