GRAIN — Hands off our maize! Resistance to GMOs in Mexico
In a previous report (“Red alert! GMO avalanche in Mexico”),1 we recounted the circumstances leading up to the imminent threat of the introduction of genetically engineered (GE) organisms (also known as GMOs, genetically modified organisms, or transgenics) into Mexico and several other Latin American countries. The whole continent is seeing a wave of measures, such as seed and intellectual property laws, designed to facilitate multinational control over agriculture. Unfortunately, these efforts are finding an echo in international organizations like the FAO and CIMMYT and in “development” foundations like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
With or without the granting of commercial planting permits, the threat of Mexico’s largest cities being inundated with transgenic maize still looms. We are seeing the proliferation of authoritarian crop intensification systems whose ultimate result is to contaminate native maize varieties in the very centre of origin of this crop – one of the four most important crops in the history of humanity.
The approval of permits for the commercial planting of GE maize in the states of Sinaloa and Tamaulipas had seemed imminent, but thankfully this did not come to pass during President Felipe Calderón's final months in office. Yet the threat remains under the new administration of Enrique Peña Nieto. He may try to use his “National Crusade Against Hunger” as a pretext to distribute GE maize, claiming that it is needed to fight hunger.2 He might also invoke the Crusade in support of land grabbing, monoculture, and industrial agriculture with its typical package of agrotoxins, intellectual property rights, and criminalization of native seeds.3
Approval was not granted, the dates for a ruling expired, and the planting season for irrigated maize for northern Mexico, where the permits were requested, is over for the time being.
This success is a significant achievement on the part of Mexican and international organizations. Months of effort, initiative, and coordinated mobilization have gone into this. Information has been disseminated through the newspapers, social networks, meetings, assemblies, workshops, international petition campaigns, strikes, sit-in and fasts, public debates, and radio spots by well-known activists, intellectuals, and artists. Countless opinion pieces, news stories, billboards, and Web video and radio interviews have appeared. The national and international political cost in terms of public opinion continues to rise. On another level, the legal and administrative tangle through which various government bodies are attempting to navigate has made it very difficult for them to act in a coordinated fashion.
But it would be a mistake to assume the threat no longer exists. When planting time (irrigated or seasonal) rolls around again in northern Mexico, we will find out whether the corporations think they have their winning conditions in place. Applications for new permits have already been filed, covering as much as 36 million hectares.4
Humanists for Social Justice and Environmental Action supports Human Rights, Social and Economic Justice, Environmental Activism and Planetary Ethics in North America & Globally, with particular reference to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other Human Rights UN treaties and conventions listed above.