1. Evo Morales confronts indigenous and environmental groups

2. Brazil’s growing demand for energy means more dams

3. Warning on FTA with European Union

4. Setback for genetically modified rice in Brazil

5. Documentation on GM agro-business

1. Evo Morales confronts indigenous and environmental groups

Bolivian environmental organizations and indigenous groups that supported Evo Morales in his election to the presidency demand that his government stop exploiting oil resources in the Bolivian Amazon due to its serious impacts on the environment, including the destruction of biodiversity, and erosion of the livelihoods of the indigenous peoples that inhabit the region.

However, Morales has dismissed those demands stating that behind them lie foreign interests that oppose his government’s plans. “These foreign interests have gotten behind the slogans of an ‘Amazon without oil’ and ‘no more oil wells’, in open opposition to the deepening of the process of nationalization and improvement of the national economy”, said the president.

“The right-wing uses our fellow leaders to create opposition or to ask for some issues that are deep and nonnegotiable: how could it be  possible that all fiscal lands or national parks be transferred to the hands of some indigenous brothers; that all the timber concessions, once recuperated, be given to small groups of the indigenous movement in Bolivia? I feel that this is a way to oppose the policies we are developing,” said Morales to the newspaper Cambio.

The Minister of the Presidency, Oscar Coca, verbally attacked the Bolivian Forum on Environment and Development (FOBOMADE, by its Spanish initials). The group responded last June 14 with an indignant open letter to President Morales.

“This 2010 the FOBOMADE has marked 18 years of service to the Bolivian society and especially to grassroots, indigenous and productive organizations that work for environmental protection. This means conducting research, writing reports, and promoting and exercising citizens’ rights, such as the right to information, environmental rights and indigenous rights and with them, the right of participation in all aspects of environmental management”, said the letter.

“In April of 2009 we wrote to inform you about the Amazon without Oil Campaign, whose mission is to inform Amazonian peoples affected by the activities of oil companies, about the legal procedures, rights and duties related to such activities in all stages of the production chain, in particular in the territories inhabited by indigenous and peasant communities. We believe that this information and the knowledge of it are tools for peaceful coexistence within the framework of Living Well.”

In 2009 FOBOMADE led a national debate about the urgent necessity to abandon aggressive development models based on the exploitation and exportation of raw materials and instead institute alternative energy models, that exclude fossil fuels and hydroelectric mega-dams, as well as rejecting energy projects that are purely for export.

After numerous attempts, the organization was unable to contact Morales personally, but delivered a document entitled “Guidelines to End the Oil Conflict in the Southern Amazon”, which presents a strategy in the defense of life and of the peoples of the rainforest. However, Morales’ government of Morales does not seem to be giving consideration to their proposals.

“We have heard that your government is committed to increasing rates of mineral and oil exports as an engine of economic growth, which means that the vision of development continues to be based on exploiting nature and dependence on international markets, maintaining the country’s role as a supplier of raw materials and the subjection to global trade rules and institutions that impose restrictions on the changes that we hope for,” said FOBOMADE in its open letter.


FOBOMADE. Carta abierta a Evo Morales. June 14, 2010. http://fobomade.org.bo/bsena/?p=579

Plataforma Energética. “Evo: La Amazonia sin petróleo es una consigna de intereses foráneos.” June 23, 2010. http://www.plataformaenergetica.org/content/1384


2. Brazil’s growing demand for energy means more dams

Electricity demands in Brazil are projected to increase 5.9% per year until 2019, and the construction of hydroelectric dams will be essential to meet this growing demand, according to Mario Zimmermann, mines and energy minister of the country. The ministry directed by Zimmerman plans to build six hydroelectric plants in the Tapajós River basin alone, which crosses Mato Grosso and the neighboring northern state of Pará.

“Because two thirds of the hydroelectric potential of the country is found in the Amazon, it is anticipated that the protests of environmentalists, the indigenous, and other social movements against the construction of large dams will continue,” commented the news agency IPS (Inter Press Service).

“The government of the leftist president Luiz Ingacio ‘Lula’ de Silva aims to harness the force of the rivers in Peru and Guyana, where Brazil’s Mines and Energy Ministry of Brasil counts on obtaining a large part of the nearly 14,000 megawatts potential, divided between the two countries,” reports IPS. “Two hydroelectric plants shared with Argentina, on the borderline Uraguay River, with a combined capacity of 2,122 megawatts also form part of Brazil’s plans.”

The Ministry’s plans also include a new nuclear plant and several power plants that will burn fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas. With regard to renewable energies, wind energy covers only four percent of the total projected increase in energy demand.

Of the planned dams, the most controversial is Belo Monte, which is to be built on the River Xingu. The campaign Save the Rainforest calls on all to adhere to an open letter to the Brazilian government urging it to put an end to the controversial dam.


Mario Osava. “La sed de energía de Brasil multiplicará las represas en toda la Amazonia”. IPS, June 17, 2010. http://www.plataformaenergetica.org/content/1382

Milagros Salazar. “Qué se juega en el acuerdo energético Perú-Brasil.” IPS, June 17, 2010. http://www.ipsnoticias.net/nota.asp?idnews=95692

3. Warning against FTA with the European Union

Several Latin American NGOs recently met in Uruguay, including the World Rainforest Movement (WRM), the Seed Group of Columbia, and (REDES)NETWORKS–Friends of the Earth Uruguay, to analyze the implications of the free trade agreements (FTA) signed in May between the European Union and Central America, Columbia, and Peru. These agreements, along with the one planned between the EU and Mercosur, are part of the “Global Europe” strategy, implemented by the EU with the goal of advancing the interests of their transnational corporations around the globe.

“These FTAs not only pose a serious threat to the peoples’ food sovereignty, the forests, and the major ecosystems of the region, such as smallscale fishing, but also they exacerbate climate change,” warns WRM. The organizations warned that the countries of Mercosur run the same risks following the decision to resume their negotiations with the EU in late June.

Organizations noted that the EUs promotion of FTAs will increase unsustainable extractive activities that have a harmful impact on biodiversity, including logging operations, agribusiness monocultures such as biofuels, extensive cattle ranching, and tree plantations, that along with destroying forests and other important ecosystems displace local communities, particularly indigenous peoples. “The European race to gain access to all types of natural resources and take control of biodiversity, coupled with these unbridled economic activities, threatens to destroy the remaining rainforests of the continent.”

“Analyses from various sectors on the effects of the FTAs demonstrate that they have put food sovereignty at risk, and affect small-scale agriculture and fisheries, forests and other major ecosystems, and will aggravate the climate crisis,” declared REDES. “These trade agreements with the EU are just as or more dangerous than those signed by the United States with Columbia, Peru, and Central America, and they have the same objective: to deepen trade liberalization over broad strategic sectors of the Latin American economies, for the benefit of European companies.”


REDES- Amigos de la Tierra Uruguay. “Siguiendo los pasos del ALCA”. June, 28 2010.

4. Setback for Genetically Modified rice in Brazil

On June 24, the German agricultural biotechnology corporation Bayer CropScience withdrew its petition for the approval of the genetically modified (GM) rice seed that was before the National Biosafety Technical Commission of Brazil (CTNBio) The request, originally presented in 2002, was for cultivation of the rice seed Liberty Link, a genetically-modified variety resistant to the herbicide glufosinate.

Bayer retracted the request “because they consider it important to have a little more time to broaden dialogue with key members of rice production in Brazil,” informed the CTNBio in a communication.

“One would think that eight years would be more that enough to broaden the debate on how the cultivation of GM crops are becoming less effective against herbicide resistant weeds, how rice producers have suffered financial losses due to GM rice, and how we continue to see unanticipated side effects in GM crops,” commented Glen Tyler of Greenpeace International.

Earlier this year, U.S. courts ruled that Bayer must pay millions of dollars in compensation to farmers whose farms were contaminated by LL601, an experimental GM rice of the company that had not been approved for human consumption. In one of the court cases, Bayer argued that it is not possible to avoid GM contamination, even with the best industry practices. The judges did not believe the argument and the courts determined that the contamination was intentional.

“The message of the Brazilian rice producers is clear – GM rice is not wanted in Brazil,” declared Tyler. “To broaden the debate Bayer will have make a serious effort to search for other players in the chain of Brazilian rice production, since the majority of them have expressed their opposition to GM rice, among them the Rice Federation of Rio Grande do Sol, a region that accounts for 60% of the Brazilian rice production.” But Bayer CropScience is not leaving Brazil, nor have they abandoned their biotech ambitions. Actually it is now working with Brazil’s Center of Sugar Cane Technology to develop new varieties of cane.


Bayer Cropscience. “Bayer Cropscience teams up with leading Brazilian sugarcane technology center” Communication, May 27, 2010.

Glen Tyler. “Bayer finally gets the message. We don’t want GE!” Greenpeace International, July 24, 2010.

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5. New Documentation on GM Agribusiness

Friends of the Earth Uruguay has just published an informative paper entitled “The exclusive coexistence: GM Crops in the Southern Cone – the Case of Uruguay”.

“The advance of agribusiness in this area (with GMs playing a key role) has generated a series of environmental and social impacts, not yet weighed by successive governments, warns the new text,” said the organization. “Highlighted among these impacts are the displacement of peasant and indigenous communities, the advance of the agricultural frontier over forests, changes caused by environmental contamination, harmful effects on health due to an  increased use of toxic agro-chemicals, the appropriation of local traditional knowledge, and the violation of the peoples’ sovereignty.”

In Uruguay the expansion of the area planted with soybean in recent years has been swift and brutal in its displacement of family farms – from 10, 000 hectares in the 200-2001 harvest to 580,000 in the 2008-2009 harvest. Practically all the soybeans planted in the country are genetically modified, and come from one business: the U.S.- based Monsanto corporation. Uruguay also plants the GM corn from Monsanto and the European corporation, Syngenta.



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Carmelo Ruiz Marrero is an independent environmental journalist and environmental analyst for the Americas Program (www.americasprogram.org), a fellow at the Oakland Institute, senior fellow at the Environmental Leadership Program, as well as founder and director of the Biosafety Project of Puerto Rico (bioseguridad.blogspot.com). His bilingual web page (carmeloruiz.blogspot.com) is devoted to global environmental and development issues.

Translated by: Lindsay Hooper

Edited by: Laura Carlsen

For more information:

Americas Program Biodiversity Report, June 2010


Americas Program Biodiversity Report, May 2010


Americas Program Biodiversity Report, April 2010


This post is also available in: Spanish