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Local Futures: Maíz es País

By Jim Carey

Film Occupy
Local Futures
Mon, Sep 14, 1pm
Quinta Loreto Hotel
TV room
Loreto 15

Local Futures is a story about how the women and men of Ladakh have mobilized to create local movements that establish community: developing organic gardens, creating renewable energy systems, and working cooperatively to maintain their traditions and build sustainable lively neighborhoods. Here in Mexico, a similar story about Mexico’s future is occurring. It began in 2013 when Demanda Colectiva AC, a group of 53 scientists and 22 civil rights organizations and NGOs, brought a lawsuit against the biotech industry (Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow, DuPont Pioneer) and Mexico’s Environment and Natural Resources Ministry (Semarnat). At the time, the presiding judge, Jaime Manuel Marroquín Zaleta, ruled in the litigants’ favor and suspended the granting of licenses for GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) corn field trials sought by agribusiness. “If the biotech industry gets its way”, he argued, “more than 7,000 years of indigenous maize cultivation in Mexico would be endangered, with the country’s 60 varieties of corn directly threatened by cross­pollination from transgenic strands.” Some of the most powerful arguments against GMO corn were made by Mexico’s Union of Scientists Committed to Society (ACCS) and the cellular neurobiologist David R. Schubert. They warned that GMOs would drastically diminish the crop diversity of both Mexico and the world at large. GMOs would increase costs throughout the Mexican food chain, putting millions of smallholders out of business. Transnational corporations would dominate the seed market, increasing social and political dependence on oligopolies. Herbicide resistance and the chemicals required for cultivation would pose a serious health hazard to consumers, especially on the scale at which corn is consumed in Mexico—a staggering 53 percent of average calorie intake and 39 percent of protein consumption. Finally, once the GM seeds are planted, there will be no going back. The country’s native varieties, which are the result of thousands of years of careful selection and breeding, will be irreversibly contaminated—even if the GM seeds are introduced on a modest scale. These scientific concerns were justified this March when the World Health Organization’s cancer, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), reclassified glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s biggest selling herbicide roundup, as “probably carcinogenic to humans.” On August 25, 2015, Mexico’s XII District Court overturned Judge Jaime Manuel Marroquín Zaleta’s 2013 decision, and Monsanto and its agribusiness cohorts won the right to begin field trials with GMO corn seeds. Demanda Colectiva AC has just launched a public appeal for members of the scientific, academic, artistic, and civil society organizations to lend their support in its battle to safeguard Mexico’s crop biodiversity. Enrique Olvera, chef of Pujol, one of the best restaurants in the world, said there was “a total uncertainty of the consequences of sowing GM maize” and argued that until there is full clarity, “cultivation should be postponed.” He is one of the 78 chef signatories of the letter, along with other renowned chefs such as Mikel Alonso (Biko), Jorge Vallejo and Alejandra Flores (Pigweed), Alex Ruiz (Casa Oaxaca), Elena Reygadas (Rosetta), Jair Tellez (Merotoro) of Monica Patino (Delirium). Everyone in Mexico is asked to give a strong response in the days leading up to National Corn Day on Tuesday, September 29. Join our discussion Monday on Mexico’s future.


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