Source: The New Internationalist
Saturday May 25 is a chance to say ‘no’ to genetically modified foods, with actions taking place all over the world against GM giant, Monsanto. The movement in Mexico is growing considerably, as local people are challenging the introduction of Monsanto corn in the crop’s historic birthplace, out of concern for what it could mean for traditional cultures, local diets and the biodiversity of the broader environment.
In late April, world renowned Indian ‘seed activist’ Vandana Shiva travelled to the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca to join a gathering of Mexican farmers, indigenous leaders and environmentalists, fighting to protect Mexico’s native corn crops against the imposition of genetically modified alternatives.
The group gathered for the ‘Pre-audiencia Nacional: Contaminación Transgénica del Maíz Nativo’ in the shadows of the Sierra Juárez mountain range, in response to the Mexican government’s proposal to allow the seeding of twelve million hectares of genetically modified corn. The proposal followed an initial pilot project in which Monsanto was allowed to plant GMO corn in test sites in 2009. While many local communities remain adamantly opposed to the move, extensive lobbying by Monsanto, with support from the world’s richest man, Mexican Carlos Slim, and considerable efforts by the Gates Foundation, have raised real fears that local concerns may be ignored.
While Slim, the Gates Foundation and Monsanto argue that GMO technology will feed the world’s poor, many locals deem the imposition of transgenic crops a serious threat to the native varieties of corn that have been at the core of rural Mexican cultures for millennia.
‘On every ground transgenics are wrong,’ Vandana Shiva told the Oaxaca audience of several hundred, “but they are hugely wrong in the centre of diversity of maize here in Mexico.’
The historic birthplace of corn, and home to several thousand varieties of the crop, corn is more than just a staple in the Mexican diet. Beyond its prevalence in local cooking, corn is a symbol at the heart of countless indigenous traditions and holds great spiritual significance. An indigenous Nahuatl man from the state of Hidalgo explained that his community hosts a festival to celebrate corn every year in which ‘we dance with the corn and we celebrate the Earth Mother.’