Mexico says no to Monsanto

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Mexico says no to Monsanto corn

By Jen Wilton and Liam Barrington-Bush


More people are thinking about looking after Mexico’s corn crops

On Saturday 25 May 2013 there was a chance to say ‘no’ to genetically modified foods, with action all over the world against Monsanto, the big genetically modified foods company. In Mexico local people are saying no to the introduction of Monsanto corn. They are worried about traditional cultures, local diets, and variety of crops in the environment.

In late April 2013, world famous Indian ‘seed activist’ Vandana Shiva, travelled to the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca to join a meeting of Mexican farmers, leaders and environmentalists. They are fighting to protect Mexico’s native corn crops against the use of genetically modified foods (GM).

The group met for the ‘Pre-audiencia Nacional: Contaminación Transgénica del Maíz Nativo’ near the Sierra Juárez mountains. They were protesting against the Mexican government’s plan to allow the planting of twelve million hectares of GM corn. The plan came after a project in which Monsanto was allowed to plant GM corn in 2009. Many local groups were strongly against the plan but Monsanto tried to influence the authorities. And Monsanto were helped by the world’s richest man, Mexican Carlos Slim, and the Bill Gates Foundation. People worry now that no one will listen to the local groups.

Carlos Slim, the Gates Foundation and Monsanto say that GM technology will feed the world’s poor people. But many local people think the use of GM crops is bad for the native varieties of corn. The native varieties of corn have been at the centre of Mexican culture for thousands of years. GM crops “are wrong” in every way, Vandana Shiva told the big Oaxaca audience. She added that they are very wrong in the centre of many varieties of maize in Mexico.

Mexico is the birthplace of corn and a home to thousands of varieties of the crop. Corn is more than just an important part of the Mexican diet. Corn is very important in local cooking, and it is at the heart of local traditions. It also has great spiritual importance. A native Mexican from the state of Hidalgo explained that his community has a festival to celebrate corn every year. “We dance with the corn and we celebrate the Earth Mother.”


Vandana Shiva spoke at a meeting in Oaxaca, Mexico Jen Wilton and Liam Barrington-Bush

A woman from the south-east of Mexico said, When we look after our cornfields, God is with us. He gives us the food that we need. He works with us and He rests with us… The corn that God gives us, lives with us, sings and dances with us, and in certain moments it also cries with us.” National action started in Mexico in 2007. It is called in Spanish: “Sin Maíz, no hay país” (Without corn, there is no country). ‘Corn is the life of the towns,’ said the organizer Neftalí Reyes Mendez, of the Oaxacan Collective in Defence of Territories in an interview after the start of the campaign. ‘Corn is the base of life, the base of resistance for the peoples of Oaxaca.’

Vandana Shiva knew how important the crop is for Mexico and travelled more than 30 hours to talk about her experiences of fighting the big Monsanto company in India. “We started the seed saving action in India,” she explained. We decided not to follow laws that make it illegal for us to have our own seeds. Because it is our duty to save seeds for biodiversity, to continue our traditions, to receive what we have received from nature and our ancestors, to look after it with love and care and to pass it on to future generations. It is our sacred duty.

Vandana Shiva explained the very terrible effects of planting BT cotton in India. She said that after just one season the cotton farmers could only buy Monsanto seed. Then there were crop failures and debts after seed prices went up 8000 fold. All this has destroyed community life. Vandana Shiva told the crowd, that 150,000 people have been killed in the criminal violence of organized crime in Mexico. In India, 270,000 Indian farm workers have committed suicide because of the criminal violence of the organized crime of Monsanto. … She said, ”Don’t allow Monsanto to make Mexico a suicide economy.”

A law has been passed recently in the US, which people call ‘The Monsanto Protection Act’. Some Mexicans are afraid Peña Nieto’s government will follow the US and allow the commercial planting of GM corn and make seed sharing illegal. This will make it harder for farmers to have varieties of corn which are not affected by GM. Dr Alejandro Espinosa Calderón, a nationally recognized expert on GM corn in Mexico, agreed and said very clearly, “The Mexican government does not defend Mexicans, they defend Monsanto.”

GM supporters say that scientific tests show no harmful health or environmental results. But Vandana Shiva has heard these arguments before. All the tests they do for safety are not tests, because they don’t work with the real proteins. They don’t work with the protein produced by GM plants, Shiva explained. A 2006 report by Friends of the Earth UK agrees with what Vanda Shiva says. A 2009 report from the Indian Academy of Sciences says the same thing.

Vandana Shiva explains that Monsanto says it is natural, but when they talk about owning the seed, they say, “We are the creators. We made it, we are the inventers. We own it, we have the patent.” They say it is theirs. How can it be natural and belong to Monsanto? Vandana Shiva said there is a connection between Indian and Mexican seed activists – ‘We are doing what you are doing and we are part of one movement that is planetary..l. We have started a global citizen’s movement for seed freedom.” We say no to GM, no to patents, no to Monsanto’s empire to destroy the planet, and our lives and our food systems.

Find out more at the March Against Monsanto website:

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