Arquivo da tag: Agronegócio

Transgênicos e hidrelétricas (Estadão); e resposta (JC)

Transgênicos e hidrelétricas

Recentemente cem cientistas que receberam o Prêmio Nobel em várias áreas do conhecimento assinaram um apelo à organização ambiental Greenpeace para que abandone sua campanha, que já dura muitos anos, contra a utilização de culturas transgênicas para a produção de alimentos. Transgênicos são produtos em que são feitas alterações do código genético que lhes dão características especiais, como as de protegê-los de pragas, resistir melhor a períodos de seca, aumentar a produtividade e outros.

José Goldemberg*

15 Agosto 2016 | 05h00

O sucesso do uso de transgênicos é evidente em muitas culturas, como na produção de soja, da qual o Brasil é um exemplo. Contudo, quando se começou a usar produtos transgênicos, objeções foram levantadas, uma vez que as modificações genéticas poderiam ter consequências imprevisíveis. O Greenpeace tornou-se o campeão das campanhas contra o seu uso, que foi banido em vários países.

As objeções iniciais tinham como base dois tipos de consideração: luma, de caráter científico, que foi seriamente investigada por cientistas; el outra, de caráter mais geral, com base no “princípio da precaução”, que nos diz basicamente que cabe ao proponente de um novo produto demonstrar que ele não tem consequências inconvenientes ou perigosas. O “princípio da precaução” tem sido usado para barrar, com maior ou menor sucesso, a introdução de inovações.

Esse princípio tem um forte componente moral e político e tem sido invocado de forma muito variável ao longo do tempo. Por exemplo, ele não foi invocado quando a energia nuclear começou a ser usada, há cerca de 60 anos, para a produção de eletricidade; como resultado, centenas de reatores nucleares foram instalados em muitos países e alguns deles causaram acidentes de grandes proporções. Já no caso de mudanças climáticas que se originaram na ação do homem – consumo de combustíveis fósseis e lançamento na atmosfera dos gases que aquecem o planeta –, ele foi incorporado na Convenção do Clima em 1992 e está levando os países a reduzir o uso desses combustíveis.

A manifestação dos nobelistas argumenta que a experiência mostrou que as preocupações com possíveis consequências negativas dos transgênicos não se justificam e opor-se a eles não faz mais sentido.

Nuns poucos países, o “princípio da precaução” tem sido invocado também para dificultar a instalação de usinas hidrelétricas, tendo em vista que sua construção afeta populações ribeirinhas e tem impactos ambientais. Esse é um problema de fato sério em países com elevada densidade populacional, como a Índia, cujo território é cerca de três vezes menor que o do Brasil e a população, quatro vezes maior. Qualquer usina hidrelétrica na Índia afeta centenas de milhares de pessoas. Não é o caso do Brasil, que tem boa parte de seu território na Amazônia, onde a população é pequena. Ainda assim, a construção de usinas na Amazônia para abastecer as regiões mais populosas e grandes centros industriais no Sudeste tem enfrentado sérias objeções de grupos de ativistas.

A construção de usinas hidrelétricas no passado foi planejada com reservatórios. Quando esses reservatórios não são feitos, a produção de eletricidade varia ao longo do ano. Para evitar isso são construídos lagos artificiais, que armazenam água para os períodos do ano em que chove pouco.

Até recentemente quase toda a eletricidade usada no Brasil era produzida por hidrelétricas com reservatórios, que garantiam o fornecimento durante o ano todo mesmo chovendo pouco. Desde 1990 essa prática foi abandonada por causa das queixas das populações atingidas nas áreas alagadas. As hidrelétricas passaram a ser construídas sem reservatórios – isto é, “a fio d’água” –, usando apenas a água corrente dos rios. É o caso das usinas de Jirau, Santo Antônio e Belo Monte, cujo custo aumentou muito em relação à eletricidade produzida: elas são dimensionadas para o fluxo máximo de águas dos rios, que se dá em alguns meses, e geram muito menos nos meses secos.

Houve nesses casos um superdimensionamento do problema. De modo geral, para cada pessoa afetada pela construção de usinas, mais de cem pessoas são beneficiadas pela eletricidade produzida. Sucede que os poucos milhares de pessoas atingidas vivem em torno da usina e se organizaram para reclamar compensações (em alguns casos são instrumentadas por grupos políticos), ao passo que os beneficiados, que são milhões, vivem longe do local e não são organizados.

Cabe ao poder público avaliar os interesses do total da população, comparar os riscos e prejuízos sofridos por alguns e os benefícios recebidos por muitos. Isso não tem sido feito e o governo federal não tem tido a firmeza de explicar à sociedade onde estão os interesses gerais da Nação.

Isso se verifica também em outras grandes obras públicas, como estradas, portos e infraestruturas em geral. Um exemplo é o Rodoanel Mário Covas, em torno da cidade de São Paulo, cuja construção enfrentou fortes contestações tanto de atingidos pelas obras como de alguns grupos ambientalistas. A firmeza do governo de São Paulo e os esclarecimentos prestados viabilizaram a obra, hoje considerada positiva pela grande maioria: retira dezenas de milhares de caminhões por dia do tráfego urbano de São Paulo e reduz a poluição lançada por eles sobre a população.

O que se aprende neste caso deveria ser aplicado às hidrelétricas da Amazônia, que têm sido contestadas por alguns grupos de ambientalistas não suficientemente informados. Cabe aqui uma ação como a que foi tomada pelos nobelistas em relação aos transgênicos e aceitar hidrelétricas construídas com as melhores exigências técnicas e ambientais, incluindo reservatórios, sem os quais elas se tornam pouco viáveis, abrindo caminho para o uso de outras fontes de energia mais poluentes, como carvão e derivados de petróleo.

*PRESIDENTE DA FAPESP, FOI PRESIDENTE DA CESP


Pesquisador comenta artigo

JC 5485, 19 de agosto de 2016

O professor emérito da UnB, Nagib Nassar, questiona o artigo “Transgênicos e hidrelétricas”, do Estado de S. Paulo, divulgado no Jornal da Ciência na última terça-feira

Leia o comentário abaixo:

Refiro-me ao artigo do professor José Goldemberg, publicado no Estadão e projetado pelo Jornal da Ciência.

Discordo do ilustre cientista a começar por ele dizer que transgênicos são feitos para proteger plantas de pragas. Sabe-se que o único transgênico plantado para essa finalidade no Brasil é o milho Bt. Assim, o professor esqueceu ou fez esquecer que, para essa finalidade, é introduzido na planta um gene produtor de toxina mata insetos e, consequentemente, a planta passa a funcionar como um inseticida! 

A toxina Bt, assim como mata insetos, intoxica o próprio ser humano. Frequentemente é citado na literatura o alto risco, inclusive fatal, para o indivíduo. Um exemplo dessas variedades de milho Bt é a variedade milho MO 810: proibida para uso humano pelo próprio país produtor, pela França, Alemanha, Inglaterra e outros países europeus. Infelizmente, a variedade é autorizada no Brasil e quem autorizou não se preocupou em nos fazer de simples cobaias! Em países pobres da África foi rejeitado até como presente. A Zâmbia preferiu ver seu povo sofrer de fome a morrer envenenado! Além de matar insetos invasores, a toxina Bt mata insetos úteis, como abelha de mel e outros polinizadores necessários para que a planta formar frutas.

Quando esse tipo de transgênico morre, ao final de estação de crescimento, suas raízes deixam para o solo resíduos tóxicos que matam bactérias fixadoras do nitrogênio e transformam o solo em um ambiente envenenado para o crescimento da bactéria fixadora do Azoto, que forma fertilizante. Assim, fica impedido o crescimento de qualquer cultura leguminosa. O fabricante desse transgênico gasta milhões de reais com todos os tipos de propagandas, em todas as formas e todos os níveis: o resultado é o mais alto nível o custo das sementes transgênicas, que chega a ser 130 vezes mais cara do que o preço normal. Os pequenos agricultores enganados e iludidos pela propaganda, quando não podem pagar dívidas, correm para um destino trágico: o suicídio. Há muitos casos conhecidos da Índia, que chegou a registrar, em apenas um ano, 180 mortos.

É bom um físico falar sobre hidrelétricas, mas é questionável que se afirme dogmaticamente sobre transgênicos. E por que ele escolheu transgênicos para associá-los às hidrelétricas? Será como uma fachada que esconde o mal dos transgênicos? Isto me lembra do manifesto assinado por cem ganhadores de Nobel em favor de transgênicos escondendo atrás o arroz dourado. Entre esses ganhadores de Nobel, físicos, químicos, até letras e, além de tudo, três mortos!

Lembro-me também de um cientista distante da área  que foi há dez anos à Câmara de Deputados com argumentos e pedidos para a liberação da soja transgênica, e não pelos resultados científicos, que nunca foram apresentados e nem existiam, mas para não prejudicar agricultores que contrabandeavam soja.

Nagib Nassar

Professor emérito da Universidade de Brasília

Presidente fundador da fundação  FUNAGIB (www.funagib.geneconserve.pro.br)

Ministro da Defesa vai a CPI para constranger antropólogos e defensores de indígenas (Outras Palavras)

Blog do Alceu Castilho

Publicado em 3 de abril de 2016

Em ato voluntário, Aldo Rebelo voltou a se aliar com ruralistas para colecionar delírios que seriam inadequados para um deputado; quanto mais à sua função no governo

Por Alceu Luís Castilho (@alceucastilho)

No que se refere à questão agrária, tema que acompanho de perto, nenhuma vez fiquei tão constrangido ao ver a fala de um político quanto agora, ao assistir o vídeo de Aldo Rebelo na CPI da Funai, na quarta-feira. E olhem que ele tem sérios concorrentes. Tivemos o deputado Luís Carlos Heinze (PP-RS) chamando índios, gays, quilombolas de “tudo que não presta”. E falas absurdas da ministra Kátia Abreu, principalmente do tempo em que era senadora; ou do líder da milícia UDR, hoje senador, Ronaldo Caiado (DEM-GO).

E por que a fala de Rebelo é pior?

Porque ele é ministro da Defesa. Suas curiosas concepções sobre “antropologia colonial” já seriam particularmente bizarras por ele se declarar comunista – ele é um dos líderes do PCdoB. Mas este é um assunto menor: que esses comunistas específicos se virem com sua consciência e com suas leituras, diante das diatribes do ex-deputado. Que se olhem no espelho e tentem encarar, depois disso, uma liderança indígena, um antropólogo sério, sem passar profunda vergonha. Agora, repito: Rebelo é ministro da Defesa. 

E, por isso, sua fala é indefensável. Vejamos.

“Dos três troncos, o indígena é o mais sofrido, o mais esquecido pelo Estado brasileiro. Enquanto os outros troncos alcançaram, de certa forma, seu espaço na construção da sociedade nacional, os índios foram ficando à margem desse processo, e carregando maior as penas e o sofrimento da construção da nossa pátria. Cabe, portanto, esse registro pra que essa injustiça possa ser reparada, para que nós possamos, de forma consequente, socorrer, amparar essa parcela da nossa população. Exatamente para que ela não fique à mercê [eleva a voz] da manipulação de demagogos, da manipulação de interesses espúrios internos e externos, como, lamentavelmente, vem acontecendo.

É preciso que o Estado brasileiro ampare a população indígena do Brasil, para que organizações não-governamentais interesseiras, muitas vezes agentes do próprio Estado, agindo contra o Estado, manipulem o sofrimento e o abandono das populações indígenas. Falo, senhoras e senhores, com a experiência de quem palmilhou, nas fronteiras do Brasil mais remotas da Amazônia, as terras indígenas e quem pôde dialogar com suas populações. E de quem pôde testemunhar, exatamente, aquilo que acabo de dizer. (…)

Nossa tradição, naturalmente, não nega as violências, não nega as brutalidades, não nega as injustiças, não nega tudo que de errado nós fizemos contra as populações indígenas. Mas isso também afirma a natureza da nossa civilização de buscar incorporar, não apenas no sangue, mas na cultura, na história, na literatura, na culinária, no imaginário e na psicologia do nosso povo a presença dos nossos queridos e das nossas queridas irmãs e irmãos indígenas.

Por essa razão, senhores, é inaceitável [eleva novamente a voz] a doutrina esposada por certos setores da antropologia, principalmente da antropologia colonial, antropologia criada na França e na Inglaterra exatamente para melhor realizar o trabalho de dominação das chamadas populações aborígenes. Antropologia que depois foi incorporada pelos exércitos coloniais como parte do esquema de dominação. Essa corrente antropológica neocolonial é que procura apartar da sociedade nacional e da integração à sociedade nacional as populações indígenas. E é preciso que se denuncie com vigor e com coragem, para que o Brasil não se ponha no papel de vítima dos crimes que, de fato, ele não cometeu. Basta aqueles que nós já cometemos.

Essa antropologia que influencia estruturas do próprio Estado brasileiro, que incorpora setores importantes da nossa mídia, que incorpora setores importantes de correntes religiosas trata de estabelecer um abismo entre a sociedade nacional, entre o Brasil e as populações indígenas, contrapondo ao esforço de integração a ideia de segregação. Como se na escala evolutiva da humanidade o índio pudesse ser contido e parado nos estágios anteriores à evolução de toda a humanidade.

Tenho amigos europeus que fazem estudos em populações tribais e que descobriram, aqui na região da Amazônia, como é óbvio, uma população indígena que não sabe contar, que não domina a aritmética como qualquer povo ágrafo. Eu dizia para ele: seus antepassados também não sabiam contar. Contam no máximo 1, 2, 3 e muito. (…) O que eu perguntava para esse amigo antropólogo era o seguinte: as crianças dessa tribo devem ter o direito de aprender matemática? Ou elas devem ter negado esse direito, para que a antropologia continue dispondo de estudo de caso para registrar nas suas teses de mestrado ou doutorado? (…)

A manipulação das causas nobres e justas, como é a causa da proteção dos índios, não é a única no mundo. Ela tem paralelo com a manipulação da causa do meio ambiente. É muito parecido. As potências usam o meio ambiente, as causas indígenas, os direitos humanos, a democracia, a liberdade como usaram o anticomunismo no passado. O que era o anticomunismo? Era o pretexto para se fazer golpes de Estado, para defender interesses econômicos em função da defesa da liberdade e da democracia. Depois que o comunismo deixou de ser o pretexto, porque não era de fato ameaça, eles procuraram outros pretextos: a causa indígena é um deles, o ambientalismo é outro”.   

E assim por diante, como se pode ver no vídeo. De forma voluntária, sem que o ministro Aldo Rebelo tivesse sido convidado ou convocado à CPI, instalada pelos ruralistas para combater direitos indígenas e a reforma agrária. Como porta-voz do governo, portanto?

aldorebelo

Note-se que ele chega a combater a demarcação contínua da Raposa Serra do Sol, em Roraima. Em determinado momento, pergunta: “Quem é índio e quem não é índio onde tudo já se misturou?” E cita um estudo de pedologia na Universidade Federal de Viçosa que considera não existir mais ali uma civilização indígena, “mas uma civilização miscigenada”.

E tem mais: ele se declarou à favor da Proposta de Emenda Constitucional (PEC 215) que transfere ao Congresso o poder de demarcar terras indígenas e quilombolas: “Aldo diz à CPI que é a favor da PEC que muda regras de demarcação de terras“. Uma bandeira de quem? Dos ruralistas.

É como resume o antropólogo Henyo Barretto Filho, do Instituto Internacional de Educação do Brasil: “Se o governo não desautorizar de modo igualmente público e expresso tal depoimento, fica sendo essa a versão do governo sobre os povos indígenas, a política indigenista e o papel da antropologia no reconhecimento dos direitos territoriais”.

Ofensiva ruralista contra direitos indígenas continua em Brasília (Greenpeace Brasil)

10/12/2014 – 09h53

por Redação do Greenpeace Brasil

O Projeto de Lei Complementar que coloca sob ameaça Terras Indígenas já demarcadas e abre caminho para sua exploração deve ser apreciado nesta quarta-feira

bannerPLSjuca 1024x648 Ofensiva ruralista contra direitos indígenas continua em Brasília

O projeto do senador Romero Jucá (PMDB-RR), que restringe drasticamente os direitos de povos indígenas sobre suas terras, deve estrar em pauta nesta quarta-feira (10), às 14h, em uma comissão mista no Senado.

O Projeto de Lei Complementar sem número/2013, estabelece exceções à posse e uso exclusivo das comunidades indígenas sobre suas terras. Caso aprovada, ela segue direto para os plenários do Senado e da Câmara.

O texto, que regulamenta o Art. 231 da Constituição Federal, é assinado pelo senador Romero Jucá, ex-líder do governo no Senado – que também é relator do controverso parecer sobre a regulamentação da PEC do Trabalho Escravo.

Sob a justificativa de normatizar o conceito de relevância de interesse público no processo de demarcação, o projeto quer, na realidade, legalizar fazendas, estradas, hidrelétricas, minas, linhas de transmissão e outros empreendimentos em Terras Indígenas (TIs).

A proposta classifica propriedades rurais como “área de relevante interesse público da União”. Como consequência, o projeto estabelece que essas áreas poderão ser excluídas da delimitação das terras indígenas se seus títulos de ocupação forem “considerados válidos” ou poderão ser objeto de desapropriação ou de compensação com outra área ofertada pela União. Dessa forma, o projeto transforma interesses privados em “de relevante interesse público da União”.

Enquanto o mundo todo está reunido em Lima, no Peru, em busca de acordos para mitigar as mudanças climáticas, o Congresso e o Senado brasileiro, capitaneados pela Bancada Ruralista, tentam destruir os direitos indígenas, evitando que novas terras indígenas sejam criadas e colocando em risco as áreas atualmente protegidas.

“As TI, são o melhor instrumento de conservação das florestas e devem fazer parte da estratégia brasileira de mitigação de emissão dos gases de efeito estufa, evitando assim o agravamento das mudanças climáticas, maior crise ambiental que os seres humanos podem enfrentar”, afirma Rômulo Batista, da campanha Amazônia do Greenpeace.

A Mobilização Nacional Indígena, rede de organizações coordenada pela Articulação dos Povos Indígenas do Brasil, promove um tuítaço nesta quarta, a partir das 10h30, contra a proposta. Participe utilizando a hashtag #DireitosIndigenas.

* Publicado originalmente no site Greenpeace Brasil.

(Greenpeace Brasil)

Índios pedem apoio da Comissão de Direitos Humanos contra PEC 215 (Agência Câmara Notícias)

Proposta é sobre a demarcação de áreas indígenas

A Comissão de Direitos Humanos e Minorias recebeu nesta terça-feira um grupo de 50 índios do estado do Tocantins mobilizados em Brasília contra a possível votação da Proposta de Emenda à Constituição 215/00, que submete ao Congresso a decisão final sobre a demarcação de áreas indígenas. A PEC pode ser votada nesta quarta-feira (3) em comissão especial da Câmara dos Deputados.

O indígena Wagner Krahô Kanela pediu o apoio dos parlamentares para evitar a aprovação da PEC. “A PEC 215 não interessa ao índio”, afirmou.

Também na reunião, Ash Ashaninka, da aldeia Maracanã, do Rio de Janeiro, afirmou que os povos indígenas pretendem enviar um emissário à Organização das Nações Unidas (ONU) para denunciar que os direitos constitucionais indígenas estão prestes a serem violados.

Os índios foram recebidos pelo vice-presidente da comissão, deputado Nilmário Miranda (PT-MG). Para o deputado Ivan Valente (Psol-SP), a PEC 215 dificilmente será votada na comissão especial, em razão da possibilidade de um pedido de vista do relatório do deputado Osmar Serraglio (PMDB-PR).

Para o deputado Chico Alencar (Psol-RJ), seria “uma possibilidade trágica” aprovar a PEC na abertura da Semana Nacional dos Direitos Humanos. Alencar pediu mobilização dos que defendem os interesses indígenas para impedir a votação da proposta. Já o deputado Ságuas Moraes (PT-MT) afirmou estar comprometido com a defesa dos interesses indígenas.

Denúncia
No encontro, uma denúncia foi apresentada à comissão pelo secretário-executivo do Conselho Indigenista Missionário (Cimi), Cleber Buzato. Ele divulgou áudio de uma suposta interceptação telefônica feita pela Polícia Federal de Mato Grosso de uma conversa entre um líder ruralista e um fazendeiro, cujo teor comprovaria a participação de uma entidade patronal da agricultura na elaboração do relatório sobre a PEC 215.

Também durante o encontro foi apresentado à Câmara o livro “A Ditadura Militar e o Genocídio do povo Waimiri-Atroari”, pelo representante do Cimi e do Comitê da Verdade, Memória e Justiça do Amazonas, Egídio Schuaden. O livro denuncia o massacre de cerca de 2 mil indígenas entre 1969 e 1979, durante a construção da BR-174, rodovia que liga Manaus (AM) a Boa Vista (RR).

Íntegra da proposta:

(Agência Câmara Notícias)

http://www2.camara.leg.br/camaranoticias/noticias/DIREITOS-HUMANOS/478696-INDIOS-PEDEM-APOIO-DA-COMISSAO-DE-DIREITOS-HUMANOS-CONTRA-PEC-215.html

Projeto da biodiversidade vai à comissão geral com polêmicas em aberto (Agência Câmara)

JC 5061, 7 de novembro de 2014

Agronegócio não aceita fiscalização pelo Ibama. Agricultura familiar quer receber pelo cultivo de sementes crioulas. Cientistas criticam regras sobre royalties

A comissão geral que vai discutir na próxima terça-feira as novas regras para exploração do patrimônio genético da biodiversidade brasileira (PL 7735/14) terá o desafio de buscar uma solução para vários impasses que ainda persistem na negociação do texto. Deputados ambientalistas, ligados ao agronegócio e à pesquisa científica continuarão em rodadas de negociação até a terça-feira na busca do projeto mais consensual.

Parte das polêmicas são demandas dos deputados ligados ao agronegócio, que conseguiram incluir as pesquisas da agropecuária no texto substitutivo. A proposta enviada pelo governo excluía a agricultura, que continuaria sendo regulamentada pela Medida Provisória 2.186-16/01. Agora, o texto em discussão já inclui a pesquisa com produção de sementes e melhoramento de raças e revoga de vez a MP de 2001.

O governo já realizou várias reuniões entre parlamentares e técnicos do governo. Até o momento, foram apresentadas três versões diferentes de relatórios.

Fiscalização
O deputado Alceu Moreira (PMDB-RS), que está à frente das negociações, defende que o Ministério da Agricultura seja o responsável pela fiscalização das pesquisas para produção de novas sementes e novas raças. Já o governo quer repassar essa atribuição ao Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente e dos Recursos Naturais Renováveis (Ibama). Esse item deverá ser decidido no voto.

“Não vamos permitir que o Ibama, que tem um distanciamento longo da cadeia produtiva, seja o responsável pela fiscalização das pesquisas com agricultura, pecuária e florestas. Terá de ser o Ministério da Agricultura”, afirmou o deputado.

Royalties
O agronegócio também conseguiu incluir no texto tratamento diferenciado para pesquisas com sementes e raças. O pagamento de repartição de benefícios – uma espécie de cobrança deroyalties – só será aplicado para espécies nativas brasileiras. Ficam de fora da cobrança pesquisa com espécies de outros países que são o foco do agronegócio: soja, cana-de açúcar, café.

E quando houver cobrança de royalties, isso incidirá apenas sobre o material reprodutivo – sementes, talos, animais reprodutores ou sêmen – excluindo a cobrança sobre o produto final. “Não pode ter cobrança na origem, que é a semente, e depois outra cobrança no produto final. Se vai ter no produto final, não pode ter na pesquisa”, disse Alceu.

A limitação do pagamento de royalties na agricultura desagradou integrantes da agricultura familiar, que cobram acesso e remuneração pelo cultivo de sementes crioulas, aquelas em que não há alteração genética.

Conselho paritário
Outra demanda do agronegócio é uma composição paritária do Conselho de Gestão do Patrimônio Genético (Cgen) entre representantes do governo federal, da indústria, da academia e da sociedade civil. A intenção é dar mais voz ao agronegócio nesse conselho, que hoje tem apenas representantes do Ministério da Agricultura e da Embrapa.

Cientistas
Já a comunidade científica, segundo a deputada Luciana Santos (PCdoB-PE), que também tem conduzido as negociações, critica o percentual baixo de royalties que será cobrado do fabricante de produto final oriundo de pesquisa com biodiversidade.

O texto prevê o pagamento de 1% da receita líquida anual com o produto, mas esse valor poderá ser reduzido até 0,1%. Também prevê isenção para microempresas, empresas de pequeno porte e microempreendedores individuais.

Os cientistas discordam, ainda, do fato de o projeto escolher apenas a última etapa da cadeia para a cobrança da repartição de benefícios. “Eles acham que é injusto e precisa ser considerado a repartição de benefícios de etapas do processo porque, às vezes, ao final não se comercializa apenas um produto acabado, mas um intermediário”, disse.

Ambientalistas
Os ambientalistas também não decidiram se apoiarão ou não o texto. A decisão será tomada na semana que vem, mas o líder do partido, deputado Sarney Filho (MA), saiu da reunião da última terça-feira (4) insatisfeito com o texto apresentado.

O líder do governo, deputado Henrique Fontana (PT-RS), disse que a intenção é chegar a um texto de consenso após a comissão geral e colocar o tema em votação na quarta-feira (12). Luciana Santos admitiu que, por mais que os deputados tentem chegar a um acordo, vários dispositivos só serão decididos no voto.

Íntegra da proposta:

(Agência Câmara) 

http://www2.camara.leg.br/camaranoticias/noticias/POLITICA/477144-PROJETO-DA-BIODIVERSIDADE-VAI-A-COMISSAO-GERAL-COM-VARIAS-POLEMICAS-EM-ABERTO.html

Exposing Monsanto: Herbicide Linked to Birth Defects – the Vitamin A Connection (Truthout)

Monday, 28 July 2014 09:27

By Jeff Ritterman, M.D., Truthout | Op-Ed

Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup, with glyphosate as the primary ingredient, has recently been linked to a fatal kidney disease epidemic ravaging parts of Central America, India and Sri Lanka. A leading theory hypothesizes that complexes of glyphosate and heavy metals poison the kidney tubules. El Salvador and Sri Lankahave adopted the precautionary principle and taken action to ban the herbicide. In the United States, glyphosate is coming up for review by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in late 2014. Monsanto claims a low risk to human health, but the research is showing something very different. Will these health concerns be enough for the EPA to put restrictions on the herbicide – or to ban it altogether?

Monsanto’s Claims of Safety

Thus far, Monsanto has been successful in portraying Roundup as a safe and effective herbicide. The Monsanto website claims:

Glyphosate binds tightly to most types of soil so it is not available for uptake by roots of nearby plants. It works by disrupting a plant enzyme involved in the production of amino acids that are essential to plant growth. The enzyme, EPSP synthase, is not present in humans or animals, contributing to the low risk to human health from the use of glyphosate according to label directions.

Public Kept in the Dark

Contrary to the company’s claims of safety, a virtual avalanche of scientific studies on animals, including some funded by Monsanto itself, show alarming incidences of fetal deaths and birth defects. The record also shows that Monsanto has known since the 1980s that glyphosate in high doses causes malformations in experimental animals. Since 1993, the company has been aware that even middle and low doses can cause these malformations. These malformations include absent kidneys and lungs, enlarged hearts, extra ribs, and missing and abnormally formed bones of the limbs, ribs, sternum, spine and skull.

These startling revelations can be found in the report Roundup and Birth Defects: Is the Public Being Kept in the Dark? The document is authored by eight experts from the fields of molecular genetics, agro-ecology, toxico-pathology, scientific ethics, ecological agriculture, plant genetics, public health and cell biology. This report, written primarily for a European readership, is highly critical of the biotech industry and of the European Union’s failure to evaluate glyphosate based on the science rather than on political concerns. It calls for an immediate withdrawal of Roundup and glyphosate from the European Union until a thorough scientific evaluation is done on the herbicide. From the report:

The public has been kept in the dark by industry and regulators about the ability of glyphosate and Roundup to cause malformations. In addition, the work of independent scientists who have drawn attention to the herbicide’s teratogenic effects has been ignored, denigrated or dismissed. These actions on the part of industry and regulators have endangered public health. (Authors note: Ateratogen is any agent that can disturb the development of an embryo or a fetus. The term stems from the Greek teras, meaning monster).

Monsanto’s Safety Claim Misleads

How is it possible that there are so many adverse health impacts in the test animals, if, as Monsanto claims, “the enzyme, EPSP synthase, is not present in humans or animals”?

The reason is simple. Roundup attacks other enzyme systems, which are indeed present in the animal kingdom.

We owe this knowledge to a group of scientists from Argentina who became concerned about human birth defects in areas of their country where Roundup was being sprayed from airplanes as part of genetically modified (GM) soy production. They decided to do laboratory research to explore whether Roundup would produce similar developmental abnormalities in test animals. Experimenting with frog and chicken embryos, they found that those embryos exposed to the herbicide developedsignificant malformations, including neural defects and craniofacial malformations similar to the birth defects seen in humans.

Not only did this group of scientists demonstrate that Roundup causes birth defects in the animals tested, but they also were able to demonstrate how Roundup caused the fetal abnormalities. The herbicide increased the activity of the Vitamin A (retinoic acid) “signaling pathway.” It’s called a signaling pathway because it turns genes on and off. Roundup causes an abnormal increase in activity of this pathway, which turns off certain genes. Unfortunately, those very genes are needed for normal embryological development. When the Roundup turns off those genes, birth defects result.

This signaling pathway is shared by virtually all vertebrates, including amphibians, birds and mammals. Thus, it seems quite likely that the birth defects seen in frogs, chickens, rats, rabbits and humans all occur because Roundup attacks this pathway. It also seems likely that if we continue to allow glyphosate to accumulate in the environment, we can expect vertebrates of many types to suffer increasing rates of birth defects. This, of course, includes humans.

Roundup and Birth Defects: the Story From Latin America

The Argentinian researchers were motivated by humanitarian concerns. They were aware of the many worrisome reports of increases in birth defects in Argentina and in other parts of Latin America attributed to aerial glyphosate spraying.

A frightening example is a study of birth defects in Argentina, which found that Cordoba, an area of intensive planting of GM soy and heavy glyphosate use, had a higher incidence of spina bifida (spinal cord protrusion in the lower back), microtia(abnormal ear), cleft lip and palate, polycystic kidney, postaxial polydactyly (extra fingers or toes) and Down’s Syndrome than other regions. Many of these defects are of the type associated with disturbances in the Vitamin A signaling system.

Chaco, Argentina is also a region of intensive GM soy production and heavy glyphosate use. In the last decade, coincident with expansion of GM soy production,birth defects have increased threefold and cancer rates have increased fourfold. A court in the adjacent province of Santa Fe, a major GM soy-producing region, banned the spraying of glyphosate and other agrochemicals in populated areas because of concerns about “severe damage to the environment and to the health and quality of life of the residents.”

Itapua, Paraguay is another GM soy dominated area. Here, residents have suffered a similar fate. Women exposed to glyphosate during pregnancy have a high incidence of fetal deformities similar to those seen in Argentina. These deformities, once again, can be explained by glyphosate’s ability to interfere with the Vitamin A signaling pathway.

Rounding Up the Science

Glyphosate has been conclusively proven to cause birth defects in frogs, chickens, rats, rabbits, and also in humans. Monsanto’s claim that Roundup is safe because it kills weeds by attacking one specific enzyme system not found in animals is misleading. Monsanto has a very large investment in maintaining this illusion. Half of Monsanto’s revenue comes from the sale of Roundup and Roundup Ready seeds.

Roundup attacks vital enzyme systems found in animals, including in humans. It is now clear that interference by Roundup with one of these enzyme systems, the Vitamin A signaling system, can result in severe birth defects. This system is shared by most vertebrates, making Roundup capable of inducing devastating birth defects in a wide variety of amphibians, birds and mammals, and possibly reptiles and fish as well. Allowing glyphosate to continue to build up in the environment will likely cause increased rates of birth defects in all vertebrates exposed, including humans. Exposure, of course, includes the digestion of exposed plants and animals.

Policy Recommendation

The science is clear. There is only one rational response. No family should have to tolerate the risk of significant birth defects – in the United States, or in any part of the world. Roundup and other glyphosate formulations should be banned. Thus far, the voices of public health advocates in this country have been drowned out by those promoting biotechnology and its profits, regardless of the health consequences. We can’t let this continue. Our health, the health of our children and the health of our environment must come first. It is the responsibility of our governmental institutions to protect humanity, not corporate profit.

It’s long past time for us to heed Rachel Carson’s warning from Silent Spring:

If we are going to live so intimately with these chemicals – eating and drinking them, taking them into the very marrow of our bones – we had better know something about their nature and their power.

Pass this on. Raise your voice.

Rachel Biderman: Agropecuária está se tornando a principal fonte de emissões brasileiras (Carbono Brasil)

02/7/2014 – 10h03

por Maura Campanili, do IPAM

Rachel Rachel Biderman: Agropecuária está se tornando a principal fonte de emissões brasileiras

A produção agropecuária de baixo carbono é importante para que o Brasil cumpra suas metas de redução de emissões e colabora para que o produtor consiga adequação ambiental, mas pode ser também um caminho para abrir portas e aumentar a competitividade no mercado internacional, principalmente na Europa e nos Estados Unidos.

Uma ferramenta que pode ajudar o produtor brasileiro a acessar esses benefícios é o Greenhouse Gas Protocol (GHG Protocol) Agropecuária, primeiro instrumento voluntário para medir emissões em propriedades rurais, cuja primeira versão foi lançada em primeira mão no Brasil, no final de maio.

O instrumento foi desenvolvido por meio de uma parceria entre o WRI, a Empresa de Pesquisa Agropecuária (Embrapa) e a Universidade Estadual de Campinas (Unicamp), levando em consideração as condições brasileiras. Segundo Rachel Biderman, diretora Executiva do WRI Brasil, “ações desse tipo também ajudam a criar uma cultura de gestão, contribuindo para a solução do problema das mudanças climáticas”.

Em entrevista para a Clima e Floresta, Rachel, que também é professora responsável por módulo de meio ambiente do MBA em Gestão da Sustentabilidade e coordenadora do curso de extensão da Fundação Getúlio Vargas de “Gestão para o Baixo Carbono”, explica porque é importante reduzir as emissões da agricultura no Brasil.

Clima e Floresta – Qual a importância do combate às emissões de gases de efeito estufa na agricultura brasileira?

Rachel Biderman – O Brasil cada vez mais se consolida como grande fonte de alimentos para o mundo. Ao mesmo tempo, estamos entre os maiores emissores de gases de efeito estufa (GEE) do planeta. Considerando a redução das emissões em mudanças do uso da terra, devido à queda dos desmatamentos, a agropecuária está se tornando a principal fonte de emissões brasileiras e já representa 29,7% das emissões brutas brasileiras em CO2e.

Clima e Floresta – Como a agricultura emite GEE?

Biderman – O setor agropecuário gera emissões em função da fermentação entérica dos animais criados; do manejo de dejetos animais; do cultivo de arroz; da queima de resíduos agrícolas e dos solos agrícolas, estas decorrentes da fertilização nitrogenada e de organossolos cultivados. Há também emissões relativas a atividades associadas ao setor, que incluem a conversão de uso do solo – por exemplo, de florestas para pastagens ou de um tipo de lavoura em outro -, e outras relacionadas à produção de energia.

Clima e Floresta – O que é o GHG Protocol Agrícola e como ele pode colaborar para diminuir as emissões?

Biderman – Trata-se de um conjunto de dois instrumentos principais: as Diretrizes e a Ferramenta de Cálculo de Emissões de GEE no setor Agropecuário. Esses instrumentos permitem aos produtores rurais conhecer melhor o perfil das suas emissões de gases de efeito estufa e desenvolver planos de redução mitigando seus impactos sobre o clima. Esses instrumentos permitirão aos produtores rurais contribuir diretamente para o cumprimento dos objetivos do Plano ABC (Agricultura de Baixo Carbono) e para que mecanismos financeiros adequados sejam alocados para essa atividade sustentável.

Clima e Floresta – A quem o GHG Protocol é destinado?

Biderman – Produtores rurais de qualquer porte.

Clima e Floresta – Pequenos agricultores, assentamentos rurais, populações tradicionais podem participar? Como?

Biderman – Os instrumentos se aplicam a qualquer tipo de produção agropecuária. O WRI Brasil organizará projeto para treinar empresas e interessados para o uso dessas ferramentas.

Clima e Floresta – Além da questão das emissões, há outros benefícios na adoção de uma agricultura de baixo carbono?

Biderman – As empresas que adotarem as diretrizes e ferramenta de cálculo do GHG Protocol terão algumas vantagens competitivas. Entre elas podemos citar: Entender riscos operacionais e de reputação; identificar oportunidades de redução de emissões; implantar metas de redução e monitorar a performance; melhorar a reputação e transparência através da divulgação pública de suas emissões de GEE; colher os frutos dos benefícios associados à redução de emissões, como conservação de energia, ampliação de produtividade, melhora na qualidade do solo e da água; preparar-se para regime de quotas e cumprimento legal; antecipar-se para um potencial mercado de carbono.

* Publicado originalmente no site CarbonoBrasil.

(CarbonoBrasil)

Até onde isso vai? “Deputados Ruralistas promovem debate sobre revogação da Convenção 169 da OIT” (Combate Racismo Ambiental)

Por , 01/06/2014 09:00

Foto: Claudia Andujar: Índio e a bandeira na Constituinte

Ação ruralista pretende retirar direitos já conquistados por quilombolas, indígenas e povos tradicionais. 

Terra de Direitos

Na próxima terça-feira, 3 de junho, a Comissão de Agricultura, Pecuária, Abastecimento e Desenvolvimento Rural da Câmara dos Deputados realizará audiência pública para debater sobre a revogação do Brasil à subscrição da Convenção 169 da Organização Internacional do Trabalho (OIT).

A Audiência pública foi requerida por Paulo Cezar Quartiero, Deputado Federal (DEM) ruralista denunciado pelo Ministério Público Federal por crimes cometidos contra indígenas em Roraima, principalmente durante o processo de desocupação da Reserva Indígena Raposa Serra do Sol, em 2008. Neste período Quartiero chegou a ser preso acusado de posse ilegal de artefato explosivo e formação de quadrilha. O deputado reponde ou já respondeu por pelo menos seis ações penais na Justiça Federal.

Foram convidados para a audiência pública Celso Luiz Nunes Amorim, Ministro de Estado da Defesa, Luiz Alberto Figueiredo Machado, ministro de Estado das Relações Exteriores, General Maynard Marques de Santa Rosa, Oficial da Reserva das Forças Armadas, Lorenzo Carrasco, e o antropólogo Edward Mantoanelli Luz.

A Convenção 169 da OIT é uma conquista internacional dos povos indígenas e demais comunidades tradicionais cujas condições sociais, culturais e econômicas apresentam significativas diferenças quanto a outros setores da coletividade nacional. Vigente no Brasil desde 2004, quando foi aprovada pelo Congresso Nacional, a convenção garante a indígenas, quilombolas e povos tradicionais importantes direitos, como o direito à terra, à saúde, educação, a condições dignas de emprego e o direito fundamental de serem consultados sempre que sejam previstas medidas legislativas ou administrativas suscetíveis de afetá-los diretamente.

Para Fernando Prioste, advogado popular e o coordenador da Terra de Direitos, a iniciativa ruralista é um claro ataque a indígenas, quilombolas e povos tradicionais que lutam pela efetivação de direitos. “Muitos dos direitos previstos na convenção já estão assegurados em outras normas, inclusive na Constituição Federal. Contudo, existem direitos específicos que podem sofrer grandes retrocessos, como o direito de Consulta Livre, Prévia e Informada, além do direito à terra para povos e comunidades tradicionais”.

O advogado aponta que o princípio da proibição do não retrocesso social é um dos principais fundamentos contra a revogação da Convenção 169 da OIT no Brasil, já que os direitos assegurados por esse instrumento normativo são essenciais para a sobrevivência digna de indígenas, quilombolas e povos tradicionais. “Se de um lado o Governo Federal não tem atuado para assegurar a realização de direitos dos povos do campo e da floresta, por outro os ruralistas tentam derrubar as poucas leis que reconhecem direitos”.

Investida ruralista

A iniciativa ruralista faz parte de um pacote de medidas com o objetivo de retirar direitos fundamentais dos povos do campo e da floresta. Entre as tentativas de retrocesso está a Proposta de Emenda à Constituição – PEC 215, que visa transferir a competência da União na demarcação das terras indígenas para o Congresso Nacional, possibilitar a revisão das terras já demarcadas e mudar critérios e procedimentos para a demarcação destas áreas.

Também afetando diretamente os povos indígenas, a Portaria 303 da Advocacia Geral da União (AGU) quer restringir os direitos constitucionais dos índios e afronta tratados internacionais com a Convenção 169 da OIT, especialmente no que diz respeito à Consulta Prévia, Livre e Informada, e a Convenção Internacional sobre a Eliminação de Todas as Formas de Discriminação Racial.

As comunidades quilombos têm seu direito à terra questionada pela Ação Direta de Inconstitucionalidade (ADI) 3239, ajuizada pelo partido Democratas (DEM) em 2004, contra o Decreto Federal 4887/03, que trata da titulação de territórios quilombolas. A ADI teve o primeiro julgamento no Supremo Tribunal Federal-STF em 2012, quando o Ministro Relator Cesar Peluso votou pela inconstitucionalidade. Outros dez ministros do Supremo Tribunal Federal ainda deverão votar, por isso não é possível afirmar a posição do STF acerca do tema. Em dezembro de 2014 o Tribunal Regional Federal da 4ª Região (TRF4) decidiu pela constitucionalidade do Decreto.

Brasil tem metade das mortes de ativistas ambientais no mundo (O Globo)

JC e-mail 4936, de 17 de abril de 2014

Segundo levantamento divulgado pela organização Global Witness, de 908 assassinatos, 448 ocorreram no Brasil. Apenas 1% dos casos resultou em condenação; relatório denuncia a ‘cultura endêmica da impunidade’

O extrativista José Cláudio Ribeiro, a religiosa americana Dorothy Stang e o biólogo espanhol Gonzalo Alonso Hernández têm algo em comum. Os três ativistas foram assassinados no Brasil, palco de suas campanhas a favor da conservação do meio ambiente. Eles figuram numa relação divulgada ontem pela ONG Global Witness, que lista 908 ambientalistas executados, entre 2002 e 2013, em 35 países. Quase metade dos casos, 448 mortes, ocorreu em território brasileiro.

No relatório “Deadly Environment” (ou “Ambiente mortal”), a ONG acusa o país de não monitorar redes criminosas atuantes na Amazônia e em outros ecossistemas, subestimar os conflitos de terra e negligenciar assistência a famílias ameaçadas por proprietários de terra e madeireiros. O Brasil é o Estado mais perigoso para a defesa do direito à terra e ao meio ambiente, seguido por Honduras, com 109 assassinatos, e Filipinas (67).

O ano mais crítico foi 2012, quando ocorreram 147 mortes de ativistas em todo o mundo, três vezes mais do que dez anos antes. No dia 22 de junho, o mesmo em que a conferência climática da ONU Rio+20 foi encerrada, dois defensores dos direitos dos pescadores artesanais no Rio foram sequestrados. Almir Nogueira de Amorim e João Luiz Telles denunciavam grandes pescadores que usavam “currais” para lotear a Baía de Guanabara. Seus corpos foram encontrados nos dias seguintes, boiando na baía, em Niterói.

Condenação em apenas 1% dos casos
Em todo o mundo, apenas 10% dos casos chegam aos tribunais, sendo que somente 1% resulta em condenação. Para a Global Witness, o percentual é um símbolo da “cultura endêmica de impunidade” conduzida pelos governos. A falta de condenações contribui para o silêncio dos ativistas e da população prejudicada por atividades econômicas ilegais.

– Esses crimes não recebem a atenção necessária das autoridades. Se houvesse um monitoramento constante nos biomas mais ameaçados, seria possível levar muitos outros criminosos à Justiça – denuncia Oliver Courtney, coautor do relatório.

Courtney considera a situação brasileira “particularmente grave” devido ao crescimento dos episódios de violência na Amazônia. O documento lembra que, em 2013, o desmatamento na maior floresta tropical do planeta aumentou 23%. A maior incidência de desflorestamento (61%) ocorreu no Pará e no Mato Grosso do Sul, dois dos estados onde há mais atentados contra ativistas.

No interior do Mato Grosso do Sul, produtores de carne bovina, soja e cana de açúcar têm entrado em conflito com índios das comunidades guarani e kuranji. Segundo a Global Witness, metade dos assassinatos de ativistas ambientais em 2012 ocorreu na região. E, no país todo, foram mortos 250 defensores de origem indígena entre 2003 e 2010.

– O conflito por terra na Amazônia cresceu dramaticamente no ano passado – destaca. – O Brasil tem uma grande mobilização da sociedade civil, mas a população indígena continua exposta a atividades econômicas insustentáveis.

No Pará, o jornalista Pedro César Batista acumula uma lista de 18 amigos assassinados. Entre eles está seu irmão, o deputado João Batista, morto em 6 de dezembro de 1988 em frente ao prédio em que morava, em Belém. Três anos antes, seu pai, Nestor Batista, havia sobrevivido a um tiro de espingarda na cabeça. Por pressão da família, Pedro deixou o estado.

– O João era visto como um advogado dos sem-terra. Não acreditávamos que ele seria assassinado – recorda Pedro. – Mas descobrimos que havia uma lista com mais de 180 pessoas marcadas para morrer.

“Limpeza entre os bandidos”
Dois pistoleiros foram responsáveis pelo atentado contra João Batista. Libertado após cumprir apenas um sexto de sua pena, de 28 anos, Péricles Moreira foi executado com 14 tiros em uma emboscada. Roberto Cirino, o outro assassino, foi degolado antes de seu julgamento. Segundo Pedro, a “limpeza entre os bandidos” é uma forma comum de assegurar a impunidade dos mandantes dos crimes, como latifundiários, policiais e autoridades públicas.

Batista acredita que o número de assassinatos divulgado pela Global Witness está “totalmente subestimado”. De acordo com ele, as lideranças camponesas são mortas devido à sua resistência ao avanço da agropecuária:

– Para o plantio de uma cultura, desmata-se um quilombo inteiro.

Os madeireiros são os responsáveis pela derrubada da mata na Amazônia. Depois deles vêm a pecuária e a indústria da soja. O avanço dessas atividades econômicas sobre áreas protegidas esbarra no direito de populações indígenas e nos trabalhos defendidos por ativistas ambientais.

– A floresta é repleta de áreas de fronteira agrícola, e o governo não consegue acompanhar o ataque a essas regiões – lamenta André Guimarães, vice-presidente da Conservação Internacional. – Mas, embora a maioria das invasões ocorra na Amazônia, também precisamos prestar atenção no Cerrado. Metade desse bioma ainda está intacto, e ele pode atrair atividades econômicas no futuro.

A Global Witness reconhece que seu levantamento é parcial, dada a dificuldade para analisar os conflitos de terra em diversas regiões do mundo, especialmente em países africanos.

“Esses dados são muito provavelmente apenas a ponta do iceberg (…). O aumento de mortes é a face mais premente e mensurável de um conjunto de ameaças, entre as quais a intimidação, violência, estigmatização e criminalização.”

(Renato Grandelle /O Globo)
http://oglobo.globo.com/sociedade/ciencia/brasil-tem-metade-das-mortes-de-ativistas-ambientais-no-mundo-12219245#ixzz2z9ATB8dX

Losing Ground in the Amazon (New York Times)

A global forest mapping system developed by a team of scientists from the University of Maryland, Google and the United States government is now able to pinpoint exactly where and at what rate deforestation is occurring around the world. The results are alarming. The world is losing the equivalent of 50 soccer fields of forest every minute. In Brazil — home to 60 percent of the Amazon rain forest and a major component of the planet’s climate system — the rate of deforestation jumped 28 percent during 2012-13. Environmentalists say a 2012 change in Brazil’s regulations governing forest conservation is partly responsible.

Brazil had been making good progress. From a high of 10,588 square miles in 2004, deforestation dropped to 1,797 square miles in 2011; the number of metric tons of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere dropped as well, from 1.1 billion metric tons in 2004 to 298 million metric tons in 2011. These successes resulted from aggressive enforcement of the country’s 1965 Forest Code, and a 2006 soy moratorium, a voluntary pledge brokered by the Brazilian government, agribusiness and environmental groups to prevent trade in soybeans cultivated on deforested land.

Soybeans aren’t the only cause of deforestation in Brazil, but they are a major factor. Brazil is now the world’s second-largest producer of soybeans after the United States. Soybeans have been a boon to Brazil’s economy, and global demand is growing. Under intense pressure from agricultural interests, Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies approved legislation in July 2012 that rolled back many provisions of the 1965 Forest Code, reduced the amount of reserve areas in the Amazon and gave amnesty to past violators. To her credit, Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff, thwarted some of the most damaging provisions of the new legislation, but the rate of deforestation still rose.

The soy moratorium has been extended until the end of 2014, by which time Brazil plans to have in place new mechanisms to monitor soybean cultivation on deforested land. These mechanisms must be backed by credible enforcement. And developed countries need to do more to help Brazil, Indonesia and other nations whose forests are at risk protect a resource in which everyone has a stake.

The Fat Drug (New York Times)

By PAGAN KENNEDY

MARCH 8, 2014

CreditJing Wei

IF you walk into a farm-supply store today, you’re likely to find a bag of antibiotic powder that claims to boost the growth of poultry and livestock. That’s because decades of agricultural research has shown that antibiotics seem to flip a switch in young animals’ bodies, helping them pack on pounds. Manufacturers brag about the miraculous effects of feeding antibiotics to chicks and nursing calves. Dusty agricultural journals attest to the ways in which the drugs can act like a kind of superfood to produce cheap meat.

But what if that meat is us? Recently, a group of medical investigators have begun to wonder whether antibiotics might cause the same growth promotion in humans. New evidence shows that America’s obesity epidemic may be connected to our high consumption of these drugs. But before we get to those findings, it’s helpful to start at the beginning, in 1948, when the wonder drugs were new — and big was beautiful.

That year, a biochemist named Thomas H. Jukes marveled at a pinch of golden powder in a vial. It was a new antibiotic named Aureomycin, and Mr. Jukes and his colleagues at Lederle Laboratories suspected that it would become a blockbuster, lifesaving drug. But they hoped to find other ways to profit from the powder as well. At the time, Lederle scientists had been searching for a food additive for farm animals, and Mr. Jukes believed that Aureomycin could be it. After raising chicks on Aureomycin-laced food and on ordinary mash, he found that the antibiotics did boost the chicks’ growth; some of them grew to weigh twice as much as the ones in the control group.

Mr. Jukes wanted more Aureomycin, but his bosses cut him off because the drug was in such high demand to treat human illnesses. So he hit on a novel solution. He picked through the laboratory’s dump to recover the slurry left over after the manufacture of the drug. He and his colleagues used those leftovers to carry on their experiments, now on pigs, sheep and cows. All of the animals gained weight. Trash, it turned out, could be transformed into meat.

You may be wondering whether it occurred to anyone back then that the powders would have the same effect on the human body. In fact, a number of scientists believed that antibiotics could stimulate growth in children. From our contemporary perspective, here’s where the story gets really strange: All this growth was regarded as a good thing. It was an era that celebrated monster-size animals, fat babies and big men. In 1955, a crowd gathered in a hotel ballroom to watch as feed salesmen climbed onto a scale; the men were competing to see who could gain the most weight in four months, in imitation of the cattle and hogs that ate their antibiotic-laced food. Pfizer sponsored the competition.

In 1954, Alexander Fleming — the Scottish biologist who discovered penicillin — visited the University of Minnesota. His American hosts proudly informed him that by feeding antibiotics to hogs, farmers had already saved millions of dollars in slop. But Fleming seemed disturbed by the thought of applying that logic to humans. “I can’t predict that feeding penicillin to babies will do society much good,” he said. “Making people larger might do more harm than good.”

Nonetheless, experiments were then being conducted on humans. In the 1950s, a team of scientists fed a steady diet of antibiotics to schoolchildren in Guatemala for more than a year,while Charles H. Carter, a doctor in Florida, tried a similar regimen on mentally disabled kids. Could the children, like the farm animals, grow larger? Yes, they could.

Mr. Jukes summarized Dr. Carter’s research in a monograph on nutrition and antibiotics: “Carter carried out a prolonged investigation of a study of the effects of administering 75 mg of chlortetracycline” — the chemical name for Aureomycin — “twice daily to mentally defective children for periods of up to three years at the Florida Farm Colony. The children were mentally deficient spastic cases and were almost entirely helpless,” he wrote. “The average yearly gain in weight for the supplemented group was 6.5 lb while the control group averaged 1.9 lb in yearly weight gain.”

Researchers also tried this out in a study of Navy recruits. “Nutritional effects of antibiotics have been noted for some time” in farm animals, the authors of the 1954 study wrote. But “to date there have been few studies of the nutritional effects in humans, and what little evidence is available is largely concerned with young children. The present report seems of interest, therefore, because of the results obtained in a controlled observation of several hundred young American males.” The Navy men who took a dose of antibiotics every morning for seven weeks gained more weight, on average, than the control group.

MEANWHILE, in agricultural circles, word of the miracle spread fast. Jay C. Hormel described imaginative experiments in livestock production to his company’s stockholders in 1951; soon the company began its own research. Hormel scientists cut baby piglets out of their mothers’ bellies and raised them in isolation, pumping them with food and antibiotics. And yes, this did make the pigs fatter.

Farms clamored for antibiotic slurry from drug companies, which was trucked directly to them in tanks. By 1954, Eli Lilly & Company had created an antibiotic feed additive for farm animals, as “an aid to digestion.” It was so much more than that. The drug-laced feeds allowed farmers to keep their animals indoors — because in addition to becoming meatier, the animals now could subsist in filthy conditions. The stage was set for the factory farm.

 Credit Jing Wei

And yet, scientists still could not explain the mystery of antibiotics and weight gain. Nor did they try, really. According to Luis Caetano M. Antunes, a public health researcher at the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation in Brazil, the attitude was, “Who cares how it’s working?” Over the next few decades, while farms kept buying up antibiotics, the medical world largely lost interest in their fattening effects, and moved on.

In the last decade, however, scrutiny of antibiotics has increased. Overuse of the drugs has led to the rise of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria — salmonella in factory farms and staph infections in hospitals. Researchers have also begun to suspect that it may shed light on the obesity epidemic.

In 2002 Americans were about an inch taller and 24 pounds heavier than they were in the 1960s, and more than a third are now classified as obese. Of course, diet and lifestyle are prime culprits. But some scientists wonder whether there could be other reasons for this staggering transformation of the American body. Antibiotics might be the X factor — or one of them.

Martin J. Blaser, the director of the Human Microbiome Program and a professor of medicine and microbiology at New York University, is exploring that mystery. In 1980, he was the salmonella surveillance officer for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, going to farms to investigate outbreaks. He remembers marveling at the amount of antibiotic powder that farmers poured into feed. “I began to think, what is the meaning of this?” he told me.

Of course, while farm animals often eat a significant dose of antibiotics in food, the situation is different for human beings. By the time most meat reaches our table, it contains little or no antibiotics. So we receive our greatest exposure in the pills we take, rather than the food we eat. American kids are prescribed on average about one course of antibiotics every year, often for ear and chest infections. Could these intermittent high doses affect our metabolism?

To find out, Dr. Blaser and his colleagues have spent years studying the effects of antibiotics on the growth of baby mice. In one experiment, his lab raised mice on both high-calorie food and antibiotics. “As we all know, our children’s diets have gotten a lot richer in recent decades,” he writes in a book, “Missing Microbes,” due out in April. At the same time, American children often are prescribed antibiotics. What happens when chocolate doughnuts mix with penicillin?

The results of the study were dramatic, particularly in female mice: They gained about twice as much body fat as the control-group mice who ate the same food. “For the female mice, the antibiotic exposure was the switch that converted more of those extra calories in the diet to fat, while the males grew more in terms of both muscle and fat,” Dr. Blaser writes. “The observations are consistent with the idea that the modern high-calorie diet alone is insufficient to explain the obesity epidemic and that antibiotics could be contributing.”

The Blaser lab also investigates whether antibiotics may be changing the animals’ microbiome — the trillions of bacteria that live inside their guts. These bacteria seem to play a role in all sorts of immune responses, and, crucially, in digesting food, making nutrients and maintaining a healthy weight. And antibiotics can kill them off: One recent study found that taking the antibiotic ciprofloxacin decimated entire populations of certain bugs in some patients’ digestive tracts — bacteria they might have been born with.

Until recently, scientists simply had no way to identify and sort these trillions of bacteria. But thanks to a new technique called high-throughput sequencing, we can now examine bacterial populations inside people. According to Ilseung Cho, a gastroenterologist who works with the Blaser lab, researchers are learning so much about the gut bugs that it is sometimes difficult to make sense of the blizzard of revelations. “Interpreting the volume of data being generated is as much a challenge as the scientific questions we are interested in asking,” he said.

Investigators are beginning to piece together a story about how gut bacteria shapes each life, beginning at birth, when infants are anointed with populations from their mothers’ microbiomes. Babies who are born by cesarean and never make that trip through the birth canal apparently never receive some key bugs from their mothers — possibly including those that help to maintain a healthy body weight. Children born by C-section are more likely to be obese in later life.

By the time we reach adulthood, we have developed our own distinct menagerie of bacteria. In fact, it doesn’t always make sense to speak of us and them. You are the condo that your bugs helped to build and design. The bugs redecorate you every day. They turn the thermostat up and down, and bang on your pipes.

In the Blaser lab and elsewhere, scientists are racing to take a census of the bugs in the human gut and — even more difficult — to figure out what effects they have on us. What if we could identify which species minimize the risk of diabetes, or confer protection against obesity? And what if we could figure out how to protect these crucial bacteria from antibiotics, or replace them after they’re killed off?

The results could represent an entirely new pharmacopoeia, drugs beyond our wildest dreams: Think of them as “anti-antibiotics.” Instead of destroying bugs, these new medicines would implant creatures inside us, like more sophisticated probiotics.

Dr. Cho looks forward to this new era of medicine. “I could say, ‘All right, I know that you’re at risk for developing colon cancer, and I can decrease that risk by giving you this bacteria and altering your microbiome.’ That would be amazing. We could prevent certain diseases before they happened.”

Until then, it’s hard for him to know what to tell his patients. We know that antibiotics change us, but we still don’t know what to do about it. “It’s still too early to draw definitive conclusions,” Dr. Cho said. “And antibiotics remain a valuable resource that physicians use to fight infections.”

When I spoke to Mr. Antunes, the public health researcher in Brazil, he told me that his young daughter had just suffered through several bouts of ear infections. “It’s a no-brainer. You have to give her antibiotics.” And yet, he worried about how these drugs might affect her in years to come.

It has become common to chide doctors and patients for overusing antibiotics, but when the baby is wailing or you’re burning with fever, it’s hard to know what to do. While researchers work to unravel the connections between antibiotics and weight gain, they should also put their minds toward reducing the unnecessary use of antibiotics. One way to do that would be to provide patients with affordable tests that give immediate feedback about what kind of infection has taken hold in their body. Such tools, like a new kind of blood test, are now in development and could help to eliminate the “just in case” prescribing of antibiotics.

In the meantime, we are faced with the legacy of these drugs — the possibility that they have affected our size and shape, and made us different people.

Silencing the Scientist: Tyrone Hayes on Being Targeted by Herbicide Firm Syngenta (Democracy Now!) – on atrazine & Syngenta (II)

Feb 21, 2014

GUESTS

Tyrone Hayes, a professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley, who has devoted the past 15 years to studying atrazine, a widely used herbicide made by Syngenta. A new article in The New Yorker magazine reveals how the company tried to discredit him after his research showed that atrazine causes sexual abnormalities in frogs and could cause the same problems for humans.

We speak with scientist Tyrone Hayes of the University of California, Berkeley, who discovered a widely used herbicide may have harmful effects on the endocrine system. But when he tried to publish the results, the chemical’s manufacturer launched a campaign to discredit his work. Hayes was first hired in 1997 by a company, which later became agribusiness giant Syngenta, to study their product, atrazine, a pesticide that is applied to more than half the corn crops in the United States, and widely used on golf courses and Christmas tree farms. When Hayes found results Syngenta did not expect — that atrazine causes sexual abnormalities in frogs, and could cause the same problems for humans — it refused to allow him to publish his findings. A new article in The New Yorker magazine uses court documents from a class action lawsuit against Syngenta to show how it sought to smear Hayes’ reputation and prevent the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from banning the profitable chemical, which is already banned by the European Union.

TRANSCRIPT

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Now we turn to the story of a University of California scientist who discovered that a popular herbicide may have harmful effects on the endocrine system. Tyrone Hayes was first hired in 1997 by a company that later became agribusiness giant Syngenta. They asked him to study their product, atrazine, a pesticide that is applied to more than half the corn crops in the United States and widely used on golf courses and Christmas tree farms. But after Hayes found results that the manufacturer did not expect, that atrazine causes sexual abnormalities in frogs and could cause the same problems for humans, Syngenta refused to allow him to publish his work. This was the the start of an epic feud between the scientist and the corporation.

AMY GOODMAN: Now a new article in The New Yorker magazine uses court documents from a class action lawsuit against Syngenta to show how it sought to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency from banning the profitable chemical, which is already banned by the European Union. To start with, the company’s public relations team drafted a list of four goals. Reporter Rachel Aviv writes, quote, “The first was [quote] ‘discredit Hayes.’ In a spiral-bound notebook, Syngenta’s communications manager, Sherry Ford, who referred to Hayes by his initials, wrote that the company could ‘prevent citing of TH data by revealing him as noncredible.’ He was a frequent topic of conversation at company meetings. Syngenta looked for ways to ‘exploit Hayes’ faults/problems.’ ‘If TH involved in scandal, enviros will drop him,’ Ford wrote.”

Well, for more, we’re joined by TH himself. That’s right, Tyrone Hayes is with us, professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley, joining us from the campus TV station right now in Berkeley.

Welcome to Democracy Now! Can you tell us what happened to you, how you were originally tied to Syngenta, the research you did, and what prevented you from originally publishing it?

TYRONE HAYES: Well, here at Berkeley, I was a new assistant professor. I was already studying the effects of hormones and the effects of chemicals that interfere with hormones on amphibian development. And I was approached by the manufacturer and asked to study the effects of atrazine, the herbicide, on frogs. And after I discovered that it interfered with male development and caused males to turn into females, to develop eggs, the company tried to prevent me from publishing and from discussing that work with other scientists outside of their panel.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: What was the process within the company? As you raised your findings, what was their immediate reaction to what you had come across?

TYRONE HAYES: Well, initially they seemed sort of supportive. You know, we designed more studies. We designed more analysis. And they encouraged me to do more analysis. But as the further analysis just supported the original finding, they became less interested in moving forward very quickly, and eventually they moved to asking me to manipulate data or to misrepresent data, and ultimately they told me I could not publish or could not talk about the data outside of their closed panel.

AMY GOODMAN: And, Professor Hayes, talk about exactly what you found. What were the abnormalities you found in frogs, the gender-bending nature of this drug atrazine?

TYRONE HAYES: Well, initially, we found that the larynx, or the voice box, in exposed males didn’t grow properly. And this was an indication that the male hormone testosterone was not being produced at appropriate levels. And eventually we found that not only were these males demasculinized, or chemically castrated, but they also were starting to develop ovaries or starting to develop eggs. And eventually we discovered that these males didn’t breed properly, that some of the males actually completely turned into females. So we had genetic males that were laying eggs and reproducing as females. And now we’re starting to show that some of these males actually show, I guess what we’d call homosexual behavior. They actually prefer to mate with other males.

AMY GOODMAN: And so, where did you go with your research?

TYRONE HAYES: Well, eventually, what happened was the EPA insisted that—the Environmental Protection Agency insisted that the manufacturer release me from the confidentiality contract. And we published our findings in pretty high-ranking journals, such as Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. We published some work in Nature. We published work in Environmental Health Perspectives, which is a journal sponsored by the National Institutes of Health.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And when did you begin to get a sense that the company was organizing a campaign against you? What were the signs that you saw post the period when you published your findings?

TYRONE HAYES: Before we published the findings and before the EPA became involved, the company tried to purchase the data. They tried to give me a new contract so that they would then control the data and the experiments. They actually tried to get me to come and visit the company to get control of those data. And when I refused, I invited them to the university, I offered to share data, but they wanted to purchase the data. And then they actually—as mentioned in the New Yorkerarticle, they actually hired scientists to try to refute the data or to pick apart the data, and eventually they hired scientists to do experiments that they claim refuted our data.

And then that escalated to the company actually—Tim Pastoor, in particular, and others from the company—coming to presentations that—or lectures that I was giving, to make handouts or to stand up and refute the data, and eventually even led to things like threats of violence. Tim Pastoor, for example, before I would give a talk, would literally threaten, whisper in my ear that he could have me lynched, or he would—quote, said he would “send some of his good ol’ boys to show me what it’s like to be gay,” or at one point he threatened my wife and my daughter with sexual violence. He would whisper things like, “Your wife’s at home alone right now. How do you know I haven’t sent somebody there to take care of her? Isn’t your daughter there?” So, eventually, it really slipped into some, you know, pretty scary tactics.

AMY GOODMAN: So, what did you do? I mean, you’re actually—I mean, this is very serious. You could bring criminal charges if you’re being threatened and stalked in this way.

TYRONE HAYES: Well, initially, I went to my vice chancellor here at the university. I went to my dean. I went to legal counsel here at the university. And I was told by legal counsel that—well, I was told, first of all, by the vice chancellor for research at the time that, “Well, you published the work. It’s over. So I don’t understand what the problem is.” And I tried to impress upon her, Beth Burnside, at the time that—you know, that it wasn’t over, that I was really being pursued by the manufacturer. And eventually, when I spoke with the lawyer here at the University, I was told that, “Well, I represent the university, and I protect the university from liability. You’re kind of on your own.” And I remember I looked at him, and I said, “But the very university, from the Latin universitas, is a collection of scholars, of teachers and students, so who is this entity, the university, that you represent that doesn’t include me?” But clearly there’s some entity that doesn’t really include us, the professors and students, and doesn’t really protect our academic freedom, I think, the way that it should.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I wanted to ask you about one of your critics, Elizabeth Whelan, president of the American Council on Science and Health. When The New York Times ran a critical story about the herbicide as part of its toxic water series in 2009, she referred to its reporting as, quote, “all the news that’s fit to scare.” This is a clip of Whelan from an interview on MSNBC.

ELIZABETH WHELAN: I very much disagree with the New York Times story, which is really raising concerns about a totally bogus risk. Atrazine has been used for more than 50 years. It’s very, very tightly regulated. Even the Environmental Protection Agency, which is not known for soft-pedaling about environmental chemicals, even they say it’s safe.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, it turns out that Syngenta has been a long-term financial supporter of Whelan’s organization, the American Council on Science and Health, paying them at least $100,000. Your comments on her remarks?

TYRONE HAYES: Well, again, they’re paid remarks. And one of the most disheartening things in this whole process is that many of my critics—you know, it’s one to be academic, if you come and say, “Well, we interpreted the data this way, and we want to argue about this point,” but these people really didn’t even have an opinion. These opinions were written by the manufacturer, and they were paid to put their names on them, to endorse the opinions of the manufacturer. So, you know, that’s one of the most disheartening things, that they were really just personalities for sale.

And many of the things that she’s saying there is just not true. There are—any independent study, from any scientist that’s not funded by Syngenta, has found similar problems with atrazine, not just my work on frogs. But I’ve just published a paper with 22 scientists from around the world, from 12 different countries, who have shown that atrazine causes sexual problems in mammals, that atrazine causes sexual problems in birds, amphibians, fish. So it’s not just my work in amphibians.

And also, with regards to the EPA, one of the scientific advisory panel members on the EPA that was supposed to review atrazine turns out is paid and works for Syngenta. So the whole process was tainted. And, in fact, the EPA ignored the scientific advisory panel’s opinion and actually decided to keep atrazine on the market and not to do any more studies, when that clearly wasn’t the recommendation of the scientific advisory panel.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I wanted to go back just a second to your remarks about your university, because obviously there are many questions about major universities around the country being, in some way or other, supported financially by the pharmaceutical or the drug industry. But you are at a prestigious university, one of the top universities in the country, at Berkeley. Do you have some concerns about how your university responded to your—in your time of need, and the attack on your academic integrity?

TYRONE HAYES: Well, they’re not just my concerns. There are many at the university who fear that the university is just becoming a corporation. You know, we’re a public university that used to get a lot more support from the state. In my lifetime, tuition was free for students. Tuition has been rising. And it’s really an effort to monetize things, and that includes scientific researchers. There’s a lot of pressure on us not just to be scholars and to teach and to do research, but also to bring in funds that will support the university. So there’s some sentiment from the university that if you are raising a concern potentially that might cause the university to lose support or to lose funders, then you won’t necessarily get the support on the campus that you need. And we’ve seen this over and over again. A colleague of mine, Ignacio Chapela, for example, was in a fairly huge battle over the same company, Novartis, and its influences over scientific research at the university.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the significance of Syngenta? First of all, is it a significant presence at the university, at UC Berkeley? But also, the significance of Syngenta as a pesticide company and all that it makes, how powerful is it?

TYRONE HAYES: Well, when they were—when I was originally consulting for the manufacturer, they were Novartis at the time. And Novartis had a big influence on the campus. There was a major deal on the campus. I understand a fifth of the biological sciences’ support was coming from Novartis. And at the time, they both made pesticides, and they made pharmaceuticals.

One of my big concerns is that, as of the year 2000—prior to the year 2000, Novartis not only made atrazine, which is used on corn, of course, which is an herbicide, but it also induces an enzyme called aromatase. It causes you to make too much estrogen. And it’s now been shown that this herbicide, atrazine, and this mechanism, is potentially involved in development of breast cancer, for example. Up until 2000, the company also made a chemical called letrozole, which did exactly the opposite: It blocked aromatase, it blocked this enzyme, it blocked estrogen production. And this chemical, letrozole, is the number one treatment for breast cancer. So this company was simultaneously in 2000 making a chemical that induced estrogen and promoted breast cancer, and making a chemical that blocked estrogen production and was being used to treat breast cancer. So there’s a clear conflict of interest there, a clear problem.

The other problems are that something like 90 percent of the seeds that we use to produce our food right now are owned by the big six pesticide companies. So, again, there’s a conflict of interest where the companies have an interest in, I guess, getting us addicted to the pesticides, to grow the seeds that they also own. And Syngenta, of course, is one of those big six, one of the big pesticide or agribusiness companies.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And a New Yorker that delves into your story also says that you came to find out that the company was also reading your emails. Could you talk about that?

TYRONE HAYES: Well, I originally—I had some suspicion that they had hacked into my email. And originally found out—there was a professor at Minnesota, and I was going there to give a big lecture, and this professor in the School of Public Health, Deb Dubenofsky, said that she happened to be standing in line at the airport, flying back to Minnesota, and just by coincidence she was standing behind somebody who was having a conversation on his cellphone and who identified himself as an employee of Syngenta, and he made the statement, “We have access to his email. We know where he is at all times.” So it wasn’t just paranoia on my part. I had direct evidence that they had access to my email. And at the time, I maintained a second and a third email that I could keep private, and I actually used that information, that they had access to my email, to send them information, and sometimes false information—for example, booking plane tickets through that email, because then I could sent them to the wrong place, so they wouldn’t necessarily be there to follow me when I was going to speak in other places.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, Professor Hayes, this is stunning stuff that came out in this class action suit. The suit wasn’t brought by you, but the documents that came out that referenced you, Tyrone Hayes, TH, and trying to discredit you, trying to discredit your family, talk—that was a lawsuit that involved atrazine contaminating water supplies.

TYRONE HAYES: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: But what was your reaction when you saw this? You suspected this. You felt you were being followed. You felt you were—they were trying to discredit you. But now you had the documents.

TYRONE HAYES: Well, you know, it’s funny. You know, the way the article reads, that I suspected—I mean, I knew. I knew Tim Pastoor. I knew Sherry Ford. I knew many of the individuals who would follow me around. I knew who they were. I knew they had access to my email. You know, so, for me, I knew that these things were happening. This guy would directly come up and make lewd comments to me and threatening comments to me. But it was the kind of thing where, you know, it sounded like something out of a movie. I couldn’t go and tell my colleagues, like, “They’re following me around, and, you know, they’re hacking into my email”—

AMY GOODMAN: Did you record?

TYRONE HAYES: —because I would look crazy.

AMY GOODMAN: Did you put on a tape recorder?

TYRONE HAYES: You know, what I found—here’s how I’ll answer that question. What I found out, that it was much more powerful for me to suggest and have them think that I recorded everything than for them to actually know what I recorded. And that actually became sort of my protection. So, when this guy came up and threatened me and threatened my wife, to then go back and go, “Oh, my god, did he record that or not?” So, it was much more powerful for me to have them think that. But you can see in their handwritten notes that they were very concerned that I was recording conversations. There’s notes that they wanted to trap me, to entice me to sue, and these kinds of things.

And my reaction now, to see it all in The New Yorker and for—you know, all this open for the world to see, is—there are two reactions. One is, I can’t believe they wrote these kinds of things down, right? That you’re plotting to, you know, investigate me and investigate my school and investigate my hometown and all these kinds of things, and you wrote it down. But my other response is, this is quite analogous to, you know, when you hear these stories of somebody who’s been in jail for murder for 10 years, and then the DNA evidence gets them out, you know, and you ask them, “Are you happy?” Well, of course I’m happy, but I’ve also been in jail for 10 years. You know what I mean? So, of course I’m happy now that these documents have all been revealed, but it’s also been a very difficult time for me for the last—and for my family, you know, for the last 10 or 15 years, for my students, as well, for the last 10 or 15 years, to be pursued this way and to be under a microscope this way and to feel threatened this way for so long.

AMY GOODMAN: As we wrap up, what’s happening with atrazine today? Where does it stand?

TYRONE HAYES: It’s still on the market. We’re still studying it. A number of studies are still coming out from around the world. One recent study has shown that male babies that are exposed in utero to atrazine, their genitals don’t develop properly. Their penis doesn’t develop properly, or they get microphallus. There are studies showing that sperm count goes down when you’re exposed to atrazine. And this is not just laboratory animals or animals in the wild; this is also humans. We use the same hormones that animals do for our reproduction. And it’s a big threat to environmental health and public health.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you very much for being with us, Tyrone Hayes, a professor of integrative biology at the University of California, Berkeley, who’s devoted the past 15 years to studying atrazine, a widely used herbicide made by Syngenta. We’ll link to the article in The New Yorker magazine that reveals how the company tried to discredit Professor Hayes after his research showed atrazine causes sexual abnormalities in frogs and could cause the same problems for humans. The article is called “A Valuable Reputation: After Tyrone Hayes Said That a Chemical was Harmful, Its Maker Pursued Him.” This is Democracy Now! We’ll be back in a minute.

A Valuable Reputation (The New Yorker) – on atrazine & Syngenta

ANNALS OF SCIENCE

After Tyrone Hayes said that a chemical was harmful, its maker pursued him.

BY RACHEL AVIV

FEBRUARY 10, 2014

Hayes has devoted the past fifteen years to studying atrazine, a widely used herbicide made by Syngenta. The company’s notes reveal that it struggled to make sense of him, and plotted ways to discredit him.

Hayes has devoted the past fifteen years to studying atrazine, a widely used herbicide made by Syngenta. The company’s notes reveal that it struggled to make sense of him, and plotted ways to discredit him. Photograph by Dan Winters.

In 2001, seven years after joining the biology faculty of the University of California, Berkeley, Tyrone Hayes stopped talking about his research with people he didn’t trust. He instructed the students in his lab, where he was raising three thousand frogs, to hang up the phone if they heard a click, a signal that a third party might be on the line. Other scientists seemed to remember events differently, he noticed, so he started carrying an audio recorder to meetings. “The secret to a happy, successful life of paranoia,” he liked to say, “is to keep careful track of your persecutors.”

Three years earlier, Syngenta, one of the largest agribusinesses in the world, had asked Hayes to conduct experiments on the herbicide atrazine, which is applied to more than half the corn in the United States. Hayes was thirty-one, and he had already published twenty papers on the endocrinology of amphibians. David Wake, a professor in Hayes’s department, said that Hayes “may have had the greatest potential of anyone in the field.” But, when Hayes discovered that atrazine might impede the sexual development of frogs, his dealings with Syngenta became strained, and, in November, 2000, he ended his relationship with the company.

Hayes continued studying atrazine on his own, and soon he became convinced that Syngenta representatives were following him to conferences around the world. He worried that the company was orchestrating a campaign to destroy his reputation. He complained that whenever he gave public talks there was a stranger in the back of the room, taking notes. On a trip to Washington, D.C., in 2003, he stayed at a different hotel each night. He was still in touch with a few Syngenta scientists and, after noticing that they knew many details about his work and his schedule, he suspected that they were reading his e-mails. To confuse them, he asked a student to write misleading e-mails from his office computer while he was travelling. He sent backup copies of his data and notes to his parents in sealed boxes. In an e-mail to one Syngenta scientist, he wrote that he had “risked my reputation, my name . . . some say even my life, for what I thought (and now know) is right.” A few scientists had previously done experiments that anticipated Hayes’s work, but no one had observed such extreme effects. In another e-mail to Syngenta, he acknowledged that it might appear that he was suffering from a “Napoleon complex” or “delusions of grandeur.”

For years, despite his achievements, Hayes had felt like an interloper. In academic settings, it seemed to him that his colleagues were operating according to a frivolous code of manners: they spoke so formally, fashioning themselves as detached authorities, and rarely admitted what they didn’t know. He had grown up in Columbia, South Carolina, in a neighborhood where fewer than forty per cent of residents finish high school. Until sixth grade, when he was accepted into a program for the gifted, in a different neighborhood, he had never had a conversation with a white person his age. He and his friends used to tell one another how “white people do this, and white people do that,” pretending that they knew. After he switched schools and took advanced courses, the black kids made fun of him, saying, “Oh, he thinks he’s white.”

He was fascinated by the idea of metamorphosis, and spent much of his adolescence collecting tadpoles and frogs and crossbreeding different species of grasshoppers. He raised frog larvae on his parents’ front porch, and examined how lizards respond to changes in temperature (by using a blow-dryer) and light (by placing them in a doghouse). His father, a carpet layer, used to look at his experiments, shake his head, and say, “There’s a fine line between a genius and a fool.”

Hayes received a scholarship to Harvard, and, in 1985, began what he calls the worst four years of his life. Many of the other black students had gone to private schools and came from affluent families. He felt disconnected and ill-equipped—he was placed on academic probation—until he became close to a biology professor, who encouraged him to work in his lab. Five feet three and thin, Hayes distinguished himself by dressing flamboyantly, like Prince. The Harvard Crimson, in an article about a campus party, wrote that he looked as if he belonged in the “rock-’n’-ready atmosphere of New York’s Danceteria.” He thought about dropping out, but then he started dating a classmate, Katherine Kim, a Korean-American biology major from Kansas. He married her two days after he graduated.

They moved to Berkeley, where Hayes enrolled in the university’s program in integrative biology. He completed his Ph.D. in three and a half years, and was immediately hired by his department. “He was a force of nature—incredibly gifted and hardworking,” Paul Barber, a colleague who is now a professor at U.C.L.A., says. Hayes became one of only a few black tenured biology professors in the country. He won Berkeley’s highest award for teaching, and ran the most racially diverse lab in his department, attracting students who were the first in their families to go to college. Nigel Noriega, a former graduate student, said that the lab was a “comfort zone” for students who were “just suffocating at Berkeley,” because they felt alienated from academic culture.

Hayes had become accustomed to steady praise from his colleagues, but, when Syngenta cast doubt on his work, he became preoccupied by old anxieties. He believed that the company was trying to isolate him from other scientists and “play on my insecurities—the fear that I’m not good enough, that everyone thinks I’m a fraud,” he said. He told colleagues that he suspected that Syngenta held “focus groups” on how to mine his vulnerabilities. Roger Liu, who worked in Hayes’s lab for a decade, both as an undergraduate and as a graduate student, said, “In the beginning, I was really worried for his safety. But then I couldn’t tell where the reality ended and the exaggeration crept in.”

Liu and several other former students said that they had remained skeptical of Hayes’s accusations until last summer, when an article appeared in Environmental Health News (in partnership with 100Reporters)* that drew on Syngenta’s internal records. Hundreds of Syngenta’s memos, notes, and e-mails have been unsealed following the settlement, in 2012, of two class-action suits brought by twenty-three Midwestern cities and towns that accused Syngenta of “concealing atrazine’s true dangerous nature” and contaminating their drinking water. Stephen Tillery, the lawyer who argued the cases, said, “Tyrone’s work gave us the scientific basis for the lawsuit.”

Hayes has devoted the past fifteen years to studying atrazine, and during that time scientists around the world have expanded on his findings, suggesting that the herbicide is associated with birth defects in humans as well as in animals. The company documents show that, while Hayes was studying atrazine, Syngenta was studying him, as he had long suspected. Syngenta’s public-relations team had drafted a list of four goals. The first was “discredit Hayes.” In a spiral-bound notebook, Syngenta’s communications manager, Sherry Ford, who referred to Hayes by his initials, wrote that the company could “prevent citing of TH data by revealing him as noncredible.” He was a frequent topic of conversation at company meetings. Syngenta looked for ways to “exploit Hayes’ faults/problems.” “If TH involved in scandal, enviros will drop him,” Ford wrote. She observed that Hayes “grew up in world (S.C.) that wouldn’t accept him,” “needs adulation,” “doesn’t sleep,” was “scarred for life.” She wrote, “What’s motivating Hayes?—basic question.”

Syngenta, which is based in Basel, sells more than fourteen billion dollars’ worth of seeds and pesticides a year and funds research at some four hundred academic institutions around the world. When Hayes agreed to do experiments for the company (which at that time was part of a larger corporation, Novartis), the students in his lab expressed concern that biotech companies were “buying up universities” and that industry funding would compromise the objectivity of their research. Hayes assured them that his fee, a hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars, would make their lab more rigorous. He could employ more students, buy new equipment, and raise more frogs. Though his lab was well funded, federal support for research was growing increasingly unstable, and, like many academics and administrators, he felt that he should find new sources of revenue. “I went into it as if I were a painter, performing a service,” Hayes told me. “You commissioned it, and I come up with the results, and you do what you want with them. It’s your responsibility, not mine.”

Atrazine is the second most widely used herbicide in the U.S., where sales are estimated at about three hundred million dollars a year. Introduced in 1958, it is cheap to produce and controls a broad range of weeds. (Glyphosate, which is produced by Monsanto, is the most popular herbicide.) A study by the Environmental Protection Agency found that without atrazine the national corn yield would fall by six per cent, creating an annual loss of nearly two billion dollars. But the herbicide degrades slowly in soil and often washes into streams and lakes, where it doesn’t readily dissolve. Atrazine is one of the most common contaminants of drinking water; an estimated thirty million Americans are exposed to trace amounts of the chemical.

In 1994, the E.P.A., expressing concerns about atrazine’s health effects, announced that it would start a scientific review. Syngenta assembled a panel of scientists and professors, through a consulting firm called EcoRisk, to study the herbicide. Hayes eventually joined the group. His first experiment showed that male tadpoles exposed to atrazine developed less muscle surrounding their vocal cords, and he hypothesized that the chemical had the potential to reduce testosterone levels. “I have been losing lots of sleep over this,” he wrote one EcoRisk panel member, in the summer of 2000. “I realize the implications and of course want to make sure that everything possible has been done and controlled for.” After a conference call, he was surprised by the way the company kept critiquing what seemed to be trivial aspects of the work. Hayes wanted to repeat and validate his experiments, and complained that the company was slowing him down and that independent scientists would publish similar results before he could. He decided to resign from the panel, writing in a letter that he didn’t want to be “scooped.” “I fear that my reputation will be damaged if I continue my relationship and associated low productivity with Novartis,” he wrote. “It will appear to my colleagues that I have been part of a plan to bury important data.”

Hayes repeated the experiments using funds from Berkeley and the National Science Foundation. Afterward, he wrote to the panel, “Although I do not want to make a big deal out of it until I have all of the data analyzed and decoded—I feel I should warn you that I think something very strange is coming up in these animals.” After dissecting the frogs, he noticed that some could not be clearly identified as male or female: they had both testes and ovaries. Others had multiple testes that were deformed.

In January, 2001, Syngenta employees and members of the EcoRisk panel travelled to Berkeley to discuss Hayes’s new findings. Syngenta asked to meet with him privately, but Hayes insisted on the presence of his students, a few colleagues, and his wife. He had previously had an amiable relationship with the panel—he had enjoyed taking long runs with the scientist who supervised it—and he began the meeting, in a large room at Berkeley’s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, as if he were hosting an academic conference. He wore a new suit and brought in catered meals.

After lunch, Syngenta introduced a guest speaker, a statistical consultant, who listed numerous errors in Hayes’s report and concluded that the results were not statistically significant. Hayes’s wife, Katherine Kim, said that the consultant seemed to be trying to “make Tyrone look as foolish as possible.” Wake, the biology professor, said that the men on the EcoRisk panel looked increasingly uncomfortable. “They were experienced enough to know that the issues the statistical consultant was raising were routine and ridiculous,” he said. “A couple of glitches were presented as if they were the end of the world. I’ve been a scientist in academic settings for forty years, and I’ve never experienced anything like that. They were after Tyrone.”

Hayes later e-mailed three of the scientists, telling them, “I was insulted, felt railroaded and, in fact, felt that some dishonest and unethical activity was going on.” When he explained what had happened to Theo Colborn, the scientist who had popularized the theory that industrial chemicals could alter hormones, she advised him, “Don’t go home the same way twice.” Colborn was convinced that her office had been bugged, and that industry representatives followed her. She told Hayes to “keep looking over your shoulder” and to be careful whom he let in his lab. She warned him, “You have got to protect yourself.”

Hayes published his atrazine work in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences a year and a half after quitting the panel. He wrote that what he called “hermaphroditism” was induced in frogs by exposure to atrazine at levels thirty times below what the E.P.A. permits in water. He hypothesized that the chemical could be a factor in the decline in amphibian populations, a phenomenon observed all over the world. In an e-mail sent the day before the publication, he congratulated the students in his lab for taking the “ethical stance” by continuing the work on their own. “We (and our principles) have been tested, and I believe we have not only passed but exceeded expectations,” he wrote. “Science is a principle and a process of seeking truth. Truth cannot be purchased and, thus, truth cannot be altered by money. Professorship is not a career, but rather a life’s pursuit. The people with whom I work daily exemplify and remind me of this promise.”

He and his students continued the work, travelling to farming regions throughout the Midwest, collecting frogs in ponds and lakes, and sending three hundred pails of frozen water back to Berkeley. In papers in Nature and in Environmental Health Perspectives, Hayes reported that he had found frogs with sexual abnormalities in atrazine-contaminated sites in Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, and Wyoming. “Now that I have realized what we are into, I cannot stop it,” he wrote to a colleague. “It is an entity of its own.” Hayes began arriving at his lab at 3:30 a.m. and staying fourteen hours. He had two young children, who sometimes assisted by color-coding containers.

According to company e-mails, Syngenta was distressed by Hayes’s work. Its public-relations team compiled a database of more than a hundred “supportive third party stakeholders,” including twenty-five professors, who could defend atrazine or act as “spokespeople on Hayes.” The P.R. team suggested that the company “purchase ‘Tyrone Hayes’ as a search word on the internet, so that any time someone searches for Tyrone’s material, the first thing they see is our material.” The proposal was later expanded to include the phrases “amphibian hayes,” “atrazine frogs,” and “frog feminization.” (Searching online for “Tyrone Hayes” now brings up an advertisement that says, “Tyrone Hayes Not Credible.”)

In June, 2002, two months after Hayes’s first atrazine publication, Syngenta announced in a press release that three studies had failed to replicate Hayes’s work. In a letter to the editor of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, eight scientists on the EcoRisk panel wrote that Hayes’s study had “little regard for assessment of causality,” lacked statistical details, misused the term “dose,” made vague and naïve references, and misspelled a word. They said that Hayes’s claim that his paper had “significant implications for environmental and public health” had not been “scientifically demonstrated.” Steven Milloy, a freelance science columnist who runs a nonprofit organization to which Syngenta has given tens of thousands of dollars, wrote an article for Fox News titled “Freaky-Frog Fraud,” which picked apart Hayes’s paper in Nature, saying that there wasn’t a clear relationship between the concentration of atrazine and the effect on the frog. Milloy characterized Hayes as a “junk scientist” and dismissed his “lame” conclusions as “just another of Hayes’ tricks.”

Fussy critiques of scientific experiments have become integral to what is known as the “sound science” campaign, an effort by interest groups and industries to slow the pace of regulation. David Michaels, the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, wrote, in his book “Doubt Is Their Product” (2008), that corporations have developed sophisticated strategies for “manufacturing and magnifying uncertainty.” In the eighties and nineties, the tobacco industry fended off regulations by drawing attention to questions about the science of secondhand smoke. Many companies have adopted this tactic. “Industry has learned that debating the science is much easier and more effective than debating the policy,” Michaels wrote. “In field after field, year after year, conclusions that might support regulation are always disputed. Animal data are deemed not relevant, human data not representative, and exposure data not reliable.”

In the summer of 2002, two scientists from the E.P.A. visited Hayes’s lab and reviewed his atrazine data. Thomas Steeger, one of the scientists, told Hayes, “Your research can potentially affect the balance of risk versus benefit for one of the most controversial pesticides in the U.S.” But an organization called the Center for Regulatory Effectiveness petitioned the E.P.A. to ignore Hayes’s findings. “Hayes has killed and continues to kill thousands of frogs in unvalidated tests that have no proven value,” the petition said. The center argued that Hayes’s studies violated the Data Quality Act, passed in 2000, which requires that regulatory decisions rely on studies that meet high standards for “quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity.” The center is run by an industry lobbyist and consultant for Syngenta, Jim Tozzi, who proposed the language of the Data Quality Act to the congresswoman who sponsored it.

The E.P.A. complied with the Data Quality Act and revised its Environmental Risk Assessment, making it clear that hormone disruption wouldn’t be a legitimate reason for restricting use of the chemical until “appropriate testing protocols have been established.” Steeger told Hayes that he was troubled by the circularity of the center’s critique. In an e-mail, he wrote, “Their position reminds me of the argument put forward by the philosopher Berkeley, who argued against empiricism by noting that reliance on scientific observation is flawed since the link between observations and conclusions is intangible and is thus immeasurable.”

Nonetheless, Steeger seemed resigned to the frustrations of regulatory science and gently punctured Hayes’s idealism. When Hayes complained that Syngenta had not reported his findings on frog hermaphroditism quickly enough, he responded that it was “unfortunate but not uncommon for registrants to ‘sit’ on data that may be considered adverse to the public’s perception of their products.” He wrote that “science can be manipulated to serve certain agendas. All you can do is practice ‘suspended disbelief.’ ” (The E.P.A. says that there is “no indication that information was improperly withheld in this case.”)

After consulting with colleagues at Berkeley, Hayes decided that, rather than watch Syngenta discredit his work, he would make a “preëmptive move.” He appeared in features in Discover and the San Francisco Chronicle, suggesting that Syngenta’s science was not objective. Both articles focussed on his personal biography, leading with his skin color, and moving on to his hair style: at the time, he wore his hair in braids. Hayes made little attempt to appear disinterested. Scientific objectivity requires what the philosopher Thomas Nagel has called a “view from nowhere,” but Hayes kept drawing attention to himself, making blustery comments like “Tyrone can only be Tyrone.” He presented Syngenta as a villain, but he didn’t quite fulfill the role of the hero. He was hyper and a little frantic—he always seemed to be in a rush or on the verge of forgetting to do something—and he approached the idea of taking down the big guys with a kind of juvenile zeal.

Environmental activists praised Hayes’s work and helped him get media attention. But they were concerned by the bluntness of his approach. A co-founder of the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit research organization, told Hayes to “stop what you are doing and take time to actually construct a plan” or “you will get your ass handed to you on a platter.” Steeger warned him that vigilantism would distract him from his research. “Can you afford the time and money to fight battles where you are clearly outnumbered and, to be candid, outclassed?” he asked. “Most people would prefer to limit their time in purgatory; I don’t know anyone who knowingly enters hell.”

Hayes had worked all his life to build his scientific reputation, and now it seemed on the verge of collapse. “I cannot in reasonable terms explain to you what this means to me,” he told Steeger. He took pains to prove that Syngenta’s experiments had not replicated his studies: they used a different population of animals, which were raised in different types of tanks, in closer quarters, at cooler temperatures, and with a different feeding schedule. On at least three occasions, he proposed to the Syngenta scientists that they trade data. “If we really want to test repeatability, let’s share animals and solutions,” he wrote.

In early 2003, Hayes was considered for a job at the Nicholas School of the Environment, at Duke. He visited the campus three times, and the university arranged for a real-estate agent to show him and his wife potential homes. When Syngenta learned that Hayes might be moving to North Carolina, where its crop-protection headquarters are situated, Gary Dickson—the company’s vice-president of global risk assessment, who a year earlier had established a fifty-thousand-dollar endowment, funded by Syngenta, at the Nicholas School—contacted a dean at Duke. According to documents unsealed in the class-action lawsuits, Dickson informed the dean of the “state of the relationship between Dr. Hayes and Syngenta.” The company “wanted to protect our reputation in our community and among our employees.”

There were several candidates for the job at Duke, and, when Hayes did not get it, he concluded that it was due to Syngenta’s influence. Richard Di Giulio, a Duke professor who had hosted Hayes’s first visit, said that he was irritated by Hayes’s suggestion: “A little gift of fifty thousand dollars would not influence a tenure hire. That’s not going to happen.” He added, “I’m not surprised that Syngenta would not have liked Hayes to be at Duke, since we’re an hour down the road from them.” He said that Hayes’s conflict with Syngenta was an extreme example of the kind of dispute that is not uncommon in environmental science. The difference, he said, was that the “scientific debate spilled into Hayes’s emotional life.”

In June, 2003, Hayes paid his own way to Washington so that he could present his work at an E.P.A. hearing on atrazine. The agency had evaluated seventeen studies. Twelve experiments had been funded by Syngenta, and all but two showed that atrazine had no effect on the sexual development of frogs. The rest of the experiments, by Hayes and researchers at two other universities, indicated the opposite. In a PowerPoint presentation at the hearing, Hayes disclosed a private e-mail sent to him by one of the scientists on the EcoRisk panel, a professor at Texas Tech, who wrote, “I agree with you that the important issue is for everyone involved to come to grips with (and stop minimizing) the fact that independent laboratories have demonstrated an effect of atrazine on gonadal differentiation in frogs. There is no denying this.”

The E.P.A. found that all seventeen atrazine studies, including Hayes’s, suffered from methodological flaws—contamination of controls, variability in measurement end points, poor animal husbandry—and asked Syngenta to fund a comprehensive experiment that would produce more definitive results. Darcy Kelley, a member of the E.P.A.’s scientific advisory panel and a biology professor at Columbia, said that, at the time, “I did not think the E.P.A. made the right decision.” The studies by Syngenta scientists had flaws that “really cast into doubt their ability to carry out their experiments. They couldn’t replicate effects that are as easy as falling off a log.” She thought that Hayes’s experiments were more respectable, but she wasn’t persuaded by Hayes’s explanation of the biological mechanism causing the deformities.

The E.P.A. approved the continued use of atrazine in October, the same month that the European Commission chose to remove it from the market. The European Union generally takes a precautionary approach to environmental risks, choosing restraint in the face of uncertainty. In the U.S., lingering scientific questions justify delays in regulatory decisions. Since the mid-seventies, the E.P.A. has issued regulations restricting the use of only five industrial chemicals out of more than eighty thousand in the environment. Industries have a greater role in the American regulatory process—they may sue regulators if there are errors in the scientific record—and cost-benefit analyses are integral to decisions: a monetary value is assigned to disease, impairments, and shortened lives and weighed against the benefits of keeping a chemical in use. Lisa Heinzerling, the senior climate-policy counsel at the E.P.A. in 2009 and the associate administrator of the office of policy in 2009 and 2010, said that cost-benefit models appear “objective and neutral, a way to free ourselves from the chaos of politics.” But the complex algorithms “quietly condone a tremendous amount of risk.” She added that the influence of the Office of Management and Budget, which oversees major regulatory decisions, has deepened in recent years. “A rule will go through years of scientific reviews and cost-benefit analyses, and then at the final stage it doesn’t pass,” she said. “It has a terrible, demoralizing effect on the culture at the E.P.A.”

In 2003, a Syngenta development committee in Basel approved a strategy to keep atrazine on the market “until at least 2010.” A PowerPoint presentation assembled by Syngenta’s global product manager explained that “we need atrazine to secure our position in the corn marketplace. Without atrazine we cannot defend and grow our business in the USA.” Sherry Ford, the communications manager, wrote in her notebook that the company “should not phase out atz until we know about” the Syngenta herbicide paraquat, which has also been controversial, because of studies showing that it might be associated with Parkinson’s disease. She noted that atrazine “focuses attention away from other products.”

Syngenta began holding weekly “atrazine meetings” after the first class-action suit was filed, in 2004. The meetings were attended by toxicologists, the company’s counsel, communications staff, and the head of regulatory affairs. To dampen negative publicity from the lawsuit, the group discussed how it could invalidate Hayes’s research. Ford documented peculiar things he had done (“kept coat on”) or phrases he had used (“Is this line clean?”). “If TH wanted to win the day, and he had the goods,” she wrote, “he would have produced them when asked.” She noted that Hayes was “getting in too deep w/ enviros,” and searched for ways to get him to “show his true colors.”

In 2005, Ford made a long list of methods for discrediting him: “have his work audited by 3rd party,” “ask journals to retract,” “set trap to entice him to sue,” “investigate funding,” “investigate wife.” The initials of different employees were written in the margins beside entries, presumably because they had been assigned to look into the task. Another set of ideas, discussed at several meetings, was to conduct “systematic rebuttals of all TH appearances.” One of the company’s communications consultants said in an e-mail that she wanted to obtain Hayes’s calendar of speaking engagements, so that Syngenta could “start reaching out to the potential audiences with the Error vs. Truth Sheet,” which would provide “irrefutable evidence of his polluted messages.” (Syngenta says that many of the documents unsealed in the lawsuits refer to ideas that were never implemented.)

To redirect attention to the financial benefits of atrazine, the company paid Don Coursey, a tenured economist at the Harris School of Public Policy, at the University of Chicago, five hundred dollars an hour to study how a ban on the herbicide would affect the economy. In 2006, Syngenta supplied Coursey with data and a “bundle of studies,” and edited his paper, which was labelled as a Harris School Working Paper. (He disclosed that Syngenta had funded it.) After submitting a draft, Coursey had been warned in an e-mail that he needed to work harder to articulate a “clear statement of your conclusions flowing from this analysis.” Coursey later announced his findings at a National Press Club event in Washington and told the audience that there was one “basic takeaway point: a ban on atrazine at the national level will have a devastating, devastating effect upon the U.S. corn economy.”

Hayes had been promoted from associate to full professor in 2003, an achievement that had sent him into a mild depression. He had spent the previous decade understanding his self-worth in reference to a series of academic milestones, and he had reached each one. Now he felt aimless. His wife said she could have seen him settling into the life of a “normal, run-of-the-mill, successful scientist.” But he wasn’t motivated by the idea of “writing papers and books that we all just trade with each other.”

He began giving more than fifty lectures a year, not just to scientific audiences but to policy institutes, history departments, women’s health clinics, food preparers, farmers, and high schools. He almost never declined an invitation, despite the distance. He told his audiences that he was defying the instructions of his Ph.D. adviser, who had told him, “Let the science speak for itself.” He had a flair for sensational stories—he chose phrases like “crime scene” and “chemically castrated”—and he seemed to revel in details about Syngenta’s conflicts of interest, presenting theories as if he were relating gossip to friends. (Syngenta wrote a letter to Hayes and his dean, pointing out inaccuracies: “As we discover additional errors in your presentations, you can expect us to be in touch with you again.”)

At his talks, Hayes noticed that one or two men in the audience were dressed more sharply than the other scientists. They asked questions that seemed to have been designed to embarrass him: Why can’t anyone replicate your research? Why won’t you share your data? One former student, Ali Stuart, said that “everywhere Tyrone went there was this guy asking questions that made a mockery of him. We called him the Axe Man.”

Hayes had once considered a few of the scientists working with Syngenta friends, and he approached them in a nerdy style of defiance. He wrote them mass e-mails, informing them of presentations he was giving and offering tips on how to discredit him. “You can’t approach your prey thinking like a predator,” he wrote. “You have to become your quarry.” He described a recent trip to South Carolina and his sense of displacement when “my old childhood friend came by to update me on who got killed, who’s on crack, who went to jail.” He wrote, “I have learned to talk like you (better than you . . . by your own admission), write like you (again better) . . . you however don’t know anyone like me . . . you have yet to spend a day in my world.” After seeing an e-mail in which a lobbyist characterized him as “black and quite articulate,” he began signing his e-mails, “Tyrone B. Hayes, Ph.D., A.B.M.,” for “articulate black man.”

Syngenta was concerned by Hayes’s e-mails and commissioned an outside contractor to do a “psychological profile” of Hayes. In her notes, Sherry Ford described him as “bipolar/manic-depressive” and “paranoid schizo & narcissistic.” Roger Liu, Hayes’s student, said that he thought Hayes wrote the e-mails to relieve his anxiety. Hayes often showed the e-mails to his students, who appreciated his rebellious sense of humor. Liu said, “Tyrone had all these groupies in the lab cheering him on. I was the one in the background saying, you know, ‘Man, don’t egg them on. Don’t poke that beast.’ ”

Syngenta intensified its public-relations campaign in 2009, as it became concerned that activists, touting “new science,” had developed a “new line of attack.” That year, a paper in Acta Paediatrica, reviewing national records for thirty million births, found that children conceived between April and July, when the concentration of atrazine (mixed with other pesticides) in water is highest, were more likely to have genital birth defects. The author of the paper, Paul Winchester, a professor of pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine, received a subpoena from Syngenta, which requested that he turn over every e-mail he had written about atrazine in the past decade. The company’s media talking points described his study as “so-called science” that didn’t meet the “guffaw test.” Winchester said, “We don’t have to argue that I haven’t proved the point. Of course I haven’t proved the point! Epidemiologists don’t try to prove points—they look for problems.”

A few months after Winchester’s paper appeared, the Times published an investigation suggesting that atrazine levels frequently surpass the maximum threshold allowed in drinking water. The article referred to recent studies inEnvironmental Health Perspectives and the Journal of Pediatric Surgery that found that mothers living close to water sources containing atrazine were more likely to have babies who were underweight or had a defect in which the intestines and other organs protrude from the body.

The day the article appeared, Syngenta planned to “go through the article line by line and find all 1) inaccuracies and 2) misrepresentations. Turn that into a simple chart.” The company would have “a credible third party do the same.” Elizabeth Whelan, the president of the American Council on Science and Health, which asked Syngenta for a hundred thousand dollars that year, appeared on MSNBC and declared that the Timesarticle was not based on science. “I’m a public-health professional,” she said. “It really bothers me very much to see the New York Times front-page Sunday edition featuring an article about a bogus risk.”

Syngenta’s public-relations team wrote editorials about the benefits of atrazine and about the flimsy science of its critics, and then sent them to “third-party allies,” who agreed to “byline” the articles, which appeared in the Washington Times, the Rochester Post-Bulletin, the Des Moines Register, and the St. Cloud Times. When a few articles in the “op-ed pipeline” sounded too aggressive, a Syngenta consultant warned that “some of the language of these pieces is suggestive of their source, which suggestion should be avoided at all costs.”

After the Times article, Syngenta hired a communications consultancy, the White House Writers Group, which has represented more than sixty Fortune 500 companies. In an e-mail to Syngenta, Josh Gilder, a director of the firm and a former speechwriter for Ronald Reagan, wrote, “We need to start fighting our own war.” By warning that a ban on atrazine would “devastate the economies” of rural regions, the firm tried to create a “state of affairs in which the new political leadership at E.P.A. finds itself increasingly isolated.” The firm held “elite dinners with Washington influentials” and tried to “prompt members of Congress” to challenge the scientific rationale for an upcoming E.P.A. review of atrazine. In a memo describing its strategy, the White House Writers Group wrote that, “regarding science, it is important to keep in mind that the major players in Washington do not understand science.”

In 2010, Hayes told the EcoRisk panel in an e-mail, “I have just initiated what will be the most extraordinary academic event in this battle!” He had another paper coming out in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which described how male tadpoles exposed to atrazine grew up to be functional females with impaired fertility. He advised the company that it would want to get its P.R. campaign up to speed. “It’s nice to know that in this economy I can keep so many people employed,” he wrote. He quoted both Tupac Shakur and the South African king Shaka Zulu: “Never leave an enemy behind or it will rise again to fly at your throat.”

Syngenta’s head of global product safety wrote a letter to the editor of theProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and to the president of the National Academy of Sciences, expressing concern that a “publication with so many obvious weaknesses could achieve publication in such a reputable scientific journal.” A month later, Syngenta filed an ethics complaint with the chancellor of Berkeley, claiming that Hayes’s e-mails violated the university’s Standards of Ethical Conduct, particularly Respect for Others. Syngenta posted more than eighty of Hayes’s e-mails on its Web site and enclosed a few in its letter to the chancellor. In one, with the subject line “Are y’all ready for it,” Hayes wrote, “Ya fulla my j*z right now!” In another, he told the Syngenta scientists that he’d had a drink after a conference with their “republican buddies,” who wanted to know about a figure he had used in his paper. “As long as you followin me around, I know I’m da sh*t,” he wrote. “By the way, yo boy left his pre-written questions at the table!”

Berkeley declined to take disciplinary action against Hayes. The university’s lawyer reminded Syngenta in a letter that “all parties have an equal responsibility to act professionally.” David Wake said that he read many of the e-mails and found them “quite hilarious.” “He’s treating them like street punks, and they view themselves as captains of industry,” he said. “When he gets tapped, he goes right back at them.”

Michelle Boone, a professor of aquatic ecology at Miami University, who served on the E.P.A.’s scientific advisory panel, said, “We all follow the Tyrone Hayes drama, and some people will say, ‘He should just do the science.’ But the science doesn’t speak for itself. Industry has unlimited resources and bully power. Tyrone is the only one calling them out on what they’re doing.” However, she added, “I do think some people feel he has lost his objectivity.”

Keith Solomon, a professor emeritus at the University of Guelph, Ontario, who has received funding from Syngenta and served on the EcoRisk panel, noted that academics who refuse industry money are not immune from biases; they’re under pressure to produce papers, in order to get tenure and promotions. “If I do an experiment, look at the data every which way, and find nothing, it will not be easy to publish,” he said. “Journals want excitement. They want bad things to happen.”

Hayes, who had gained more than fifty pounds since becoming tenured, wore bright scarves draped over his suit and silver earrings from Tibet. At the end of his lectures, he broke into rhyme: “I see a ruse / intentionally constructed to confuse the news / well, I’ve taken it upon myself to defuse the clues / so that you can choose / and to demonstrate the objectivity of the methods I use.” At some of his lectures, Hayes warned that the consequences of atrazine use were disproportionately felt by people of color. “If you’re black or Hispanic, you’re more likely to live or work in areas where you’re exposed to crap,” he said. He explained that “on the one side I’m trying to play by the ivory-tower rules, and on the other side people are playing by a different set of rules.” Syngenta was speaking directly to the public, whereas scientists were publishing their research in “magazines that you can’t buy in Barnes and Noble.”

Hayes was confident that at the next E.P.A. hearing there would be enough evidence to ban atrazine, but in 2010 the agency found that the studies indicating risk to humans were too limited. Two years later, during another review, the E.P.A. determined that atrazine does not affect the sexual development of frogs. By that point, there were seventy-five published studies on the subject, but the E.P.A. excluded the majority of them from consideration, because they did not meet the requirements for quality that the agency had set in 2003. The conclusion was based largely on a set of studies funded by Syngenta and led by Werner Kloas, a professor of endocrinology at Humboldt University, in Berlin. One of the co-authors was Alan Hosmer, a Syngenta scientist whose job, according to a 2004 performance evaluation, included “atrazine defence” and “influencing EPA.”

After the hearing, two of the independent experts who had served on the E.P.A.’s scientific advisory panel, along with fifteen other scientists, wrote a paper (not yet published) complaining that the agency had repeatedly ignored the panel’s recommendations and that it placed “human health and the environment at the mercy of industry.” “The EPA works with industry to set up the methodology for such studies with the outcome often that industry is the only institution that can afford to conduct the research,” they wrote. The Kloas study was the most comprehensive of its kind: its researchers had been scrutinized by an outside auditor, and their raw data turned over to the E.P.A. But the scientists wrote that one set of studies on a single species was “not a sufficient edifice on which to build a regulary assessment.” Citing a paper by Hayes, who had done an analysis of sixteen atrazine studies, they wrote that “the single best predictor of whether or not the herbicide atrazine had a significant effect in a study was the funding source.”

In another paper, in Policy Perspective, Jason Rohr, an ecologist at the University of South Florida, who served on an E.P.A. panel, criticized the “lucrative ‘science for hire’ industry, where scientists are employed to dispute data.” He wrote that a Syngenta-funded review of the atrazine literature had arguably misrepresented more than fifty studies and made a hundred and forty-four inaccurate or misleading statements, of which “96.5% appeared to be beneficial for Syngenta.” Rohr, who has conducted several experiments involving atrazine, said that, at conferences, “I regularly get peppered with questions from Syngenta cronies trying to discount my research. They try to poke holes in the research rather than appreciate the adverse effects of the chemicals.” He said, “I have colleagues whom I’ve tried to recruit, and they’ve told me that they’re not willing to delve into this sort of research, because they don’t want the headache of having to defend their credibility.”

Deborah Cory-Slechta, a former member of the E.P.A.’s science advisory board, said that she, too, felt that Syngenta was trying to undermine her work. A professor at the University of Rochester Medical Center, Cory-Slechta studies how the herbicide paraquat may contribute to diseases of the nervous system. “The folks from Syngenta used to follow me to my talks and tell me I wasn’t using ‘human-relevant doses,’ ” she said. “They would go up to my students and try to intimidate them. There was this sustained campaign to make it look like my science wasn’t legitimate.”

Syngenta denied repeated requests for interviews, but Ann Bryan, its senior manager for external communications, told me in an e-mail that some of the studies I was citing were unreliable or unsound. When I mentioned a recent paper in the American Journal of Medical Genetics, which showed associations between a mother’s exposure to atrazine and the likelihood that her son will have an abnormally small penis, undescended testes, or a deformity of the urethra—defects that have increased in the past several decades—she said that the study had been “reviewed by independent scientists, who found numerous flaws.” She recommended that I speak with the author of the review, David Schwartz, a neuroscientist, who works for Innovative Science Solutions, a consulting firm that specializes in “product defense” and strategies that “give you the power to put your best data forward.” Schwartz told me that epidemiological studies can’t eliminate confounding variables or make claims about causation. “We’ve been incredibly misled by this type of study,” he said.

In 2012, in its settlement of the class-action suits, Syngenta agreed to pay a hundred and five million dollars to reimburse more than a thousand water systems for the cost of filtering atrazine from drinking water, but the company denies all wrongdoing. Bryan told me that “atrazine does not and, in fact, cannot cause adverse health effects at any level that people would ever be exposed to in the real-world environment.” She wrote that she was “troubled by a suggestion that we have ever tried to discredit anyone. Our focus has always been on communicating the science and setting the record straight.” She noted that “virtually every well-known brand, or even well-known issue, has a communications program behind it. Atrazine’s no different.”

Last August, Hayes put his experiments on hold. He said that his fees for animal care had risen eightfold in a decade, and that he couldn’t afford to maintain his research program. He accused the university of charging him more than other researchers in his department; in response, the director of the office of laboratory-animal care sent detailed charts illustrating that he is charged according to standard campus-wide rates, which have increased for most researchers in recent years. In an online Forbes op-ed, Jon Entine, a journalist who is listed in Syngenta’s records as a supportive “third party,” accused Hayes of being attached to conspiracy theories, and of leading the “international regulatory community on a wild goose chase,” which “borders on criminal.”

By late November, Hayes’s lab had resumed work. He was using private grants to support his students rather than to pay outstanding fees, and the lab was accumulating debt. Two days before Thanksgiving, Hayes and his students discussed their holiday plans. He was wearing an oversized orange sweatshirt, gym shorts, and running shoes, and a former student, Diana Salazar Guerrero, was eating fries that another student had left on the table. Hayes encouraged her to come to his Thanksgiving dinner and to move into the bedroom of his son, who is now a student at Oberlin. Guerrero had just put down half the deposit on a new apartment, but Hayes was disturbed by her description of her new roommate. “Are you sure you can trust him?” he asked.

Hayes had just returned from Mar del Plata, Argentina. He had flown fifteen hours and driven two hundred and fifty miles to give a thirty-minute lecture on atrazine. Guerrero said, “Sometimes I’m just, like, ‘Why don’t you let it go, Tyrone? It’s been fifteen years! How do you have the energy for this?’ ” With more scientists documenting the risks of atrazine, she assumed he’d be inclined to move on. “Originally, it was just this crazy guy at Berkeley, and you can throw the Berserkley thing at anyone,” she said. “But now the tide is turning.”

In a recent paper in the Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Hayes and twenty-one other scientists applied the criteria of Sir Austin Bradford Hill, who, in 1965, outlined the conditions necessary for a causal relationship, to atrazine studies across different vertebrate classes. They argued that independent lines of evidence consistently showed that atrazine disrupts male reproductive development. Hayes’s lab was working on two more studies that explore how atrazine affects the sexual behavior of frogs. When I asked him what he would do if the E.P.A., which is conducting another review of the safety of atrazine this year, were to ban the herbicide, he joked, “I’d probably get depressed again.”

Not long ago, Hayes saw a description of himself on Wikipedia that he found disrespectful, and he wasn’t sure whether it was an attack by Syngenta or whether there were simply members of the public who thought poorly of him. He felt deflated when he remembered the arguments he’d had with Syngenta-funded pundits. “It’s one thing if you go after me because you have a philosophical disagreement with my science or if you think I’m raising alarm where there shouldn’t be any,” he said. “But they didn’t even have their own opinions. Someone was paying them to take a position.” He wondered if there was something inherently insane about the act of whistle-blowing; maybe only crazy people persisted. He was ready for a fight, but he seemed to be searching for his opponent.

One of his first graduate students, Nigel Noriega, who runs an organization devoted to conserving tropical forests, told me that he was still recovering from the experience of his atrazine research, a decade before. He had come to see science as a rigid culture, “its own club, an élite society,” Noriega said. “And Tyrone didn’t conform to the social aspects of being a scientist.” Noriega worried that the public had little understanding of the context that gives rise to scientific findings. “It is not helpful to anyone to assume that scientists are authoritative,” he said. “A good scientist spends his whole career questioning his own facts. One of the most dangerous things you can do is believe.” ♦

*An earlier version of this article did not properly credit the organization that produced and co-published the report with Environmental Health News; it was 100Reporters.

Agropecuária brasileira torna-se mais produtiva, porém mais excludente (Fapesp)

Artigo publicado na revista Nature Climate Change analisa mudanças no padrão brasileiro de uso do solo nos últimos 20 anos e ressalta “comoditização” da agricultura (foto:Margi Moss/Projeto Brasil das Águas)

04/02/2014

Por Karina Toledo

Agência FAPESP – As mudanças no padrão brasileiro de uso do solo nas duas últimas décadas são destaque da capa da edição de janeiro da revista Nature Climate Change.

A boa notícia apontada pelo artigo é que, nos últimos dez anos, ocorreu no país uma dissociação entre expansão agrícola e desmatamento – o que resultou em queda nas emissões totais de gases de efeito estufa. O fenômeno, segundo os autores, pode ser atribuído tanto a políticas públicas dedicadas à conservação da mata como à “profissionalização” do setor agropecuário, cada vez mais voltado ao mercado externo.

Mas essa “comoditização” da produção rural brasileira trouxe também impactos negativos, entre os quais se destacam o aumento da concentração de terras e o consequente êxodo rural.

“As grandes propriedades – maiores que 1 mil hectares – representam hoje apenas 1% das fazendas do país. No entanto, ocupam praticamente 50% das terras agrícolas”, ressaltou David Montenegro Lapola, professor do Departamento de Ecologia da Universidade Estadual Paulista (Unesp) em Rio Claro e autor principal do artigo.

As conclusões são baseadas na análise de mais de cem estudos publicados nos últimos 20 anos. Entre os 16 autores – todos brasileiros – estão Jean Pierre Henry Balbaud Ometto e Carlos Afonso Nobre, ambos pesquisadores do Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (Inpe) e integrantes do Programa FAPESP de Pesquisa sobre Mudanças Climáticas Globais (PRPMCG).

Também participaram Carlos Alfredo Joly (Universidade Estadual de Campinas) e Luiz Antonio Martinelli (Universidade de São Paulo), do Programa de Pesquisas em Caracterização, Conservação, Recuperação e Uso Sustentável da Biodiversidade do Estado de São Paulo (BIOTA), da FAPESP.

“Os dados mostram, em 1995, um pico de expansão na agricultura coincidindo com um pico de desmatamento na Amazônia e no Cerrado. Isso volta a ocorrer entre os anos de 2004 e 2005, quando também houve pico de crescimento do rebanho bovino do Brasil. Após esse período, porém, a expansão agropecuária se desacoplou do desmatamento, que vem caindo em todos os biomas brasileiros”, disse Lapola à Agência FAPESP.

Se na Amazônia é claro o impacto de políticas públicas voltadas à preservação da floresta – como criação de áreas protegidas, intensificação da fiscalização feita pelo Instituto Brasileiro do Meio Ambiente (Ibama) e pela Polícia Federal e corte de crédito para municípios campeões do desmate –, nos demais biomas brasileiros a queda parece ser resultante de iniciativas do próprio setor produtivo.

“As culturas que mais cresceram são as voltadas ao mercado externo, como soja, milho, cana-de-açúcar e carne. É o que chamamos no artigo de ‘comoditização’ da agropecuária brasileira. De olho no mercado estrangeiro, o setor passou a se preocupar mais com os passivos ambientais incorporados em seus produtos. O mercado europeu, principalmente, é muito exigente em relação a essas questões”, avaliou Lapola.

Também na Amazônia há exemplos de ações de conservação capitaneadas pelo setor produtivo, como é o caso da Moratória da Soja – acordo firmado em 2006, por iniciativa da Associação Brasileira das Indústrias de Óleos Vegetais (Abiove) e da Associação Brasileira dos Exportadores de Cereais (Anec), para impedir a comercialização e o financiamento de grãos produzidos em áreas desmatadas.

“Na Amazônia, a soja tem avançado sobre áreas antes usadas como pastagem. O mesmo pode ser observado no Estado de São Paulo, no caso das plantações de cana. A maior parte da expansão canavieira dos últimos anos ocorreu sobre áreas de pastagem”, afirmou Lapola.

Tal mudança no padrão de uso do solo teve um efeito positivo no clima local, apontou o estudo. Em regiões de Cerrado no norte de São Paulo, por exemplo, foi registrada uma redução na temperatura de 0,9° C.

“A maior cobertura vegetal aumenta a evapotranspiração, libera mais água para a atmosfera e acaba resfriando o clima localmente. Mas a temperatura ainda não voltou ao que era antes de ocorrer o desmatamento para dar lugar ao pasto. Nessa época, o aquecimento local foi de 1,6° C”, disse Lapola.

Êxodo rural

Dados do Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística (IBGE) confirmam que as áreas dedicadas à pecuária no Brasil estão diminuindo. No entanto, o número de cabeças de gado continua crescendo no país, o que significa um maior número de animais por hectare e maior eficiência na pecuária (o uso do solo predominante no país).

De acordo com Lapola, o mesmo pode ser observado no caso de outras culturas voltadas à alimentação, como arroz e feijão, que tiveram suas áreas de plantio reduzidas embora a produção total tenha aumentado. Graças a esse incremento na produtividade, a segurança alimentar brasileira – por enquanto – parece não ter sido afetada pela “comoditização” da agricultura.

O artigo revela, no entanto, que a concentração de terras em grandes propriedades voltadas ao cultivo de commodities intensificou a migração para as áreas urbanas. Atualmente, apenas 15% da população brasileira vive na zona rural.

Em locais onde a produção de commodities predomina, como é o caso do cinturão da cana no interior paulista, cerca de 98% da população vive em áreas urbanas. “Essa migração causou mudança desordenada de uso do solo nas cidades. O resultado foi o aumento no número de favelas e outros tipos de moradias precárias”, afirmou Lapola.

As mudanças no uso do solo afetaram também o padrão brasileiro de emissão de gases do efeito estufa. Em 2005, o desmatamento representava cerca de 57% das emissões totais do país e, em 2010, esse número já havia caído para 22%. Hoje, o setor agropecuário assumiu a liderança, contabilizando 37% das emissões nacionais em 2010, advindas principalmente da digestão de ruminantes, da decomposição de dejetos animais e da aplicação de fertilizantes.

Novo paradigma

No artigo, os autores defendem o estabelecimento no Brasil de um sistema inovador de uso do solo apropriado para regiões tropicais. “O país pode se tornar a maior extensão de florestas protegidas e, ao mesmo tempo, ser uma peça-chave na produção agrícola mundial”, defendeu Lapola.

Entre as recomendações para que esse ideal seja alcançado os pesquisadores destacam a adoção de práticas de manejo já há muito tempo recomendadas pela Empresa Brasileira de Pesquisa Agropecuária (Embrapa), como o plantio na palha, além do fortalecimento do Código Florestal (que estabelece limites de uso da propriedade) e a adoção de medidas complementares para assegurar que a legislação ambiental seja cumprida.

“Defendemos mecanismos de pagamento por serviços ambientais, nos moldes do programa de Redução de Emissões por Desmatamento e Degradação Florestal (REDD), por meio do qual proprietários rurais recebem incentivos financeiros pela conservação da biodiversidade e outros recursos naturais”, explicou Lapola.

Os autores também apontam a necessidade de políticas públicas – entre elas a reforma agrária – que favoreçam um modelo de agricultura mais eficiente e sustentável. “Até mesmo alguns grandes proprietários não têm, atualmente, segurança sobre a posse da terra. Por esse motivo, muitas vezes, colocam meia dúzia de cabeças de gado no terreno apenas para mostrar que está ocupado. Mas, se pretendemos de fato fechar as fronteiras do desmatamento, precisamos aumentar a produtividade nas áreas já disponíveis para a agropecuária”, concluiu Lapola.

O artigo Pervasive transition of the Brazilian land-use system (doi:10.1038/nclimate2056), de David Lapola e outros, pode ser lido por assinantes da Nature Climate Changeem www.nature.com/nclimate/journal/v4/n1/full/nclimate2056.html

Unease among Brazil’s farmers as Congress votes on GM terminator seeds (The Guardian)

Environmentalists warn approval could shatter global agreement not to use technology, with devastating repercussions

 in Rio de Janeiro and 
theguardian.com, Thursday 12 December 2013 16.34 GMT

Brazil national congress

Brazil’s national Congress is under pressure from landowning groups to green light GM ‘terminator’ seeds. Photograph: Ruy Barbosa Pinto/Getty Images/Flickr RF

Brazil is set to break a global moratorium on genetically-modified “terminator” seeds, which are said to threaten the livelihoods of millions of small farmers around the world.

The sterile or “suicide” seeds are produced by means of genetic use restriction technology, which makes crops die off after one harvest without producing offspring. As a result, farmers have to buy new seeds for each planting, which reduces their self-sufficiency and makes them dependent on major seed and chemical companies.

Environmentalists fear that any such move by Brazil – one of the biggest agricultural producers on the planet – could produce a domino effect that would result in the worldwide adoption of the controversial technology.

Major seed and chemical companies, which together own more than 60% of the global seed market, all have patents on terminator seed technologies. However, in the 1990s they agreed not to employ the technique after a global outcry by small farmers, indigenous groups and civil society groups.

In 2000, 193 countries signed up to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, which recommended a de facto moratorium on this technology.

The moratorium is under growing pressure in Brazil, where powerful landowning groups have been pushing Congress to allow the technology to be used for the controlled propogation of certain plants used for medicines and eucalyptus trees, which provide pulp for paper mills.

The landowning groups want to plant large areas with fast growing GMtrees and other non-food GM crops that could theoretically spread seeds over wide areas. The technology, they argue, would be a safeguard, ensuring that no second generation pollution of GM traits takes place. They insist that terminator seeds would only be used for non-food crops.

Their efforts to force a bill to this effect through Congress, ongoing since 2007, have been slowed due to resistance from environmentalists.

The proposed measure has been approved by the legislature’s agricultural commission, rejected by the environmental commission, and now sits in the justice and citizenship commission. It is likely to go to a full Congressional vote, where it could be passed as early as next Tuesday, or soon after the Christmas recess.

Environment groups say there would be global consequences. “Brazil is the frontline. If the agro-industry breaks the moratorium here, they’ll break it everywhere,” said Maria José Guazzelli, of Centro Ecológico, which represents a coalition of Brazilian NGOs.

This week they presented a protest letter signed by 34,000 people to thwart the latest effort to move the proposed legislation forward. “If this bill goes through, it would be a disaster. Farmers would no longer be able to produce their own seeds. That’s the ultimate aim of the agro-industry,” she said.

The international technology watchdog ETC, which was among the earliest proponents of a ban on terminator technology in the 1990s, fears this is part of a strategy to crack the international consensus.

“If the bill is passed, [we expect] the Brazilian government to take a series of steps that will orchestrate the collapse of the 193-country consensus moratorium when the UN Convention on Biological Diversity meets for its biennial conference in Korea in October 2014,” said executive director Pat Mooney.

But Eduardo Sciarra, Social Democratic party leader in the Brazilian Congress, said the proposed measure did not threaten farmers because it was intended only to set controlled guidelines for the research and development of “bioreactor” plants for medicine.

“Gene use restriction technology has its benefits. This bill allows the use of this technology only where it is good for humanity,” he said.

The technology was developed by the US Department of Agriculture and the world’s largest seed and agrochemical firms. Syngenta, Bayer, BASF, Dow, Monsanto and DuPont together control more than 60% of the global commercial seed market and 76% of the agrochemical market. All are believed to hold patents on the technology, but none are thought to have developed the seeds for commercial use.

Massive protests in the 1990s by Indian, Latin American and south-east Asian peasant farmers, indigenous groups and their supporters put the companies on the back foot, and they were reluctantly forced to shelve the technology after the UN called for a de-facto moratorium in 2000.

Now, while denying that they intend to use terminator seeds, the companies argue that the urgent need to combat climate change makes it imperative to use the technology. In addition, they say that the technology could protect conventional and organic farmers by stopping GM plants spreading their genes to wild relatives – an increasing problem in the US, Argentina and other countries where GM crops are grown on a large scale.

A Monsanto spokesman in Brazil said the company was unaware of the developments and stood by a commitment made in 1999 not to pursue terminator technology. “I’m not aware of so-called terminator seeds having been developed by any organisation, and Monsanto stands firmly by our commitment and has no plans or research relating to this,” said Tom Helscher.

On its website, however, the company’s commitment only appears to relate to “food crops”, which does not encompass the tree and medicinal products under consideration in Brazil.

• Additional research by Anna Kaiser

Background to a controversy

Ever since GM companies were found to be patenting “gene-use restriction” or “terminator” technologies in the 1990s, they have been accused of threatening biodiversity and seeking to make farmers dependent on big industry for their livelihoods.

In many developing countries, where up to 80% of farmers each year choose their best plants and save their own seed, terminator technology is a byword for all genetic modification, raising fears that sterile GM strains could contaminate wild plants and regular crops – with devastating consequences.

The GM companies, which claimed in the 1990s that they wanted to introduce the seeds only to stop farmers stealing their products, were forced to shelve the technology in the face of massive protests in India, Latin Amercia and south-east Asia.

In the face of growing international alarm, the 193 countries signed up to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity unanimously agreed in 2000 that there should be a de facto international moratorium. This was strengthened at the Conference of the Parties in 2006, under the presidency of Brazil.

Since then, the moratorium has held firm. But the GM companies have shifted their arguments, saying that gene-use restriction technologies now allow seeds to reproduce, but could “switch off” the GM traits. This, they argue, would reduce the possibility of the seeds spreading sterility. In addition, they say the technology could protect organic and conventional farmers from the spread of transgenes to wild relatives and weeds, which plagues GM farmers in the US and elsewhere.

The fear now is that the global moratorium could quickly unravel if Brazil, one of the most important agricultural countries in the world, overturns its national law to ban terminator technology. Other countries, pressed strongly by the powerful GM lobby, would probably follow, leading inevitably to more protests.

Ruralistas saem pela “Porta dos Fundos” (Greenpeace)

16/12/2013 – 12h05

por Nathália Clark, do Greenpeace

Os parlamentares da bancada ruralista sempre fazem tudo às avessas ou na calada da noite. Por esse motivo, suas artimanhas foram expostas na última quinta-feira (12) como eles merecem: pela porta dos fundos. O Porta dos Fundos, canal alternativo que tem feito grande sucesso na internet com vídeos humorísticos, produziu uma “homenagem” à bancada ruralista. O vídeo “Xingó Kayapu”, lançado na semana anterior, traz uma sátira às dezenas de propostas legislativas que tramitam no Congresso Nacional, incluindo a PEC 215, e à tentativa da parcela mais atrasada do agronegócio brasileiro de limar os direitos dos povos tradicionais a suas terras.

Veja abaixo o vídeo original do Porta dos Fundos:

 

No Congresso, comissão da PEC anti-indígena é instalada

Em “comemoração” ao Dia Internacional de Direitos Humanos, 10 de dezembro, o presidente da Câmara dos Deputados, Henrique Eduardo Alves (PMDB-RN), instalou a tão falada comissão especial para discutir a PEC 215. Num plenário lotado de representantes indígenas, os parlamentares ruralistas não se intimidaram com os gritos de “assassinos” enquanto discutiam os nomes para o grupo que debaterá a Proposta de Emenda à Constituição. O projeto visa transferir do Executivo para o Legislativo a competência pela demarcação de Terras Indígenas e áreas quilombolas.

Na última quarta-feira (11), dia seguinte à instalação da comissão, os parlamentares se reuniram novamente para definir a mesa diretora. Foram eleitos como presidente e relator, respectivamente, os deputados Afonso Florence (PT-BA) e Osmar Serraglio (PMDB-PR). Luis Carlos Heinze (PP-RS), outro expoente da bancada ruralista, ficou como segundo vice-presidente.

“A PEC 215, proposta pelos ruralistas, pode agravar ainda mais casos de violência contra indígenas no campo, como aconteceu recentemente no caso da TI Alto Turiaçu. A proposta enfraquece direitos conquistados pelos povos indígenas e acirra a disputa por terra. É uma triste ironia que uma decisão como essa de instalar a PEC tenha sido tomada justamente no dia em que se comemoram os direitos humanos”, afirma Romulo Batista, da Campanha Amazônia do Greenpeace.

Mesmo depois de o ministro da Justiça, José Eduardo Cardozo, afirmar que a PEC é inconstitucional, o Planalto não acionou sua base parlamentar para barrar a ação do presidente da Câmara e dos ruralistas. Durante a Mobilização Nacional Indígena, que ocorreu na primeira semana de outubro, a presidenta Dilma Rousseff chegou a divulgar que orientaria sua base parlamentar a votar contra a PEC 215.

Protesto Munduruku

Também no Dia Internacional dos Direitos Humanos cerca de 50 índios Munduruku ocuparam a sede da Advocacia-Geral da União (AGU) para pedir uma série de demandas como a revogação da Portaria 303, que prevê intervenções militares e empreendimentos hidrelétricos, minerais e viários em terras indígenas sem consulta prévia aos povos, a demarcação da Terra Indígena Munduruku no Médio Tapajós e que se mantenha a decisão da 1ª Vara da Justiça Federal de Mato Grosso, que suspendeu o leilão para a Usina Hidrelétrica de São Manoel, no Rio Teles Pires.

* Publicado originalmente no site Greenpeace.

As causas da grande mobilização indígena (Outras Palavras)

Ambiente

07/10/2013 – 11h49

por Marcelo Degrazia*

 As causas da grande mobilização indígena

Quais os projetos de mineradoras, madeireiras e ruralistas para avançar sobre territórios e direitos dos índios. Como tramitam, em silêncio, no Congresso Nacional

A Mobilização Nacional Indígena, deflagrada ao longo desta semana, é uma luta pela defesa dos direitos indígenas adquiridos e para barrar uma avalanche devastadora, liderada pela Frente Parlamentar do Agronegócio. A luta é pela terra, sua posse e uso. A convocação foi da Articulação dos Povos Indígenas do Brasil (Apib) e envolve organizações indígenas e indigenistas de diversas partes do país, agora articuladas e em luta.

A linha do tempo vai até as caravelas de Cabral, mas vamos tomá-la a partir deste ano, para compreender melhor o contexto atual. Em 16 de abril, cerca de 300 índios ocuparam o plenário da Câmara, em protesto contra a instalação de Comissão Especial para analisar a Proposta de Emenda Constitucional (PEC) 215, que torna praticamente impossível a demarcação das terras indígenas, ao tirar esta prerrogativa da Fundação Nacional do Índio (Funai) e transferi-la ao Congresso Nacional.

Na ocasião o presidente da Câmara, Henrique Eduardo Alves (PMDB-RN), prometeu não instalar a comissão antes do final de agosto. A Casa criou então um grupo de trabalho para discutir a condição dos índios no Brasil, cujo relatório seria um subsídio importante para a decisão de constituir ou não a comissão. Integraram o grupo lideranças indígenas, deputados ruralistas e parlamentares que defendem os direitos dos índios. Segundo Lincoln Portela (PR-MG), mediador do grupo, “basicamente aprovamos a rejeição da PEC 215.” A rejeição, concluindo pela inconstitucionalidade do projeto, foi por unanimidade dos presentes, já que nenhum parlamentar da frente do agronegócio compareceu às reuniões.

Na noite de 10 de setembro, contrariando o parecer do grupo de trabalho criado por ele mesmo, Henrique Eduardo Alves instituiu a Comissão Especial para analisar a PEC 215. Alves estaria atendendo compromisso assumido com a bancada ruralista durante sua campanha para a presidência da Câmara. Muitos dos 27 deputados indicados então para a Comissão Especial integram a frente do agronegócio e são autores de projetos que suprimem direitos dos índios, como veremos.

Nessa semana da Mobilização, Alves pretendia instalar a Comissão Especial, com a indicação do relator e do presidente – mas teve de recuar diante das manifestações.

A PEC 215, de 2000, é de autoria do ex-deputado Almir Sá (PRB-RR), atualmente presidente da Federação da Agricultura e Pecuária de Roraima. Ela estabelece a competência exclusiva do Congresso Nacional para aprovar a demarcação das terras tradicionalmente ocupadas pelos indígenas e ratificar as demarcações já homologadas – hoje atribuições exclusivas do Executivo, que as executa por meio da Fundação Nacional do Índio (Funai). Na avaliação de organizações indígenas e indigenistas, na prática significará o fim de novas demarcações. O risco não seria apenas para o futuro, mas também para hoje, pois das 1.046 terras já demarcadas apenas 363 estão regularizadas. As demais, ainda em processo por vários fatores, ficariam com sua homologação na dependência do Congresso. “Como contamos nos dedos quantos congressistas defendem a causa indígena, com certeza nenhuma terra será demarcada”, considera Ceiça Pitaguary, líder do movimento indígena do Ceará.

“A PEC é flagrantemente inconstitucional”, afirmou Dalmo Dallari, professor de direito da Universidade de São Paulo, ao Instituto Socioambiental (ISA): ela não respeita a separação dos poderes. As demarcações e homologações são atribuições do Executivo, procedimentos de natureza administrativa; ao Legislativo compete legislar e fiscalizar. Para alguns antropólogos, o direito à ocupação dessas terras é originário, e está assegurado na Constituição – as demarcações são apenas reconhecimento desse direito pré-existente.

A opinião de Carlos Frederico Maré, professor da Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Paraná vai na mesma direção. Ex-presidente da Funai, ele sustenta que a demarcação é um procedimento eminentemente técnico. Em entrevista ao ISA, disse que “a Constituição não deu direito à demarcação. Deu direito à terra. A demarcação é só o jeito de dizer qual é a terra. Quando se coloca todo o direito sobre a demarcação retira-se o direito à terra, porque então ele só existirá se houver demarcação. É isso que está escrito na PEC: que não há mais direitos originários sobre a terra. Muda-se a Constituição, eliminando-se um direito nela inscrito.”

O Projeto de Lei (PL) 1.610, de 1996, de autoria do senador Romero Jucá (PMDB-RR), dispõe sobre a exploração e o aproveitamento de recursos minerais em terras indígenas. Foi apresentado a pretexto de defender o “interesse nacional” (a ser explorado pela iniciativa privada, conforme o Código de Mineração). Se aprovado, irá se converter em lei complementar ao artigo 231 (Capítulo VIII) da Constituição. O senador pediu regime de urgência. Quer votar, portanto, sem muita discussão, e a matéria só não foi submetida à apreciação da Casa devido à mobilização em torno do tema. Na prática, talvez seja tão ou ainda mais danosa que a PEC 215. E não seria de duvidar que esta estaria sendo o boi de piranha, já que o governo mostrou-se receptivo ao PL 1.610.

Já o PL 227, de 2012, retrata cruamente um dos aspectos centrais do chamado “sequestro da democracia” pelas instituições que deveriam expressá-la. Foi proposto pelo deputado Homero Pereira (PSD-MT), ex-presidente da Frente Parlamentar do Agronegócio, a princípio com redação que visava dificultar as futuras demarcações de terras indígenas. Fazia-o diluindo atribuições da Funai e incluindo, entre as comissões encarregadas de definir novos territórios, os proprietários de terra. Já em sua origem era, portanto, anti-indígena.

Mas tornou-se muito pior, ao tramitar pela comissão de Agricultura, Pecuária e Desenvolvimento Rural da Câmara. Sem que tenha havido debate algum com a sociedade, os deputados que integram a comissão transformaram inteiramente sua redação. Converteram-no num projeto de lei que, se aprovado, revogará na prática, pela porta dos fundos, o Artigo 231 da Constituição.

Tal dispositivo trata dos direitos indígenas. Reconhece “sua organização social, costumes, línguas, crenças e tradições e os direitos originários sobre as terras que tradicionalmente ocupam”. Estabelece uma única exceção: em situações extremas, em que houvesse “relevante interesse público da União”a exclusividade dos indígenas seria flexibilizada e seus territórios poderiam conviver com outros tipos de uso. Esta possibilidade, rara, precisaria ser definida em lei complementar.

Na redação inteiramente nova que assumiu, o PL 227/2012 é transformado nesta lei complementar. E estabelece, já em seu artigo 1º, um vastíssimo leque de atividades que poderão ser praticadas nas terras indígenas. Estão incluídas mineração, construção de hidrelétricas, rodovias, ferrovias, portos, aeroportos, oleodutos, gasodutos, campos de treinamento militar e muitos outros.

Um inciso (o VIII), de redação obscura, procura ampliar ainda mais as possibilidades de violação dos territórios índios. Estabelece que é também “de relevante interesse público da União” a “legítima ocupação, domínio e posse de terras privadas em 5 de outubro de 1988”. Embora pouco claro, o texto dá margem a uma interpretação radical. A data mencionada é a da entrada em vigor da Constituição – quando foram reconhecidos os atuais direitos indígenas. Estariam legitimados, portanto, os “domínios e posses de terras privadas” existentes antes da Carta atual. Em outras palavras, a legislação recuaria no tempo, para anular na prática as demarcações que reconheceram território indígena e afastaram deles os ocupantes ilegítimos.

A PEC 237, de 2013, é de iniciativa do deputado Nelson Padovani (PSC-PR), titular do PSC na Comissão Especial da PEC 215, integrante da comissão do PL 1.610 e um dos signatários do pedido de criação da CPI da Funai, uma das estratégias da Frente para enfraquecer o órgão federal, já penalizado por redução de verbas. Essa PEC, se aprovada, tornará possível a posse indireta de terras indígenas a produtores rurais na forma de concessão. Será a porta de entrada do agronegócio aos territórios demarcados, e essa possibilidade tem tirado o sono de indígenas e indigenistas.

portaria 303, de iniciativa da Advocacia Geral da União (AGU) em 16/07/2012, é outro dispositivo que tolhe direitos indígenas, com tom autoritário, em especial no inciso V do art. 1º, em que o usufruto dos índios não se sobrepõe ao interesse da política de defesa nacional (!), à instalação de bases, unidades e postos militares e demais intervenções militares, à expansão estratégica da malha viária, à exploração de alternativas energéticas de cunho estratégico e ao resguardo das riquezas de cunho estratégico, a critério dos órgãos competentes (Ministério da Defesa e Conselho de Defesa Nacional), projetos esses que serão implementados independentemente de consulta às comunidades indígenas envolvidas ou à Funai (grifo nosso).

É a pavimentação para o avanço econômico do capitalismo sem fronteiras, além de contrariar a Convenção 169 da OIT (Organização Internacional do Trabalho), de 1989, assinada pelo Brasil, a qual assegura o direito de os povos indígenas serem consultados, de forma livre e informada, antes de serem tomadas decisões que possam afetar seus bens ou direitos.

Todas essas iniciativas legais têm por objetivo possibilitar o avanço do agronegócio e da exploração de lavras minerais sobre as terras indígenas. Assim se permitiria inclusive a intrusão em territórios de nações não contatadas. Basta um simples olhar na autoria dos projetos, na trajetória negocial de seus autores e apoiadores, em suas relações comerciais com o agronegócio nacional e estrangeiro e na sua atuação articulada através de uma Frente Parlamentar para se ter certeza de que o interesse econômico é privado, setorista e excludente, em nada aparentado ao interesse nacional, do bem comum ou da União. Se há diversificação de interesses nos projetos, é na razão direta da fome, mas de lucros, do agronegócio, da bancada ruralista, das mineradoras, das madeireiras e empreiteiras.

Marcelo Degrazia é escritor. Autor de A Noite dos Jaquetas-Pretas e do blog Concerto de Letras.

** Publicado originalmente no site Outras Palavras.

Contra o mugido das vacas, por José Ribamar Bessa Freire (Racismo Ambiental)

Por , 06/10/2013 06:26

Guarani no monumento SP

Em Taqui Pra Ti

No momento em que a Constituição Federal comemora 25 anos de existência, se ouve o mugido das vacas, o relincho dos cavalos e o trote das mulas que invadem o plenário do Congresso Nacional e se misturam ao zumbido estridente da moto serra. É possível sentir o bufo agressivo que sai em jatos de ar pelas narinas de parlamentares. Essa é a voz da bancada ruralista formada por 214 deputados e 14 senadores, que querem anular os direitos constitucionais dos índios. Seus “argumentos” são relinchos, bater de cascos, coices no ar e, por isso, não conseguem convencer os brasileiros.

Nas principais cidades do país ocorreram manifestações contra esta ofensiva do agronegócio. Nesta semana, a Articulação dos Povos Indígenas do Brasil (APIB) organizou Mobilização Nacional em defesa dos direitos indígenas. A parte sadia do país disse um rotundo “não” ao pacote de dezenas de Projetos de Emenda Constitucional (PEC) ou Projetos de Lei Complementar (PLP) que tramitam no Congresso apresentados pela bancada ruralista e pela bancada da mineração.

Esses parlamentares querem exterminar as culturas indígenas não por serem gratuitamente malvados, perversos e cruéis, mas porque pretendem abocanhar as terras tradicionalmente ocupadas pelos índios. Para ampliar a oferta de terras ao agronegócio, lançam ofensiva destinada a mudar até cláusulas pétreas da Constituição. Exibem despudoradamente seus planos em discursos e através da mídia como os artigos na Folha de São Paulo da senadora Kátia Abreu (PSD-TO vixe, vixe), a muuuusa da bancada ruralista e do deputado Luis Carlos Heinze (PP-RS vixe vixe).

Causa inconfessável

Quase todos os parlamentares da bancada ruralista tiveram suas campanhas financiadas por empresas de capital estrangeiro como Monsanto, Cargill e Syngente, além da indústria de armas e frigorífico, conforme dados da Transparência Brasil. Afinal, é disso que eles vivem, dessa promiscuidade com o capital estrangeiro, sem o qual não poderiam exportar e comprar produtos. Querem agora liberar as terras indígenas para grandes empresas brasileiras e estrangeiras plantarem monoculturas com agrotóxicos, construir barragens no rios e extrair minérios para a exportação.

No entanto, os ruralistas não podem confessar aos eleitores que seu objetivo é o lucro, apenas o lucro, nada mais que o lucro. Inventam, então, que estão defendendo “os interesses nacionais” e classificam como “anti-Brasil” os que não concordam com eles. Essa é uma velha tática, usada no século XIX, quando o agronegócio da época acusava os que defendiam a abolição dos escravos de representarem interesses estrangeiros. Trata-se de ganhar para uma causa indefensável os brasileiros crédulos que amam sua Pátria. Aí exploram o nacionalismo e apostam na desinformação.

No artigo com título sugestivo – “Causa Inconfessável” – a senadora Kátia Abreu tenta desqualificar os índios e seus aliados com uma argumentação esdrúxula. Sem citar fontes, sem dizer de onde tirou a informação, ela jura que “são mais de 100 mil ONGs, a maioria estrangeira, associadas a dois organismos ligados à Igreja Católica: o CIMI (Conselho Indigenista Missionário) e a CPT (Comissão Pastoral da Terra)”.

E por que cargas d’água milhares de ONGs estrangeiras defenderiam as terras indígenas? Na maior cara de pau, ofendendo a inteligência do leitor, a senadora Kátia Abreu, ousa dizer que elas querem destruir a agricultura brasileira. Comete um erro vergonhoso para uma parlamentar ao confundir nação com estado. Exibe sua ignorância deixando no chinelo o Tiririca:

Os financiadores são países que competem com a agricultura brasileira e que cobiçam nossas riquezas minerais e vegetais. São os mesmos que, reiteradamente, defendem que essa parte do território nacional deve ser cedida, e os brasileiros índios, transformados em nações independentes da ONU”.

Tudo nebuloso, deseducativo, desinformativo. A senadora não dá nomes nem aos bois nem às vacas, não diz quais são esses países, não diz quem quer decepar os territórios indígenas do Brasil e omite que as terras indígenas pertencem, constitucionalmente, à União e não aos índios. A “causa” dos ruralistas é, realmente, “inconfessável”: cada vez que uma medida prejudica seus lucros, dizem que “é ruim para o Brasil”, quando favorece “é bom para o Brasil”. O Brasil é a conta bancária deles. Sem confessar a origem dos recursos que financiam os ruralistas, a senadora faz dos índios um tábua de tiro ao alvo:

“É do mais alto interesse nacional – sobretudo do interesse dos próprios índios – saber quando, de onde vêm e como são gastos os millhões de dólares que sustentam a ação deletéria dessas organizações, que fazem dos índios escudos humanos de uma causa inconfessável”.

Cavaleira da desesperança

“É hora de defender o Brasil” berra o deputado Luis Carlos Heinze no título de seu artigo (3/10), que reproduz o mesmo papo furado, a mesma lenga-lenga, excluindo os índios da comunhão nacional. Ataca a FUNAI – Fundação Nacional do Índio – por identificar “pretensas terras indígenas” contra os ruralistas que ele diz serem “os legítimos detentores de terras”. E faz eternas juras de que está defendendo a pátria ameaçada por índios e por ONGs.

Nunca foi tão apropriada a conhecida frase do escritor inglês do século XVIII, Samuel Johnson, aclimatada por Millor Fernandes, no século XX, ao nosso contexto: “O patriotismo é o último refúgio dos canalhas” – escreveu Johnson. “No Brasil, é o primeiro”, acrescentou Millor.

A senadora, que se diz católica, bate na mesma tecla. Escreve que os defensores dos direitos indígenas “exercem notória militância política, de cunho ideológico, sob a inspiração da Teologia da Libertação, de fundo marxista”. Está zangada com a Igreja, que ela quer defendendo os interesses dos ruralistas e não dos despossuídos, dos injustiçados, dos espoliados. Esculhamba ainda com a FUNAI “aparelhada por antropólogos que compartilham a mesma ideologia“.

Mas não se limita aí a cavaleira da desesperança. De arma em riste, ataca outros “inimigos”. Ela está convencida de que “além das ONGs e das instituições como o CIMI e a CPT, há dois órgãos voltados para a defesa dos índios: a já citada Funai e a FUNASA, incumbida da saúde e da ação sanitária nas tribos”. Kátia é do tempo em que ainda se dizia que índios vivem em tribos.

“Seriam as terras destinadas à agricultura a causa do sofrimento dos índios?” – pergunta em seu artigo. E ela mesma responde: “Quem quiser que tire suas conclusões: os índios brasileiros dispõem de extensão de terra de dar inveja a muitos países”. Se um país que é um país sente inveja, imaginem os ruralistas. Por isso, a voz dela, que é a mais estridente  no Senado clama:

– Os índios não precisam de terra e sim de assistência social.

Ela chama de “invasão” a resistência dos índios em não permitir que seus territórios sejam apropriados pelo agronegócio e anuncia:

“Para reagir ao avanço dessas invasões, apresentei ao Senado projeto de lei que suspende processos demarcatórios de terras indígenas sobre propriedades invadidas pelos dois anos seguintes à sua desocupação”.

Guarani na paulista

Foi contra essas medidas do agronegócio e contra esses argumentos preconceituosos e retrógrados que manifestantes se insurgiram em manifestações pacíficas realizadas em Brasília, no Rio, em Belo Horizonte e nas principais cidades brasileiras.  Em São Paulo, a manifestação foi aberta pelos txondaro guarani e contou com a adesão de muitos antropólogos, estudantes, professores.

As imagens da manifestação em São Paulo foram registradas e editadas por Marcos Wesley de Oliveira para o Instituto Socioambiental. Em plena Avenida Paulista, ele entrevistou lideranças indígenas – Megaron Txucarramãe (kayapó), Renato Silva (guarani), Natan Gacán (xokleng), antropólogos – Manuela Carneiro da Cunha e Márcio Silva (USP), Maria Elisa Ladeira (CTI), Lúcia Helena Rangel (PUC/SP), Beto Ricardo (ISA) e os líderes quilombolas do Vale da Ribeira – Nilce Pereira e Ditão.

– Vocês não estão sozinhos – disse a mestranda em Antropologia, Ana Maria Antunes Machado, se dirigindo aos Yanomami, enquanto apontava os manifestantes da Avenida Paulista. Ela falou com bastante fluência em língua Yanomami, pois viveu com eles, com quem trabalhou mais de cinco anos como assessora pedagógica, antes de atuar no Observatório de Educação Indígena coordenado pela pesquisadora Ana Gomes (UFMG). O fato tem forte carga simbólica, por se tratar de alguém tão brasileira quanto a Katia Abreu, mas que, para ouvir os índios e com eles dialogar, aprendeu a língua Yanomami e foi capaz de reverenciá-los.