The 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.