In an attempt to end ongoing agricultural strikes, Colombia’s government agreed on Wednesday to freeze a controversial 2010 resolution that allowed the destruction of seeds and food produced by seeds extracted from farmers’ own harvest.
The controversial resolution 970 was adopted as part of a set of legislative measures accompanying a free trade agreement with the United States in March 2010. The decree obligated farmers to use only certified seeds and penalized the sowing of seeds from the farmers’ own harvest.
The decree came under attack after a 2012 documentary in which Colombian authorities were seen destroying tons of food, accused of failing to inform farmers about the illegality of the use of non-certified seeds or the re-use of certified seeds while criminally prosecuting farmers who unknowingly were breaking the new law.
According to the documentary 9.70, the decree was a condition by Washington to agree to the 2011 free trade pact with Colombia.
Critics of the decree said it increased the production price of food, because farmers were now legally bound to buying new seeds. The critics additionally accused US biotechnology company Monsanto of being the main beneficiary of the legislation.
In a statement by presidential secretary Aurelio Iragorri, “the national government commits to not applying resolution 970 from 2010 on national[ly produced] seeds.”
Additionally, the government vowed to work together with farmers on “the structuring of a new proposal regarding certified seeds that do not affect the agricultural producer.”
According to newspaper El Espectador, the government — who has seen its popular support plummet to a record low as the agricultural crisis unfolded — refuses to renegotiate the conditions of the FTA with Washington. Instead, Bogota said it will establish safeguards on the import of agricultural products from other Latin American countries.
Finance Minister Mauricio Cardenas additionally proposed Congress to reopen the debate on the already approved 2014 budget to earmark extra funds for Colombia’s suffering agricultural sector.
“The government wants to stress … the necessity to seek more funds in the 2014 national budget. The circumstances in the country require this because of the difficult situation it is going through, especially in the rural sectors and, in particular, the Colombian farmer’s family.” Cardenas told Congress.
The government concessions came weeks after farmers, joined by truckers, miners and university teachers, went on a national strike. The ongoing strikes and accompanying roadblocks effectively shut down large parts of Colombia’s rural economy and infrastructure.
After failing to attend the agricultural crisis before strikes broke out, the government has been involved in numerous simultaneous negotiations with striking economic sectors.
- Decree 970 (ICA)
- Gobierno acordó congelar decreto 970 (El Espectador)
- Para salvar de crisis al sector agrario habría un impuesto del 2 por $1.000 (El Espectador)
- Congelan la norma 970 que penaliza uso de semillas no certificadas (El Tiempo)
- El gobierno congeló la resolución que volvía delincuentes a los campesinos por usar las semillas nativas (Prensa Rural)