Dirty War Against the Peoples of Maize

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By Silvia Ribeiro

On August 19, 2015, Francisco Peñaloza Heras, of the XII District Court on Civil Matters, cancelled the precautionary measure that for two years had suspended the planting of transgenic maize in Mexico, in response to a civil action to prevent damage to biodiversity and health. However, the suspension is still in effect, since the decision was immediately appealed by Colectivas AC, legal representatives of the collective of 53 citizens and 20 organizations that introduced the demand in 2013.
 
The way that Judge Peñaloza took the decision, ignoring the arguments of the plaintiffs and independent scientists, but basing his decision on what Monsanto and other businesses say, is another step in the dirty war against peasant maize and the Peoples of maize.
 
In synchrony with this decision, the GMO transnationals unleashed a flood of commentaries to the press assuring that the planting was now allowed. René Sánchez Galindo, the lawyer for the demanding collective denounced that "Monsanto has begun a new campaign of lies, since it is false that the planting of transgenic maize is allowed."
 
The lies of the Gene Giants (the companies that control GMOs) are not limited to the legal aspects of the demand. They devote much time and resources to falsifying data to hide what really happens with transgenic organisms in countries where they are massively planted, such as the United States, the home country of Monsanto.
 
The reality, based on official statistics of that country over two decades (and not on studies financed by the enterprises that reflect partial data) show that GMOs are more expensive than the hybrids that already existed, that their average production is lower and they have provoked an exponential increase in the use of agrotoxins with devastating impacts on soils, water and the emergence of over 20 "superweeds" resistant to glyphosate. The industry affirms that maize manipulated with the toxin Bt diminished the use of agrotoxins, but neglects to explain that pests are becoming resistant to Bt, and that after an initial reduction of pesticide use, it has increased every year. The companies are therefore abandoning the sale of Bt maize seeds, to sell other transgenic maize events with stacked traits, that adds to the Bt toxin, the tolerance to one or more highly toxic herbicides such as glyphosate, gluphosinate, dicamba, and 2,4-d, with which the increase of agrochemical use will skyrocket.
 
The companies also maintain that the "coexistence" of transgenic maize with peasant (landrace) maize is possible. There are in fact many scientific studies and statistics in many countries that demonstrate the opposite: where there are transgenic cultivars there will always be contamination, either by pollen carried by wind and insects (to distances much greater than those "foreseen" by the laws) or by loss in transport, storage, sales points, where there is no segregation of transgenic varieties and other seeds. Many studies in Mexico, including those of the ministry of the environment (Semarnat) show hundreds of cases of transgenic contamination of peasant maize, even when planting GMOs is illegal. Legalizing the planting would enormously increase the contamination, a fact that threatens biodiversity and Mexico’s most important agricultural genetic heritage, the legacy of millions of campesinos and indigenous peoples who created it and continue to maintain it.
 
In the United States there is transgenic contamination everywhere. Monsanto made a business of this: they took the victims of transgenic contamination to court for the illegal use of their patented genes, which has brought them millions of dollars in trials or out-of-court settlements.  Recently Monsanto declared that they would not sue farmers in Mexico. It would be absurd to believe them. Of course, they will sue when the legal framework allows them to do it.
 
Already in 2004, Monsanto published advertisements in Chiapas newspapers, warning that anyone who “illegally” used their patented genes for "importing, planting, keeping, commercialization or exportation” could go to jail or pay major fines. In addition, they noted that if you "know any irregular situation" you should get in touch with Monsanto, to avoid being charged as an accomplice. If Monsanto didn’t proceed, it was only because they lack the legal framework to continue, a lack they are trying to correct now.
 
The transnationals lie when they say GMOs are harmless to health. To start with, transgenic cultivars can have up to 200 times more residues of glyphosate, a herbicide that the WHO recently declared carcinogenic, in March of 2015. And almost every month there are new articles with evidence of dangers of GMOs to health and the environment.
 
For example on July 14, 2015 the scientific journal Agricultural Sciences published a peer-reviewed article with the results of research of a team led by Dr. Shiva Ayyadurai that shows that transgenic soya accumulates formaldehyde, a known carcinogenic substance, along with depletion of glutathione, an anti-oxidizing agent essential for cellular detoxification. The study analyzed data from 6,497 experiments made by 184 scientific institutions in 23 countries. The results clearly challenge the notion of "substantial equivalence" that is currently applied to evaluate transgenic crops, falsely alleging that they are "equivalent" to conventional cultivars. There is a great gap in the knowledge of how genetic modification affects the biology of maize and the impact it has on the biodiversity and on the health of the people of Mexico, where maize is consumed more than in any other country.'
 
The war is crude, but there are also many ways of resistance, such as the "popular moratorium" of not permitting GMOs in our fields or on our tables. And this can’t be cancelled by a judge!

 

(Translated for ALAI by Jordan Bishop)

- Silvia Ribeiro is a researcher with ETC group. Published in La Jornada, México and in ALAI. 
- See more at: http://www.alainet.org/en/articulo/172079#sthash.gQGPeJj6.dpuf

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