December 10, 2007 / 3:48 PM / 11 years ago

Brazil's landless peasants occupy Syngenta plants

BRASILIA, Dec 10 (Reuters) - Brazilian landless peasants occupied two production facilities of agrochemical producer Syngenta on Monday, demanding the Swiss company leave the South American farm export giant.

Hundreds of activists broke into a Swiss-owned Syngenta SYNN.VX agrochemical plant in the state of Sao Paulo, expelling 50 employees and shutting down production, a company spokeswoman told Reuters.

Members of the Landless Rural Workers’ Movement, or MST, and the allied group Via Campesina also destroyed genetically-modified corn and soy seedlings at a Syngenta farm in the northeastern state of Ceara, the groups said.

The groups demand Syngenta leave Brazil, accusing the company of attacking landless workers and violating environmental laws.

One landless activist was shot dead in October during protests at a Syngenta farm in the southern Parana state. The MST said the farm illegally produced genetically modified crops within an environmental protection zone around the internationally-acclaimed Iguacu water falls.

Syngenta, the world’s largest agrochemical company, said in a statement that it was dismayed by the occupations and that it had no participation in the October death.

The company said it was awaiting a decision from public prosecutors based on police investigations into the shooting of Valmir Mota de Oliveira. Activists accused private security guards at the farm for shooting Oliveira.

The MST and similar groups frequently occupy farms, block highways, torch crops and stage rallies to pressure the government to give more land to the poor. Landowners often hire armed guards and hit squads to repel invasions.

Landless militants have twice blocked a railroad operated by Brazilian mining giant Vale VALE5.SA(RIO.N) since October and interrupted the flow of iron ore to foreign markets.

Industry and farm lobbies have urged the government to get tougher on the landless movements, saying they undermine investment conditions in Brazil.

(Reporting by Raymond Colitt, editing by Vicki Allen)




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