The fight against genetically modified crops continues Wednesday as peasant leaders embark on a hunger strike and sit-in in Mexico City demanding their country be gmo-free, and slamming the economic model that favors multinational corporations over food sovereignty.
The National Union of Autonomous Regional Peasant Organizations (UNORCA), a network of Mexican farming organizations that advocates for small farmers’ livelihoods and rights, organized the protest ahead of the likely authorization of 2.4 million hectares (six million acres) to be planted with genetically modified (gm) corn by agricultural behemoths Monsanto, DuPont and Dow in Mexico.
In a letter explaining the day's actions, the group writes:
We want to reach the hearts and minds of the people of Mexico and the World to share our grave concern for the health, culture and economy of our nation, eroded by a development model that only benefits a tiny minority, a minority which includes the transnational corporations that today conspire to appropriate for themselves one of the greatest heritages of our peoples: MAIZE. [...]
[W]e demand that the Mexican government place the interests of peasants and the majority of Mexican farmers above the interests of a few transnational corporations.
"We demand that the Mexican government place the interests of peasants and the majority of Mexican farmers above the interests of a few transnational corporations."UNORCA's Maize Manifesto, addressed to the government and people of Mexico, states that the pending approval of gm corn cultivation "presents immense dangers to human health, biodiversity, culture and to our national sovereignty."
And Mexico's Maize Defense Network has referred to the planting of gm corn as
[...] a historic crime against the people of corn, against biodiversity and against food sovereignty, against ten thousand years of peasant and indigenous agriculture that left the legacy of this seed for the good of all the people of the world.
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Mexico is the birthplace of corn, what is known as the "centre of origin" where the original genetic pool of worldwide corn is preserved and should be protected from genetic contamination.
It's like a genetic storehouse. If current corn varieties planted on a large scale around the world were affected by a fatal disease, it is essential to be able to go back to the centre of origin and find a variety resistant to that disease. There are risks to our food security if planting of GE corn in Mexico goes ahead. If Mexico is contaminated with GE corn, and if it reduces the existing biodiversity of corn, it might limit our ability to find a suitable replacement.
"Commercial planting of GMO maize ... would essentially be the coup de grace to food sovereignty for the Mexican people."The Manifesto continues, in part:
Giving out permits for the commercial planting of GMO maize would be an attack on the constitutional right to food of the Mexican people, making it ever more unlikely the majority of the Mexican population could have access to healthy, high quality food, and it would essentially be the coup de grace to food sovereignty for the Mexican people.
The key to increasing food production in the countryside, reducing poverty and ending hunger does not lie with GMOs. This is an extremely costly technology, which does not increase yields, causes more dependence on imported seeds and farm chemicals, and provides no advantage to confronting the challenges of climate change and its effects, like frosts and droughts. This is in addition to the fact that Mexico’s agro-food crisis is not of technological origin but rather is a product of an economic model, where hunger is not a result of scarcity but rather of lack of adequate income to access food.
In our country there are more than 60 native races and thousands of local varieties of maize, which instead of representing some kind of risk, carry important virtues thanks to their selection and adaptation by indigenous peoples over more than seven thousand years. Some of these native varieties offer higher yields than the ones manipulated by Monsanto. The imposition of transnational frankenseeds would mean an end to this richness and the loss of the ancestral milpa tradition as a sustainable system of maize production and symbol of the Mesoamerican cultural inheritance.