The Dirty War against the Peoples of Corn
The Dirty War against the Peoples of Corn
La Jornada, 22nd August 2015
On August 19, 2015, Judge Francisco Peñaloza Heras, presiding over the Twelfth District Court for Civil Matters, cancelled the precautionary measure [injunction] suspending the planting of transgenic corn in Mexico. The injunction was issued two years ago in response to a class action lawsuit for the damages these grains cause to biodiversity and health. However, the suspension remains in force, since the judge’s decision was immediately appealed by Collectivas AC, the legal representatives of the group of 53 people and 20 organizations that filed the class action suit in 2013.
The way Judge Peñaloza made the decision—ignoring arguments made by the plaintiffs and independent scientists, but basing it on the sayings of Monsanto and other companies—is another step in the dirty war against campesino corn and the peoples of the corn.
In sync with the judge’s decision, the transnationals of genetically modified organisms unleashed a barrage of comments to the press assuring that planting was permitted. As René Sánchez Galindo, a lawyer for the plaintiff group, reported: "Monsanto launched a new campaign of lies, since it is false that the planting of GM corn was permitted."
Monsanto’s lies are not limited to legal aspects of the lawsuit. They devote significant time and resources to falsifying data in order to hide what’s really happening with GMOs in countries where planting is massive, like the United States, the country where Monsanto is headquartered.
Based on almost two decades of official statistics (not specific studies funded by enterprises that take partial data) in the country, the reality shows that GMOs are more expensive than existing hybrids, that GMO crop yields are lower on average, and that GMOs have resulted in an exponential increase in the use of pesticides, with devastating effects on soil, water, and the emergence of more than 20 glyphosate-resistant "superweeds".
The industry claims that corn engineered with Bt toxin [Bacillus thuringiensis] decreased the use of pesticides, but fails to explain either that pests have been becoming resistant to Bt or that after an initial decline, pesticide use has increased every year. Therefore, companies are abandoning the sale of Bt corn seeds in order to sell GM corn seeds with stacked traits; that is, with Bt, tolerant to one or more highly toxic herbicides such as glyphosate, glufosinate, dicamba and even 2.4-d, thereby dramatically increasing the use of toxins.
Companies also claim that GM corn can "coexist" with native corn. But many scientific studies and statistics in many countries demonstrate the opposite: where GM crops are cultivated, there will always be contamination, whether by pollen carried on the wind or by insects (at much greater distances than those "anticipated" by the laws) or by the activities of transporting, storing or selling in retail outlets where GM products are not segregated from other seeds.
Many studies conducted in Mexico, including those carried out by Semarnat [Secretariat for the Environment and Natural Resources] itself, show hundreds of cases of GM contamination of native corn—even when planting GM corn is illegal. Legalizing the planting would brutally increase the contamination that directly threatens biodiversity and Mexico’s most important agricultural genetic heritage, bequeathed by the millions of campesino and indigenous peoples who created it and continue to maintain it.
In the United States, contamination from GMOs is pervasive. Monsanto made it a business: suing victims of genetic contamination for using their patented genes, which has yielded the company hundreds of millions of dollars in judgments or out of court settlements. Monsanto recently declared that it is not going to sue farmers in Mexico. It would be absurd to believe it. Of course they will, when they have the right conditions.
Since 2004, Monsanto has already published notices in newspapers in Chiapas warning that anyone engaged in the "illegal" use of their patented genes in "importing, planting, cultivating, selling or exporting" could suffer imprisonment and incur major fines. They also warned that anyone who is "familiar with any irregular situation" must contact Monsanto in order to avoid being accused of complicity. If someone didn’t follow through because he had no legal framework for doing so, one fears that now they [Monsanto] are exerting pressure to correct the situation.
The transnationals lie when they claim that GMOs are harmless to health. For starters, GM crops have a level of glyphosate—the herbicide declared carcinogenic by the World Health Organisation in March 2015—up to 200 times higher [than native corn]. Almost every month, new articles are published with evidence of damage to health or the environment from GMOs.
For example, on July 14, 2015, the peer-reviewed journal Agricultural Sciences published Dr. Shiva Ayyadurai’s research, which shows that GM soybean stores formaldehyde, a carcinogen, with a drastic decrease of glutathione, an antioxidant essential for cellular detoxification. The study analysed 6,497 experiments from 184 scientific institutions in 23 countries. The study lays bare the invalidity of the principle of "substantial equivalence" applied to assess GMOs—falsely claiming that [GMOs] are "equivalent" to conventional organisms. There is little knowledge of how GMOs affect corn biology and what impact GMOs have on biodiversity and the health of Mexico’s populace, who consume more corn than the people in any other country.
The war intensifies, but so does the resistance, like the "popular moratorium" against allowing GMOs in our fields and tables. And that’s not going to end.
*Silvia Ribeiro is Latin America Director for ETC (Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration), which is dedicated to the conservation and sustainable advancement of cultural and ecological diversity and human rights. Ribeiro is based in Mexico.
Translated by Jane Brundage