Local agriculture employs a mix of methods
By Antonio De Jesús Aguado
Monsanto –the biggest agro-business in the world, whose products include aggressive pesticides and genetically improved seed –has now presence in San Miguel, and although there are several campaigns against it, it continues to grow. Alternatively, organic products are trendy nowadays, and, according to producers, growing and living organically must be a way of life, and the campo in the rural communities is being supported by the local government through the program Semilla Mejorada (Improved Seed) hybrid seeds adapted to the climatic fluctuations.
According to Nacho Soto, president of the Guanajuato Agricultural Association, San Miguel de Allende is the second-largest municipality in the state, and 70 percent of the arable land is used for livestock pasture, because San Miguel is a dairy-producing area. The rest of the land is planted with vegetables and grains for consumption by animals or humans. Some of those products are cultivated in an organic way and others in a traditional way, using some fertilizers. Most of the seeds used are hybrids.
A few months ago, when the rainy season was about to start, the local government handed out 500 bags (25 kilos each) of corn and 500 of beans to local producers for cultivating one and a half hectares. They also received some fertilizer. Each bag, according to Martin Salgado Cacho, head the local Social Development Department, cost 900 pesos, and the resources came from the federal fund for those living in extreme poverty. The harvest, commented the director, is only for family consumption.
The improved, hybrid seed, said Nacho Soto, is the result of the natural cross of the best characteristics of two seeds, always seeking to improve resistance to lack of water and cold weather and height, size and yield. It is not advisable to plant the seeds from these harvests, because as a result crossbreeding it is uncertain which genes the plants would develop.
CAFIME is the type of corn that was distributed. It was released in 1958 and was the first variety adapted to the weather conditions during the rainy season in the north and central region of the country, and it is drought-resistant. This corn can produce a total of 1.9 tons of grain and 4.5 tons of pasture per hectare, 35 percent more than the regional creole species, and its vegetative cycle is 112 days.
Salgado Cacho noted that the harvest will depend on the rainfall and the fertility of the land; he also said that in the community of La Huerta in some corn fields the stalks have grown 30 centimeters in two weeks. According to Cacho, the farmers are very happy with the program and the requirements for receiving the grain were minimal, including proof of land ownership and a copy of voter registration. Soto made it clear that the products of these seeds are not detrimental to human health.
Pre-Hispanic farming is better
In the municipality there are several farms producing organic vegetables and grains, one of which, internationally certified, is Rancho Toyán. There more than 120 types of vegetables are planted, including 10 varieties of corn, six of beans and seven of squash. In Toyán, the producers also harvest peaches, pears, apples, plums “and everything provided by Mother Earth,” said Martha Molina. One of the two unique brands of wine in the state is also produced at the ranch.
At Rancho Toyán chemical fertilizers and pesticides are not used, and the fertilizer is from manure produced by their livestock. “Toyán is like Noah’s ark,” says Molina, “because we have hens, turkeys, donkeys, sheep and pigs that are integrated with the environment.”
Molina commented that everything is a complete cycle in Toyán; because the animals are healthily fed, they can produce healthy dung and chemical products can be avoided. In this ranch there are fields of flowers and other plants where bees, butterflies and other insects help maintain the natural cycle of production. Molina noted that the human body is designed for organic products and not for transgenic produce or that grown using excessive fertilizers and pesticides, because the chemicals are retained by the body, causing illnesses.
At Toyán nature is completely respected and is free to act by itself. The owners are trying to instill a consciousness for returning to agricultural origins, to make people understand that the way of planting and harvesting practiced by our ancestors was the best way, before we became so reliant on science and technology. “We used to live like this,” said Molina.
Monsanto in San Miguel
Monsanto, the biggest agri-business in the world, was created in 1901. In 1950, it arrived in Mexico. The website www.monsanto.com states that “in the decades to come, farmers have to produce the same amount of food that was produced in the last 10,000 years altogether,” and its objective, it says, is to work along with the farmers to achieve it.
Greenpeace Mexico published on its web page that the plans of this company are to turn world agricultural production into a genetics experiment, and the farmers will be dependent on their patented (transgenic) seeds.
Nacho Soto told Atención that there are several countries where Monsanto has patented the DNA of some seeds that they planted, and sometimes the crops nearby have been contaminated by Monsanto’s seed and the farmers have been sued. Greenpeace also published that Monsanto has sued a great number of farmers whose crops have been contaminated by its seeds. According to the page, the transgenic fields in the world occupy just 1 percent of the arable land, and 85 percent of the transgenic seeds (soybeans and cotton) have been planted in Argentina, the US and Canada.
In San Miguel, according to Soto, Monsanto has a presence in two ways The first is selling hybrid seeds to the farmers, which are for growing plants to feed livestock or for human consumption. The second is by renting properties for planting varieties of seeds (corn mostly) for crossbreeding to create stronger varieties they can sell. The president of the State Agricultural Association commented also that Monsanto has increased its power in Mexico since the government eliminated PRONASE (National Producer of Seeds), a role that has been taken up by the transnational.
Soto made it clear that in Mexico, including San Miguel de Allende, transgenic products are not being planted; at least, there are no reports of this. He said that because of food shortages the country has to import (genetically modified) seeds and food from other countries, and for that reason transgenic seeds do enter Mexico.
Soto said that Monsanto has created great conflicts in the world because governments have given them permits to patent the DNA of those seeds, and those who want to plant them always have to buy them from the company. And the farmers are afraid of the contamination of their seeds because they would have to face legal issues with Monsanto. “We are afraid of dependence on Monsanto, because then the citizens would be owners of the land but not of the seeds,” said Soto, who is not especially worried now because in Mexico the Federal Law of Bio-security and Transgenics protects the corn, along with imposing other regulations.
Nacho Soto highlighted that as society, we must follow and respect the basic principles of farming, in order to have the freedom to plant whatever we want and not allowing Monsanto to take control of the DNA of our seeds. In 2050, he said, the production in the country ought to be duplicated and the biggest challenge is to make productive our land, but it must be achieved by handling proper irrigation and seeding techniques, taking always care of the germoplasmas (DNA of the seeds).
All those interested in proposing regulations or new laws (in order to protect the agriculture in Mexico) to the local or federal congress; can do it through the Asociación Agrícola de San Miguel, located in front of the Puente Bicentenario on libramiento Manuel Zavala, the office is opened from Mon-Fri from 9am-5pm, 1507250