Monday, April 26, 2010

Brazil: Hired Guns:
 Fighting for a share of the land


The embedded video by Siri Schubert discusses a clash between three parties in
the state of Paraná, in southern Brazil. The first and central group of this video
is the MST (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sem-Terra translated to Brazil’s
Landless Workers Movement). The second, Syngenta, a transnational
corporation that was testing genetically modified soybeans in the state. And
finally, a private security company contracted to protect the Syngenta testing
grounds, N.F. Segurança.

The MST commonly protested Syngenta for the testing of potentially toxic seeds
and fertilizers. They claim that the toxins in their products can contaminate
food and water supplies as well as reducing the biodiversity of the area. In early
2007, the court ordered the protesters to stop, which they did albeit

In 2006, Syngenta was found guilty of violating a law prohibiting any genetic
testing within 10 km of governmentally protected areas and ordered to pay
$500,000. In late 2007 however, tensions rose in the area when the company
dragged out paying the fine. On October 21st 2007 at around 7:00 am a large
group of MST protesters gathered around the complex, at the gates near the
security check point. After realizing they were out numbered, the security
guards fled, but returned with numbers. Although the exact order of events is
unclear and disputed by N.F. and MST, the last image captured of the event, on
a cell phone, clearly displayed a security guard with a handgun. In the after
math of the event the gates were riddled with bullet holes, 2 lay dead and many
more injured.

Blame for the events that transpired is placed on many different parties. The
police investigating the incident blame N.F. Segurança. The security firm
however points to the MST who were carrying “revolvers, rifles and a lot of
guns” (although MST claim to have been unarmed). The firm also blames the
contract with Syngenta claiming they had a security plan for such events, which
included deploying more men to a location in case of an invasion. Syngenta,
although unavailable for an interview, stated that they had a provision in the
contract to “nether use force nor to carry weapons in the guarding and
protection of the research station”.

As of yet, no one in any of the groups has been sentenced, however charges
stand against many N.F. Segurança agents. Syngenta gave its 127 acres used for
testing GM plants to the state, which promised to use it as an organic farm and
an agricultural school. MST has since moved on to protest other environmentally
harmful farms.

External Links:
N.F. Segurança website:
MST website:
Syngenta Brazil:
Frontline’s Website:


  1. This is a very interesting story I had no idea about. It's a shame that environmental action has to come in the form of violence, and I really believe effective institutions need to be a major priority for developing regions to administer laws and rights to solve such issues to try and steer people away from the use of guns.

  2. I agree with Maggie, this is a very interesting story. I think this has a lot to say about concern for environmental protection in developing country, as we have discussed in class. I find it shocking that such a case, not immediately effecting civilians in the short term could come to such violence. However, to be overly optimistic at least these people care enough about the health of their community and its future to take such a drastic stance!

  3. Violence is always a bad idea. It really splits the line for who to support. However, there should be stronger regulation on the company to have to pay the fine in a timely manor. I think that the accountability needs to be higher.


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