Posts Tagged 'Transgenic maize'

The Fight for Corn.

In an era of food crisis, the fight for corn has intensified, and the importance of this grain – a staple of the diet of Mexico and a large part of the world – has been revealed to the fullest extent. The scenario we are faced with is a battle between a culture that revolves around the material and symbolic production of corn, as well as the cultural, social, and historical value placed upon this crop by humankind, and the network of commercial and political interests that sees this prodigious crop simply as another way to increase power and profit by means of plundering its native lands.

Corn is under imperialistic attack in its place of origin, primarily at the hands of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which has increased Mexico’s food dependency. A popular resistance stands in opposition to this assault, playing its role in a geostrategic struggle exacerbated by climatic imbalances caused by global warming, as well as the corruption of the agroindustrial production model.

Why does corn attract transnational companies? Because it is the most efficient producer of biomass of any grain. One can get an idea of its efficiency of the corn plant is compared with that of wheat. One grain of wheat will produce one slender spike while one grain of corn will produce two robust ears. The yield per hectare of corn can be double that of wheat. Annual corn production worldwide is more than 850 million tons.

In contrast to the other cereals, there are different varieties of corn for almost any climate, from valleys to mountains, and for almost any type of soil. Its cycle is short, and rural families have created simple methods for storing it, preserving it, and preparing it.

Nobel Prize winner Octavio Paz acutely observed that the invention of corn by the Mexicans is only comparable to the invention of fire by the early humans. From the inedible grass of the teocintle or teosinte, ancient Mexicans created modern corn, which was spread across Mesoamerica and eventually around the world. The 60 or so breeds and the thousands of different varieties native to Mexico act as a genetic reservoir and a crucially important strategic good in terms of the global food supply and economy, the worth of which can be expressed on a scale of billions of dollars each year. Corn has become the livelihood of families in rural communities as well as an accessible food source for poor urban families (corn makes up 60 percent of Mexicans’ caloric intake). It is also a fundamental raw material for livestock and the global food industry due to its versatility and large number of by-products and applications.

Corn is both a product and a means of support in the history and popular culture of Mexico. Both the history of the grain and the history of the people are intertwined to such an extent that correlations between price curves for corn and the vicissitudes of Mexican politics and economy have been documented from the 18th to the early 19th century. The rise of corn prices, for example, resulted in poverty, food shortages, famine, epidemics, emigration, unemployment, crime, and begging. This turmoil generated the social tension that led to the outbreak of the War for Independence.[i]

Today, corn is Mexico’s most important crop. It makes up a little more than half of the area sown and represents 30 percent of the total production value. Mexico is the fifth largest corn producer in the world, yielding around 21 million tons per year. However, Mexico imports almost 10 million tons annually – a third of what it consumes. The other primary producers of corn in order of importance are the United States, China, Brazil, and Argentina.

Because of its unique qualities, corn quickly became a coveted good and was introduced to the market with a clear tendency toward privatization. The crop’s transformation from a communal resource to an economic good has been made possible by means of a global strategy with three blocks meant to shut off the route to rural self-sufficiency through local food production.

The first block is the imposition of technology meant to appropriate the characteristics of the corn seeds, as well as the traditional knowledge associated with them. The second block is the establishment of a legal framework that legalizes dispossession through registers, certificates, and patents. The third block: agro-food policies that favor transnational companies and harm small and mid-sized producers. According to investigators Adelita San Vicente and Areli Carreón, “This is clear when we look at the earnings and the concentration of seed companies worldwide. 20 years ago there were thousands of companies that sold seeds, the majority of which were small family-owned businesses. After decades of mergers and acquisitions, today only a handful of companies manage commercial seed, especially regarding the corn and soy industry sectors. In the case of corn, four companies – Monsanto, Dupont, Syngenta, and Dow – control more than three quarters of the market, excluding China. These same companies own the majority of the agro-biotechnological patents.”[ii]

The global importance of corn explains the interest that transnational companies have in controlling the crop in its place of origin and making it a private asset. These companies started out using hybrid varieties of corn associated with the use of chemical fertilizers and agro-toxins. They have now created transgenic corn, which puts the diversity of the native varieties at enormous risk. Once native crops are destroyed by genetic contamination, corn producers could find themselves defenseless against the climate crisis.

Less Corn for More Money

Even now, while the world suffers through the stampede of food prices (particularly the price of corn) and the climatic events in the United States, multinationals like Monsanto are rubbing their hands in anticipation of the profit to be made from high prices coupled with a high demand for the seeds. Climate changes in the United States have led to low expectations for the next corn harvest,[iii] which is already impacting grain prices and reverberating through other foods as well. The worst drought that the United States has seen in the last half century – caused by the highest temperatures on record – can be attributed to the climate crisis. A sixth of the corn harvest of the United States has been destroyed, prompting hyperinflation of food prices just as the financial and global energy crises have escalated.

The rise in corn prices[iv] and its repercussions on other food stirred memories of the 2008 crisis which caused revolts in numerous countries and gave rise to the tortilla crisis in Mexico. The UN acted immediately to prevent a global food crisis.[v] It urged governments to take “swift and coordinated action” in order to prevent rising food prices from creating a disaster that would have harmed millions of people by the end of that year.

Aside from corn, two other basic grains in the world food supply – wheat and soy – are rising in the inflation spiral. UN agencies assert that elevated prices of food are the symptom and not the disease, and argue that the root causes of the price crisis must be addressed. It is not exactly clear what this means, but from the rural perspective it would mean trading the agro-industrial production model for another based on food sovereignty, oriented toward the local markets at a time of growing demand for food and climate crisis.

The ongoing measures taken by many governments, however, do not point in this direction. According to data made public in the newspaper La Jornada from the Working Group on Foreign Trade Statistics, Mexico showed record-breaking corn imports[vi] during the first semester of 2012 in comparison to the same period of the previous year, when national corn production fell due to frosts and droughts. Imports were also at a record high with respect to the first half of 2007, when the tortilla crisis struck, and even compared to imports occurring during both the 2008 and 2009 lapses of the global financial crisis. According to the same source, in the first six months of 2012 1,931,000,000 dollars were spent on corn imports.

Mexico went from importing 396,000 tons of corn in 1992, before the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), to 9.8 million tons during the 2011-2012 cycle.[vii] The measures put in place by NAFTA dismantled the institutions supporting agro-food production and generated conditions of even greater inequality among the member countries. Food dependency now represents almost 50 percent of what is consumed in Mexico, and the government recognizes the existence of 28 million people who are starving[viii] – 20 million of whom live in the countryside.

The Hunger that Came from the North.

“¡Hunger, hunger! Bark the dogs of Urique”, exclaimed the elderly people, repeating a fable from the Porfirian era. During that time, the region of the Tarahumara inhabited by the Rarámuri was held prisoner by famine and was the scene of precursory uprisings to the Revolution. Time has come full circle, and now that region of Chihuahua, in the north of Mexico, is suffering a humanitarian catastrophe due to a shortage of food that has been compared by the magazine Proceso to what is occurring in many African countries.[ix]

The current famine has brought hundreds of indigenous people to the hospital with acute malnutrition, the diseases derived from which have killed many of them. This is the most extreme manifestation of the consequences of the application of the free market economic model on rural areas. This model has dismantled institutions of credit, consumable goods, insurance, wholesale, and programs supporting rural production, creating a food shortage that is aggravated by climate change.

Last year, an atypical drought that lasted for more than 18 months devastated corn and bean harvests in the region, and temperatures near -20 degrees Celsius only made the problem worse. 20 thousand tons of corn for self-consumption was lost. Of the 150 thousand tons of cereal that is produced commercially in Chihuahua, only 500 tons remained. Of the over 100 thousand tons of beans that are harvested each year, there were barely 20 thousand. The production of oats decreased by 80 percent. The lack of food affected a quarter of a million inhabitants of 4,478 rural and indigenous communities. But the problem did not stop there.

For the current spring-summer cycle, an insufficient harvest is anticipated. The Rarámuri, therefore, only planted 4 thousand of the 40 thousand hectares normally reserved for the production of basic grains, principally corn.[x] Those who dared to plant did so with native seeds without ample humidity in some areas of Guachochi, Urique, and Batopilas.

Yet this is merely a warning of what is to come. The state of food emergency is not exclusive to the indigenous zones in the north of the country. It is spread throughout practically the entire rural area, as is shown by the food poverty figures mentioned above. The agricultural policies that have been imposed upon Mexican society for more than a quarter century have primarily benefited the transnational companies and a minority of large producers, at the expense of the majority of the population. The senselessness of the model that dismantled the mechanisms and institutions responsible for regulating the domestic market, only to present it on a silver platter to the transnational companies, highlights an absurd situation: while hunger is pervasive and the United States has announced a decrease in its corn harvests, Mexico is faced with the problem of marketing more than 1,200,000 tons of grain in Sinaloa and Jalisco due to the fact that the distributors have refused to pay the international price, breaking NAFTA rules that do not work in their favor. The transnational companies not only control marketing, but also most of the branches of agro-industry, including the production, storage, and distribution of the seeds.

The Transgenic Corn Front

Monsanto and the companies that control the global transgenic seed market have made Mexican corn their preferred target because once they have conquered it, the transnationals could become the sole owners of this treasure worldwide.

Even before the Mexican government broke the moratorium on experimentation with transgenic corn in 2009, the corn had already been genetically contaminated in its place of origin. The study that presented this evidence was done by scientist Ignacio Chapela and published in the November 2001 issue of Nature. Chapela documented the presence of transgenic corn in Oaxaca, an area with one of the largest diversities of the grain. This fact was confirmed months later by Mexican researchers. Currently, almost half of the states in the country have reported the presence of transgenic contamination, and there is a widespread conviction that the contamination was caused intentionally. Whatever the case may be, it is a historic crime.

Transgenic corn does not increase yields,[xi] does not provide any consumer advantages, and does not carry any benefit for producers regarding input costs. However, if the commercial sowing of Monsanto corn is approved, the company could make a profit of close to 400 million dollars per year, according to Victor Suarez, president of the National Association of Commercial Field-Producer Companies.[xii]

This is why lobbyists for the United States-based company spare no efforts when it comes to investing some 5 million dollars per year in order to influence politicians, journalists, scientists, and community leaders. The company is also investing in its beachheads in the Center for Research and Advanced Studies at Irapuato and the Master Project of Mexican Corn, which is supported in part by the National Farm Worker Confederation.[xiii]

The clandestine contamination – a vehicle of destruction of the Mexican rural economy – is a direct consequence of NAFTA. Unlabeled corn that continues to flow into the country from the United States is largely transgenic, and is introduced with the knowledge and consent of companies and officials without the least concern. These same entities and people confront public opinion, as well as those who reject the cultivation of transgenic corn, using a fait accompli strategy.

Mexican legislators approved the Monsanto Law (the Law on Biosafety and Genetically Modified Organisms) in 2004. As its nickname suggests, the law primarily favors transnational interests. This law opened the door for the cultivation of transgenic materials while failing to guarantee biosafety or protect native Mexican plants and their producers.

In the same vein, the Federal Seed Production, Certification, and Trade Law was approved in 2007, while the Federal Law on Plant Varieties has been in existence since 1996.[xiv] The new legal framework was designed for the purpose of plundering, while laws that protect the rights of producers, farm workers, and indigenous people – no matter how precariously – are being abolished or reformed.

In 2009 the federal government, betraying rural society yet again, broke the moratorium de facto that had stood for 11 years. The government subsequently began to grant permits for experimental sowing and transgenic corn pilots, and has brought the country to within one step of the commercial sowing of Monsanto corn.

The use of transgenic seeds has been added to agro-industrial production as a means of augmenting producers’ dependency, but at the same time it has sharpened those contradictions that indicate the deterioration of this model.[xv] The proven damages to the ecosystem and human health, the harmful effects on the climate caused by the use of petroleum in agricultural processes, and the emergence of super-plagues able to resist the poisons associated with transgenic seeds have sparked protests, embargoes, and prohibitions. Monsanto corn MON16 has been expelled from 8 different countries in the European Union, and around the world there has been a resurgence of organic production.

As has been shown by the Maize Defense Network, which is composed of more than one thousand communities and dozens of organizations in 22 Mexican states, “the cultivation of transgenic materials is an instrument of corporate abuse against the right to have access to healthy food and against small-scale, independent food production controlled by rural farm workers in countless corners of the globe (who provide the largest percentage of the world’s food supply). [The use of transgenic seeds] is a frontal attack on food sovereignty.”

The People’s Fight for the Corn

The Network, in line with movements such as “Without Corn there is no Country” and organizations like the National Union of Autonomous Regional Peasant Organizations (representative of La Via Campesina in North America), has organized campaigns to throw Monsanto and its Frankenstein seeds out of the country. The Maize Defense Network, however, has distinguished itself by declaring an emphatic moratorium over ten years against the invasion of transgenic corn. Rural farm workers know that the best defense of native corn is to plant it and care for the seeds by selecting them and interchanging them. They know that food sovereignty starts from below and that social and communal production of their own food is the best way to guarantee their right to eat.

They know or sense that the corporations and the governments of the dominant countries have used food as a geostrategic weapon, impeding the agricultural development of the subordinate countries by means of “free” trade agreements and agricultural mechanization controlled by companies like Monsanto. This serves the double purpose of maximizing profits while indefinitely maintaining the subjugation, in this case, of Mexican agriculture to the agricultural interests of the United States.

Before the commercial opening, corn had been protected by national agricultural policies and the corn used for human consumption was supplied in sufficient quantities for local production, particularly in communal or seasonal smallholder farms. Following the signing of NAFTA, the Mexican government removed support little by little for the majority of the field producers until it had finally abandoned them.

In a scenario that is just as complex as it is unfavorable, the Maize Defense Network and various other Mexican civil society organizations convinced the Permanent People’s Tribunal to conduct sessions in Mexico. The prosecution held the Mexican state responsible for the violence committed against the corn, food sovereignty, and the rights of the people.

Supported by the moral standing of the Permanent People’s Tribunal, the rural inhabitants stand against NAFTA and its signatories because:

a) They have surrendered food production to transnational companies, making Mexico a dependent country.

b) The commercial opening to grains led to the loss of more than 10 million hectares of cultivated corn and the rural exodus of 15 million people.[xvi]

c) They have endangered the way of life surrounding corn – the heart of Mesoamerican civilization.

d) They are responsible for a crime against humanity: the destruction of the genetic fortitude of one of the four pillars of the world’s diet.

At the same time, the most conscientious and organized rural farm workers have implemented resistance strategies, such as the establishment of transgenic-free zones, democratic unions and councils in defense of corn, networks of organic tianguis, corn festivals, communal germoplasm banks, communal food reserves, seed exchange fairs, and other measures in defense of the rural lifestyle.

These are the people who have recreated biodiversity over many generations, and continue to be responsible for its preservation today. They are the direct heirs of the cultures that domesticated and developed corn. They are the people of the corn of the 21st century, and they are convinced that the voracity of transnational companies must not be allowed to usurp this thousand-year-old legacy.

Alfredo Acedo is Director of Social Communication and adviser to the National Union of Regional Organizations of Autonomous Small Farmers of Mexico and a contributor to the Americas Program http://www.cipamericas.org.

Translation: Mac Layne


[i] Florescano, Enrique. Precios del maíz y crisis agrícolas en México, 1708-1810. El Colegio de México, 1969.

[ii] San Vicente Tello, Adelita; Carreón, Areli. El robo de las semillas de maíz en su centro de origen y de diversidad genética. December 16, 2008 http://vecam.org/article1080.html

[iii] In August, the United States Department of Agriculture showed an 18 percent decrease in its projections of corn production for this year, or some 56 million tons. http://www.fas.usda.gov/psdonline/psdreport.aspx?hidReportRetrievalName=BVS&hidReportRetrievalID=884&hidReportRetrievalTemplateID=1

[iv] Corn prices shot up to a historic maximum of 8.49 dollars per bushel on August 10th (in the United States, a bushel is equivalent to 25.4 kilograms).

http://www.cnnexpansion.com/economia/2012/08/16/precio-de-maiz-en-eu-por-los-cielos

[v] UN agencies “stressed the vulnerability to a food problem, given that even in a good year, global cereal production is barely sufficient to satisfy the increasing demand for food and fuel.” http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2012/09/05/economia/037n2eco

[vi] The purchase exceeded corn imports of the first six months of 2007 by 159 percent, totaling 744,857,000 dollars. http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2012/08/27/economia/027n1eco

[vii] Mexico is now the primary importer of corn in the world. http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2012/04/14/sociedad/035n1soc

[viii] Between 2008 and 2010, the number of people without access to food rose by 4.2 million, bringing the total to around 28 million Mexican citizens. http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2012/02/09/politica/016n2pol

[ix] La Tarahumara: hambruna al estilo Somalia. http://www.proceso.com.mx/?p=294045

[x] The food alert in the Tarahumara remains in effect due to low harvests. Furthermore, the government defaulted on its delivery of 100 thousand tons of corn and beans promised as humanitarian aid. http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2012/08/27/sociedad/045n1soc

[xi] Failure to Yield. 2009. Report in the Union of Concerned Scientists that shows zero increase in the yields of transgenic corn in the United States, after more than 20 years of research and 13 years of commercial sowing. http://www.ucsusa.org/assets/documents/food_and_agriculture/failure-to-yield.pdf

[xiii] San Vicente Tello, Adelita ¿Los niños al cuidado de Herodes? Convenio CNC Monsanto. La Jornada del Campo. 9 de octubre de 2007 http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2007/10/10/amenaza.htm

[xiv] Una raya más al tigre de la Ley Monsanto. http://www.cipamericas.org/es/archives/66

[xv] Stedile, João Pedro. Las tendencias del capital sobre la agricultura. América Latina en movimiento 459. ALAI, October 2010 http://www.alainet.org/images/alai459.pdf

[xvi] Permanent People’s Tribunal. Mexico. Work document, February 20, 2012

Hearing 5: Violence against corn, food sovereignty and the rights of the people.

Debate: ¿Es riesgoso el maíz transgénico?

Organizaciones oaxaqueñas defensoras del maíz nativo promueven amparo contra siembra de transgénicos.

Las Comisiones Regionales de Seguimiento en Defensa del Maíz Nativo de Oaxaca, interpondrán  un  amparo  en contra de la Semarnat, Sagarpa, Inifap, Gobernador del Estado de Oaxaca y Sedafpa, además demandarán  a la Junta de Coordinación Política del Congreso del Estado y las Comisiones de Derechos Humanos; Asuntos Indígenas; Agropecuaria, Forestal y Minería y Desarrollo Rural de dicho congreso, debido a que no han respondido por escrito a su solicitud presentada el 11 de abril del 2012, violentando el derecho de petición consagrado en el artículo octavo constitucional.

En la solicitud presentada a las autoridades demandadas, más de 350 personas pertenecientes a organizaciones y comunidades indígenas de Oaxaca exigen al Gobierno Federal y Estatal el regreso de la moratoria sobre la siembra experimental de maíz transgénico, misma que se realiza desde 2009 en 6 estados del norte del país,  con el objetivo de proteger la biodiversidad del maíz nativo en México.

De igual forma solicitaron al gobierno federal, estatal y el Congreso del Estado la coordinación para la emisión de una declaratoria que deje a Oaxaca como pueblos y territorios libres de “Transgénicos”.

Les preocupa que el gobierno federal y estatal no se interesen en la seguridad alimentaria de los mexicanos y en la conservación de las semillas nativas que son amenazadas por la introducción y contaminación con semillas transgénicas, poniendo en riesgo el patrimonio alimentario, cultural y biológico del estado, principalmente de los pueblos y comunidades indígenas.

Oaxaca de Juárez a 13 de agosto de 2012.

COMISIONES REGIONALES EN DEFENSA DEL MAÍZ NATIVO DE OAXACA

Video:

[http://e-oaxaca.com/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=16132:exigen-que-oaxaca-sea-declarado-un-estado-libre-de-transgénicos&Itemid=321]

http://www.educaoaxaca.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=706&Itemid=55

Maíz transgénico en México: científicos críticos chocan contra trasnacionales.

                  Diez años atrás Ignacio Chapela, ecólogo y microbiólogo de la Universidad de California en Berkeley, y uno de sus discípulos, David Quist, hicieron un descubrimiento que desmentía uno de los principales supuestos de la biotecnología genética del maíz. Como él dice, “le levantamos la sotana” a esa industria, dominada por un puñado de corporaciones trasnacionales. En diciembre de 2001 la revista científica internacional Nature divulgó ese estudio, que demostraba la presencia de transgenes en cultivos de la sierra norte de Oaxaca, uno de los centros de origen en territorio nacional, muy lejos de los sitios donde se experimentaba con esos productos.

A Chapela le ocurrió lo que a muchos otros expertos que han encendido las alarmas sobre los peligros de la biotecnología. Él y Quist fueron víctimas de una virulenta campaña de desprestigio dentro y fuera de los campus universitarios. Hoy, Chapela reconoce en entrevista: “Fue algo dañino para mi carrera, eso hay que aceptarlo. Al mismo tiempo fue muy educativo y permitió ver el trasfondo de la situación”.

Esa controversia es reflejo de cómo en la última década la investigación sobre los impactos del maíz transgénico en las razas criollas y la discusión sobre la mejor forma de regular la explotación de esos productos se han convertido en pugna que enfrenta al conocimiento científico contra el afán de lucro. Es una arena en la que los conflictos de intereses no son ajenos a las decisiones políticas, debate que en ocasiones origina disputas que repercuten en las publicaciones científicas más prestigiadas del mundo.

En esta industria la necesidad de financiar investigaciones precisas sobre efectos a largo plazo suele chocar con las presiones de empresas que entienden esos procesos como “pérdida de tiempo” y, por tanto, de dinero.

Aquel artículo de Nature, que en años recientes ha sido refrendado con nuevas investigaciones que confirman el contagio de transgenes en cultivos de maíz, fue impactante porque, según explica Elena Álvarez Buylla, del Instituto de Ecología de la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), “las compañías siempre argumentaron que los organismo genéticamente modificados eran una tecnología precisa y controlable”. La revelación cuestionó uno de los preceptos fundamentales de la industria y demostró que la tecnología no se podía contener.

Desde entonces el debate en torno a si esa contaminación efectivamente se da y puede provocar daños a la biodiversidad del grano ha sido constante entre los expertos. Pero no para las industrias, que lo descartan de entrada.

Para sostener la inexistencia del contagio, Alejandro Monteagudo, director de Agro Bio (asociación que integra a las trasnacionales productoras de transgénicos), se apoya en otro estudio realizado en 2005 por investigadores del Instituto Nacional de Ecología (INE) y de la Comisión Nacional para el Conocimiento y Uso de la Biodiversidad, dependientes de la Secretaría de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (Semarnat). Éste se divulgó en la revista PNAS, de la Academia Nacional de Ciencias de Estados Unidos, el cual contradecía el hallazgo inicial del propio INE y descartó el riesgo de contaminación.

En 40 años de biotecnología, promesas incumplidas

A 10 años de distancia, Chapela, quien aún se desempeña como investigador en Berkeley, recuerda: “En ese momento tuvimos la oportunidad de levantar la sotana a la religión de la biotecnología. Probamos que lo que prometían no estaba ahí, sobre todo el control. Nos dimos cuenta de la influencia de fuerzas corruptas que nada tienen que ver con la ciencia ni con la economía. Ésa fue la gran revelación”.

Dice en entrevista: “Hoy vemos las consecuencias. Estamos cumpliendo 40 años de biotecnología y vemos que no ha dejado nada. Aun así, siguen empujando sus productos con artimañas”.

–El acoso que sufrió en aquel momento, ¿cómo lo recuerda?

–Fue impresionante ver el nivel de coordinación e influencia de las empresas no sólo en México, sino en Estados Unidos y en el mundo angloparlante.

En esos años el periodista inglés Jonathan Matthews siguió el rastro de los correos electrónicos que difamaban a Chapela y descubrió que los dos supuestos investigadores que comenzaron la campaña, Mary Murphy y Andura Smetecek, eran publirrelacionistas al servicio de la trasnacional Monsanto.

Agrega: “Los autores de las cartas en mi contra publicadas en Nature tienen conflicto de intereses directo. Están relacionados con otro escándalo en Berkeley en 1998, en el que Novartis (otra de las grandes de la biotecnología) invirtió 25 millones de dólares en investigaciones. Con ello buscó comprar al profesorado entero”, denunció Chapela en La Jornada en 2002. Por ello el ecólogo fue despedido de su cátedra, que posteriormente recuperó.

Estudios contradictorios

Una vez que se publicaron en México los estudios que corroboraron la presencia de transgénicos en los cultivos tradicionales de maíz, el INE y la Conabio pidieron a Álvarez Buylla y a Rafael Rivera, actual director del Centro de Investigaciones Avanzadas de Irapuato, corroborar la información.

Sin embargo, Sol Ortiz y Exequiel Ezcurra, entonces adscritos al INE, y Jorge Soberón, secretario ejecutivo de la Conabio en aquel momento, “con quienes trabajábamos, decidieron separarse de la investigación, asignar recursos independientes a un proyecto paralelo. En 2005 la revista PNAS publicó su reporte sobre la inexistencia de transgenes en la misma zona donde Chapela y Quist los detectaron”, afirma Álvarez Buylla.

Cuando Science pidió a Álvarez Buylla comentar ese artículo, se dio cuenta de que era el mismo estudio para el que creía estar trabajando, pero con conclusiones contrarias a la evidencia científica que había descubierto.

Ante ello, el equipo del IE enfrentó un nuevo reto: obtener suficientes datos para confirmar la primera conclusión de la contaminación. Y lo logró: encontró evidencias de que había transgenes no sólo en las razas de maíz que habían detectado Quist y Chapela, sino también en Yucatán, Guanajuato y varias zonas de Oaxaca.

Elena Álvarez intentó publicar el nuevo aporte en PNAS. Sin embargo, a pesar de las críticas positivas, no se divulgó. Aquí, nuevamente, apareció el conflicto de intereses. En ese momento la vicepresidenta de dicha academia era Barbara Schaal, de la Universidad de Washington e integrante del comité del Centro de Ciencias de Danforth Plant, institución que se había beneficiado con una donación de 70 millones de dólares de Monsanto. Schaal vetó el artículo que contenía la evidencia científica sobre la movilidad de los transgenes de maíz de un campo de cultivo a otro. Más tarde el estudio de los universitarios se publicó en la revista Molecular Ecology.

Angélica Enciso y Blanche Petrich

http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2012/02/14/politica/002n1pol

Monsanto, transnacional beneficiada de la siembra de maíz transgénico en México.

+Beneficia a Monsanto con autorizaciones para sembrar maíz transgénico en Sinaloa

En la última década tres instituciones nacionales e internacionales recomendaron al gobierno mexicano reinstalar y fortalecer la moratoria al cultivo de maíz transgénico, que luego de 11 años de vigencia se levantó en 2009, cuando se autorizó la siembra experimental del grano con vistas a su liberación comercial.

Lejos de acatar esas recomendaciones, el último día del año pasado el Servicio Nacional de Sanidad, Inocuidad y Calidad Agroalimentaria de la Secretaría de Agricultura, Ganadería, Desarrollo Rural, Pesca y Alimentación (Sagarpa) empezó a liberar las autorizaciones para que las trasnacionales realizaran las pruebas previas a la fase comercial. En principio fue la empresa Monsanto la que se benefició con tres autorizaciones para plantaciones de maíz genéticamente modificado en Sinaloa, en extensiones que, por el momento, no pasan de 150 hectáreas.

La Organización de Naciones Unidas (ONU) hizo una fuerte crítica a mediados del año pasado a las perspectivas de las autoridades agrarias del país de liberar los cultivos de maíz genéticamente modificado para su explotación comercial, y sugirió al gobierno mexicano que declarara “lo antes posible” el regreso a la moratoria.

Después de conocer y analizar los datos científicos más recientes sobre los riesgos ecológicos en México del cultivo de maíz transgénico, al culminar una visita oficial del 13 al 20 de junio de 2011, el relator especial para el Derecho a la Alimentación de la ONU, Olivier de Schutter, concluyó que los programas en curso constituyen para el país “un paso atrás en la realización del derecho a la alimentación”.

Los transgénicos, señaló, plantean “graves riesgos para la diversidad de variedades nativas del maíz” mexicano. Estimó además –contra lo que sostienen las versiones oficiales– que su utilidad es relativa, “ya que esas variedades enfrentan poco los problemas principales, como la resistencia a la sequía o la capacidad de sembrarlas en suelos pobres”.

Concluyó: “No parece haber otra razón para los ensayos de campo que la de ser el primer paso” para la comercialización a gran escala. Advirtió que la expansión de dicho grano provocaría “la desaparición gradual de las variedades locales” y “podría aumentar la dependencia de los agricultores” de una tecnología que va a transferir recursos a las empresas de semillas portadoras de patentes, industria que definió como “muy acaparada”.

En 2009, la Comisión Nacional para el Conocimiento y Uso de la Biodiversidad, organismo científico de la Semarnat, en el estudio Origen y diversificación del maíz, también pidió “reinstalar y mantener la moratoria hasta definir con precisión los centros de origen y diversidad; contar con la infraestructura necesaria para el control de ese maíz; determinar el grado de contaminación de transgenes en las razas del grano en todo el país; llevar a cabo una investigación pertinente sobre el impacto de ese cereal en México y desarrollar programas nacionales de protección, conservación y mejoramiento de las razas de maíz”.

La Comisión de Cooperación Ambiental de América del Norte divulgó en agosto de 2004 los resultados del informe del secretariado, Maíz y biodiversidad, efectos del maíz transgénico en México, realizado por un grupo asesor de 16 científicos de México, Canadá y Estados Unidos. El documento señala: “Dado que la persistencia y la propagación de nuevos genes dependen en forma tan marcada de la tasa del flujo génico, el gobierno mexicano deberá fortalecer la moratoria minimizando las importaciones de países que lo cultivan comercialmente. Por ejemplo, algunas naciones han hecho frente a esta problemática al moler los granos transgénicos en el puerto de entrada”.

Con ello se evitaría que los campesinos mexicanos utilizaran los granos importados como semillas.

Angélica Enciso L. y Blanche Petrich

http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2012/02/14/politica/003n1pol

Transgenes in Mexican maize, ten years on.

Ten years ago, the discovery of transgenes in Mexican maize sparked an international discussion on the use of GM crops in centers of origin and genetic diversity. Since then, the pertinent question is no longer if transgenes will contaminate Mexico’s maize landraces, but more importantly, what we might lose if this continues. Answering this requires addressing the right questions within Mexico’s context – not only the scientific concerns of environmental, health and biodiversity-level effects – but also their inter-related social mand economic impacts. Domestic society should therefore play a role in the assessment of whether genetically modifi ed (GM) maize is appropriate for Mexico as the center of origin and genetic diversity. Today, a more integrative decision making process on the appropriateness of GM maize for Mexican agriculture is needed, including consideration of whether alternative approaches to meeting maize production challenges may provide greater benefits with fewer risks.

Read the brief at:

http://www.genok.com/filarkiv/File/Biosafety_Brief_2011_5.pdf

Maya Food Threatened: Statement vs. GMO Corn In Belize.

It comes as no surprise to us that today the Maya of southern Belize are faced with yet another threat to their existence and way of life. The government of Belize is poised to approve testing of GMO corn seeds developed by Monsanto in our country. For the Maya, GMO corn reminds us of what happened after the arrival of Europeans, who promised us progress and salvation, but whose mere presence introduced diseases that decimated our people and enabled them to overcome us by force, settle on our lands and harvest our untold wealth.

The Maya people refer to ourselves as the people of the corn. Corn has been our staple food and a unique resource that grounds our existence, since the Maya people and our ancestors created it through millennia of selective breeding of the tiny teosinte grain. We have planted the corn, season after season, within the rainforest of southern Belize. In the past, we have been criticized for our slash and burn system of agriculture, when in fact, our rotational system of farming corn and intercropping is one of the only sustainable forms of agriculture in the climate and terrain conditions of southern Belize, and is based on a system of respect and value for Mother Nature; so we forgive the critics.

Now, companies like Monstanto have taken corn, the intellectual property of millennia of Central America’s indigenous people freely shared with the world, and inserted into it genes from other organisms, and tell us that their new, genetically modified corn is superior and good for us. Despite being blamed by newcomers for deforestation and the imminent demise of the rainforest for over a century, the Maya of Toledo continue to live in the most forested region of Belize. The number of schemes that have been foisted upon us by agricultural “experts” over the decades is legion; they have failed and caused our people hardship while our traditional methods continue to sustain us. We have reason to be skeptical of claims by people from other parts of the world that they know better than us about farming in our forests, that they have a better way, that following their science will make life better for us. GMO corn is another such scheme. We are told that to resist GMO crops is to be backward, against progress, against science. They do not tell us that many countries have banned or severely restricted GMO foods. They do not allow them to be grown; they do not allow them to be imported into their countries. These countries include some Caribbean countries, the European Union, Brazil, Peru, Paraguay, Japan, Egypt, the Phillipines, and China – some of the fastest growing economies in the world. In 2007, France withdrew authorization to plant Monsanto GMO corn there after initially allowing it. Resistance to GMO crops is not backward, it is forward thinking.

We are told that GMO seeds are resistant to pests, and so they will provide us with better harvests. In the United States, the same GMO corn strain that Monsanto wants to introduce in Belize was widely adopted by farmers in Iowa and Illinois. It is supposed to resist corn beetles (rootworm). Just this summer, many of those farmers suffered massive losses as fields of corn toppled over from rootworm invasions. The GMO seeds are not only losing effectiveness, but have contributed to the evolution of a pesticide-resistant “superbug”. In Maya traditional farming, pests are kept low naturally, without pesticides, by burning the field when clearing, by planting combinations of crops, and by moving our milpas periodically.

We are told that GMO seeds are more reliable and will provide better harvests. They do not tell us that in South Africa – one of the first countries to adopt GMO corn –the Monsanto GMO corn failed massively in South Africa in 2009 – in 82,000 hectares, the plants grew beautifully, but the cobs were seedless because of “underfertilization processes” in Monsantos’ laboratory”. Those farmers got some compensation, but for Maya farmers, compensation for crop failure later isn’t enough; our families face starvation if the corn harvest doesn’t come in. They do not tell us that in India, farmers who adopted Monsanto GMO cotton on promises of better yields and lower pesticide costs got 35% less crop, and it cost them more to produce. An estimated 125,000 farmers committed suicide due to the crop failure.

We are told that GMO corn is more efficient, and cheaper. They do not tell us that in order to survive, GMO crops need chemical fertilizers and pesticides. As pests gain resistance, more and more chemicals will be required to sustain Monsanto corn. They do not tell us that we will have to buy more and more chemicals, and pay for seeds every year. As Maya, we plant seeds that we save from our previous harvest; they are a gift from the Earth that cost us only our labour. Introducing GMO corn steals that birthright from us.

We are told that if Maya farmers do not want GMO corn, we do not have to use it, but that we should not deny commercial farmers in other parts of the country that right. But once they are being grown in the country, there will be nothing to prevent them from contaminating our local corn, whether we want their Frankenstein genes or not. And once our crops are contaminated, whether we like it or not, Monsanto could be able to make us pay. In Canada, a farmer whose crops were contaminated by GMO plants and who then used seeds from those plants the next year was held to have violated Monsanto’s patent on the plant. He had to destroy the seeds, which also meant destroying the unique variety of the crop he had developed over decades of farming. We are told that BELIPO has the power to deny patent protection to Monsanto, which would protect farmers from this kind of control and dependency to some extent – although Monsanto could still enforce dependency by selling only sterile seeds. But the government hasn’t committed to this action – and another thing that they don’t tell us is that Monsanto has been accused and even convicted of bribing government officials in other countries, including Indonesia and Canada, to allow policies that benefit them. Monsanto cannot be trusted, and a government that allows its devastating products into our country cannot be trusted.

Through our long struggle to defend our lives and our lands, corn has fed us, sustained us, and given us strength. We have always been cash poor but we have food, and can build our homes for shelter without having to buy from hardware stores. So we are not surprised now that our corn itself is under attack. This threatens our independent, self sustained lifestyle and livelihood. We make no apology to state for the record that the introduction of GMO corn is an assault on the food security and independence of the Maya people, to weaken our strength and resistance.

Governments and commercial interests have invaded our forests, appropriated our lands and continue to illegally extract the rich resources that we have long protected us as a people. They stole our culture to sell it for tourism for their own benefit. They challenge our identity and our nationality by spreading the myth that we are recent migrants from Guatemala and not indigenous to Belize. None of this has discouraged the Maya from standing strong and defending the land and her children. On the contrary, we have gained more strength and enjoyed consistent success in the hearts of the Belizean people, the courts, and the international community. Now the government has a new tactic: they seek to starve us, by introducing laboratory-made corn to destroy our Native corn, throw us into dependence on agribusiness corporations and eventually, as farmers sink under the expense of GMO crops, dispossess us of our lands.

Remember, People in Toledo do not grow their corn to sell they grow it to feed their family and animals. If there is some left, then they bring it to the local market in town to sell. People do not make enough money to keep on buying these seeds and all that comes with it. The result is that people not be able to maintain their farms, and be forced to the towns and cities and cayes in search of jobs.

The push for GMO corn in Belize is about corporate greed, not the needs of Belizeans. Let us defend our corn and the integrity of our natural ecosystems . For over 500 years we have managed to survive; we are a resilient people. We do not need, and we will not accept your corn!

http://indigenouspeoplesissues.com


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