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After becoming first Latin American to successfully sue Monsanto, Chilean farmer still left with massive debt

Posted: January 27, 2014 |   Comments

( Jose Pizarro, a Chilean farmer, recently became the first Latin American to win a lawsuit against the multinational Monsanto corporation.

Monsanto recruited Pizarro back in 2008, luring him in with free GMO seed and Roundup, in addition to paying for the farmland's lease. In 2009 they also gave him the seed "but I purchased the poison. I spent two days sowing and although I had machines, the company forced me to sow using theirs, which were brand new, and that was an enormous expense," Pizarro said.

Under Monsanto's contract, all farmers had to grow crops according to instructions given by the company. "In 2009, they wanted to make an experiment with me I guess," Pizarro stated. "We were 12 farmers who were sowing that particular kind of maize in Chile and only two of us were told to sow rows of females (of GMO maize seed) and males (of hybrid seeds) on a proportion of 4:1; the other producers sowed in proportion 4:2.

"SAG was in charge of monitoring, and in my opinion, is an accomplice of the corporation, because on their reports they stated that I had sowed 4:2, which anyone could see that was not the case. According to their reports, it seemed that I had sowed under the same instructions as the other producers. But no, I sowed 'blindly,' I did what the corporation ordered me to do, I didn't even notice what the SAG certificator was writing down because the contract forced me to strictly follow the company's instructions."

Because the corporation ordered Pizarro to grow crops differently from other farmers, and he obeyed because of his contractual obligation, his production and sale price was much lower, causing him to suffer financially. Pizarro lost everything, his house, his land, his farming equipment, his truck and even his wife. He was left with 90 million Chilean pesos of debt owed to Banco Santander, a local bank.

But he refused to accept bankruptcy without a fight. By signing Monsanto's contract, Pizarro inadvertently gave up his right to sue the company in a local court; instead, he had to turn to the Chamber of Commerce, which is often prohibitively expensive. "First I had to pay CLP$700,000 to be able to get served and then CLP$4,400,000 to fund the judge," he explained. "I placed a lawsuit for CLP$218,000,000 and the judge finally ruled in my favor, but I only got CLP$37,000,000, which is far less than what I have lost."

The Chamber of Commerce arbitrated that Monsanto failed to comply with its obligation "which consists in providing services of technical supervision of the sowing in a diligent manner and giving strict compliance to the manufacturer's instructions for Monsanto's seed", incurring negligent breach of contract.

It took four months until Monsanto, which has deservingly been called the most evil corporation in the world, decided to comply with the ruling and awarded Pizarro 37 million Chilean pesos, which is far less than the losses he incurred. Also in this case, the company ordered Pizarro to destroy the non-GMO maize that his elderly neighbor was growing, so that it wouldn't contaminate the GM maize. Furthermore, the company's products have been linked to a number of environmental and health concerns, which it continuously denies to perpetuate its profits.

"I was shocked the first time I saw there were dead mice on the roadside, after they ate the maize's grains", Pizarro reports. "I just don't want other farmers to go through what I did. I will never again sow GMOs."

The original report was written by Lucia Sepulveda Ruiz and then translated by GMWatch.

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