Real World Radio interviewed Gentil Couto, from the Rural Landless Peasant Movement of Brazil, and coordinator of La Via Campesina in Parana state. He is taking part in Planet Diversity, the name given by La Via Campesina to the activities parallel to the 9th Conference of the Parties to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (COP 9)
Couto said one of the main threats to biological diversity is the concentration of land in the hands of agribusiness corporations. He said “with the advance of agrofuel production comes the advance on the lands of traditional communities”. In that case, the advance of corn, soy and sugar cane monoculture, is not only detrimental for the communities, but also for food production.
Within agrobusiness, another threat are tree monocultures to produce pulp, also imposed by transnational corporations. According to Couto, transnational corporations are occupying territories of indigenous, quilombolas (black slaves descendants), small farmers and settled peasants.
German corporations pay special attention to these monocultures, since transnational corporations also promote the implementation of GMO to develop those crops. Couto says that GMO will increase these monoculture areas, and will therefore destroy the biodiversity of the rural area.
The activist believes these problems, and others such as biopiracy and climate issues are caused by the “development model imposed nowadays. A model that favors the big capital, monocultures, the depletion of natural resources”.
As an alternative La Via Campesina suggests “a new model: peasant agriculture which has food and energy sovereignty as its main principle, which is in harmony with the environment, the local cultures, the peasants’ livelihood, the indigenous communities”.
But this development project proposed by the peasants “is not just a project for the people living in the rural areas” but a project that should be carried out between the countryside and the city, Couto said.
An example of this is a Day of Peasant Struggle that is being planned for June in Brazil, with the participation of indigenous communities, urban consumers, trade unions and students.