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Struggle for Survival in Brazil

Strong unity exists between land rights defenders in the promotion access to land, food and water. © 2008 Carlos Latuff

The Twin Threat of Seed Companies and the Security Firms They Employ

“Bullets can kill a body but they can’t kill the fight for agrarian reform.”
- Anonymous Speaker, “Brazil: Hired Guns,” PBS

Rural workers and small-scale farmers in Brazil already struggling to provide their families with basic necessities now face new twin threats: agribusinesses and the security firms they employ. By testing genetically modified crops and using hazardous chemical pesticides, these companies may jeopardize local rights to land, water, and food. Land activists who initiate occupations to spur land reform and protest the companies’ activities risk threats, intimidation, and violence. In the face of these abuses, organizations such as the Landless Workers’ Movement (MST), Terra de Direitos, and La Via Campesina work to demand respect for human rights in Brazil.


Agribusinesses employ genetically modified, monoculture agricultural practices that may threaten the survival of rural communities and jeopardize local, sustainable ways of life. Private security firms hired by local landowners and by agribusinesses have injured, intimidated, and in at least one case, reportedly killed individuals who seek access to land in order to produce food and obtain safe drinking water.

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A young girl holding an organic vegetable grown on an MST settlement. © 2008 Terra de Direitos


The Landless Workers Movement (MST) and other land rights organizations in Brazil have successfully defended their rights through judicial, legal, and political action. Find resources to help you demand justice and stand in solidarity with these groups.

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Meet the human rights defenders fighting for the survival of landless workers in Brazil. Learn how workers’ movements have defended their land and the local environment against harmful business activities.

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