Farmers Strike for Food Sovereignty, Colombia

Farmers revolted against control over their seed and agricultural tyranny of Ley 970 and corporate-government abuse


In 2011, the Colombian government authorities stormed the warehouses and trucks of rice farmers in Campoalegre, in the province of Huila, and violently destroyed 70 tonnes of rice that it said were not processed as per the law. This militarised intervention to destroy farmers' seeds shocked many, and inspired one young Chilean activist, Victoria Solano, to make a film about it. The film is called "9.70" because that is the number of the law adopted in 2010 that articulates the state's right to destroy farmers' seeds if they don't comply.

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Basic Data
NameFarmers Strike for Food Sovereignty, Colombia
Accuracy of LocationLOW country/state level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Biomass and Land Conflicts (Forests, Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock Management)
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Intensive food production (monoculture and livestock)
Specific CommoditiesSeeds
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe state provides almost no support for the small-scale farming sector. Instead, it embraces a social and economic model that serves the interests of a wealthy elite minority. Recent free trade agreements (FTAs) signed with the US and the EU are undercutting Colombian producers, who can't compete with subsidised imports.

The farmers' strike was soon supported by thousands of people from other sectors: oil industry workers, miners, truckers, health sector professionals, students and others. The response of the government was chaotic and contradictory. Police forces violently repressed and injured a lot of protesters, not to mention journalists.

Seeds emerged as one highly visible issue. Under the FTA signed with Washington, as well as that signed with Brussels, Bogotá is required to provide legal monopoly rights over seeds sold by US and European corporations as an incentive for them to invest in Colombia. Farmers who are caught selling farm-saved seeds of such varieties, or simply indigenous seeds which have not been formally registered, could face fines or even jail time.

Social pressure was so strong against the Union for the Protection of New Plant Varieties (UPOV) that the government declared the Resolution would be suspended for two years. However, it was not suspended and is merely being amended. Some of the harsh language has been replaced with more subtle words but it remains the same in content. The central demand of the people of Colombia has yet to be granted: the outright repeal of the resolution along with any attempt to impose UPOV 91 through other channels.

Moreover, a new national policy that is supposed to promote ‘family farming’ is also a wolf in sheep’s clothing. The farmers who will be promoted are those who change their production in order to ‘become competitive’, which means they must purchase inputs such as seeds, fertiliser and pesticides from the industry.
Type of PopulationRural
Start Date13/08/2013
Company Names or State EnterprisesMonsanto Corporation (Monsanto Co) from United States of America
Relevant government actorsthe Union for the Protection of New Plant Varieties (UPOV)
International and Financial InstitutionsNorth America Free Trade Agreement
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersLa Via Campesina

The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Industrial workers
Trade unions
Forms of MobilizationStreet protest/marches
Property damage/arson
massive public outcry started on 19th August 2013
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Food insecurity (crop damage), Soil contamination, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Potential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Genetic contamination, Soil erosion
Health ImpactsPotential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Malnutrition, Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Deaths
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Specific impacts on women
Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseProject temporarily suspended
Development of AlternativesRepeal of UPOV '91
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.The social pressure was so strong that the government declared that the Resolution would be suspended for two years. However, it was not suspended and is merely being amended. Some of the harsh language has been replaced with more subtle words but it remains the same in content.
Sources and Materials

Decision 345 of the Andean Community

Law 1032 of 2006

Resolution 970 by ICA


The criminalisation of peasant seeds: How farmers are resisting

La Via Campesina and GRAIN



Grain - Colombia farmers' uprising puts the spotlight on seeds
[click to view]

Forcing Farmers to Plant Genetically Modified Seeds: Colombians Revolt Against Seed Control and Agricultural Tyranny
[click to view]

Media Links

Documental 9.70 de Victoria Solano
[click to view]

Other Documents

Farmers protesting Source:
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorEjolt team
Last update11/02/2015