The efforts of Monsanto to plant transgenic maize in Mexico continue in the news. Monsanto won't be able to fade into the woodwork and silently go about its business. Today in Enlaces Veracruz 212, the following appeared (my translation -- the awkwardness is totally mea culpa). This is, I probably don't need to remind you, in Veracruz, not the states in the north and northwest where the experimental plots are supposed to be created.
By Benigno Montes de Oca M./Acayucan, Ver.
"Mexican officials authorized the transnational company Monsanto to cultivate in an experimental manner genetically modified maize in national territory, this in spite of the innumerable voices of protests and alerts which scientists, ecologists, campesinos, artists and citizens in general have raised.
"The organization Greenpeace staged an unusal demostration in the country's capital, giving in a symbolic manner, voice to national heroes. On October 18 the column of the Angel of Independence was draped in a banner that read: "Maíz transgénico: fin de la independencia [Transgenic maize: end of independence]." [The Angel of Independence monument, one of the most famous icons of Mexico City and Mexico itself, also has statues of national heroes, and they, too, were robed. below is a picture, sans banner.] Meanwhile, the statue of the father of the country, Miguel Hidalgo, had a banner reading, "The evil government which authorizes transgenics will die."
"According to what Aleira Llara, Coodinator of the Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture and Transgenics of Greenpeace said to Forum, represented by Nelly Olivos [who said (?)-- this is a phrase I'm having trouble with. It reads in Spanish: "De acuerdo a lo expresado por, Aleira Lara, coordinadora de la Campaña de Agricultura Sustentable y Transgénicos de Greenpeace a Forum, representado por Nelly Olivos." Please help. This doesn't seem like a complete sentence to me.]
"Even when permits are approved, one ought to "to join in an appeal demanding review the in accordance with the Law of Biosecurity of Genetically Modified Organisms (LBOGM). We have identified various irregularities in the approval of these applications. Furthermore, the modification of the LBOGM and its rules, in March of 2009, was done in an illegal manner.
"According to the activist, the permits recently awarded to Monsanto violate Article 2, Section 11 of the aforementoned law, which establishes a special system of protection of maize owing to the fact that our country is the center of origin of this crop.
"The LBOGM says that in determining the centers of origin and of genetic diversity it should be taken into account that, in the case of cultivars, "the geographic regions in which the organism (maize) was domesticated, should remain centers of genetic diversity.
"In a warning directed at Felipe Calderón on the 29th of September this year, the Union of Scientists Committed to Society argued:
"'Mexico encompassses the centers of origin, domestication and diversification of maize, and for this reason, it harbors the largest part of maize's genetic diversity in the world, and is, in addition, home to all the known wild ancestors....Farmers in diverse agricultural systems of the distinct regions of Mexico depend on a reserve of seeds which they keep from one farming season to another, while they frequently exchange seeds with other producers inside and outside of each community. These activities are at the heart of a dynamic system which guarantees the production and continuity of the genetic diversity of maize.'"
"This is a system which is at risk owing to the transgenic contamination which has been detected for some years in our country. Before March of this year, the sowing of transgenics was not permitted, but in spite of the fact that it was illegal to plant transgenics in Mexico, already various cases of contamination have been documented in laboratory studies.
"The cases in which the transgenes were recorded in maize varieties and documented in corresponding studies are the following: Sierra Juárez, Oaxaca (2000, 2002-2004); in the conservation area of Mexico DF (2003) and in regions of the states of Guanajuato, Veracruz and Yucatán (2002).
"In the cases of contamination detected in Yucatán, Guanajuato, and Oaxaca, it was observed that the source of contamination was a government program called "Kilo por Kilo." Regarding a program of the Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (Sagarpa) which operated between 1996 and 2001, the Greenpeace activist indicated that "this type of maize [used in the program] isn't monitored nor does it have laboratory tests which rule out the presence of transgenics."
"TO WHAT INTERESTS IS THE GOVERNMENT OF MEXICO RESPONDING?
"This is the question that the Network in Defense of Native Maize is asking in its Bulletin 0910, published the 19th of October following the authorization of the experimental planting of genetically modified maize. Made up of 600 non-governmental organizations, the network predicts that with these authorizations, the production of maize is being surrendered to corporations, putting in danger the independence and capacity of the country to produce its own food, and risking our diet by submitting our basic food to a technology which poses serious threats to human health."
"Furthermore, it [the Network] answers the question framed above: the government does not respond to the interests of the people and of the nation.
"We would have to ask the relevant authorities if the interests to which they are responding are those of Monsanto, the company that leads in the production of genetically modified seed. Lara noted that this company holds 90 percent of the patents on transgenic seeds in the world and the approval of Monsanto's cultivation of this type of maize, would signify a major dependency on this transnational which seeks to control via monopoly [the production of] maize.
"Aleira Lara added that 'lamentably in those countries where they have begun to cultivate this type of seed, they have displaced production destined for national consumption with production on a grand scale, that is to say, there is a reconfiguration of production so that it is destined for export or for the production of biocombustibles instead of local consumption thus signifying the dismantelling of food sovereignty for the people.'
WMonsanto has made demands on farmers across the world whose fields have been contaminated with its patented seeds . On Monsanto's web page in Mexico (www.monsanto.com.mx) you can read the following justification for this legal activity:
"'Monsanto patents many varieties of seeds which it develops. The patents are necessary to assure that we receive payment for our products and for all the investment we make to develop these products.....When farmers buy a variety of patented seed, they sign a contract in which they agree that they will cultivate only the seed they are buying from us and that they will not save seeds nor plant the seeds which the plants cultivated from our [patented] seeds produce....A very small number of farmers do not respect this agreement. Monsanto knows, through the actions of our business or through third parties who those people are who are suspected of , our patents and our agreements. In the cases in which we encounter violations, we may fight the majority of cases without going through the courts.'
"In the text cited above, Monsanto signals, basically, three arguments for demanding restitution from campesinos who supposedly use Monsanto's patented seeds: 1) to obtain remuneration from the products generated, 2) to prevent the loss of these remunerations because such losses would not permit invesment in investigation and development and 3) to rectify the injustice caused by those who do not pay for the seeds enjoying their fruits. [My comment: Monsanto has hounded farmers in whose fields they find transgenics which were probably brought in by the wind]
"CONSUMER'S RIGHT TO INFORMATION VIOLATED
Around 10 million tons of yellow corn for forrage is entering Mexico from the United States. It is not known exactly what percentage of this grain is transgenic, but we do know that about 90 percent of the crops supposedly grow with conventional seeds in the US already are contaminated. We do not know whether this maize is destined for animals or for human consumption.
"The LBOGM establishes in Article 101 that 'OGMS [genetically modified seeds] or products that contain genetically modified organisms authorized by the SSA [Secretariat of Health], although they are considered innocuous in terms of the law and may be consumed directly by humans, should have explicit reference made identifying organisms genetically modified. Information should be provided on the nutritional label that identifies the composition of the food and its nutrient properties, in those cases in which these characteristics may be significantly different from conventional products.'"
"The point that is not respected by any of the concerned industries, as activist Lara points out is that 'in the products which derive from this type of transgenic maize, which in fact we are already importing, it is not specified on the label that these products are derived from genetically modified organisms. This is violating the right of consumers to know what they are consuming. They are being denied the right to choose what they want to eat. This brings us to another point, which is the impact these products can have on human health. The industry has refused to list its products, because evidently when consumers aren't sure these products are not going to have an impact on human health, they are going to choose organic products and food produced conventionally [instead of food produced by transgenic seeds].'
"The argument that the genetically modified organisms will end the hunger that millions of people in the world suffer from is not credible, since 'hunger in the world is not a problem of the lack of food, but rather a problem of its bad distribution,'* says Aleira Lara who adds that the conclusion of a study in the US found that 'transgenic cutivation has not succeeded in producing a larger harvest than conventional cultivation, that we are talking about an increase of 2.3 percent which, if you translate it into terms of investment and economics, is not a significant increase since the technology of transgenics costs up to ten times more than conventional production.'
"The repercussions of the sowing of transgenic maize start with the disappearance of traditional cultivation practiced by small producers which can unleash a new wave of migration by campesinos; the disappearance of original species of maize and ecological repercussions; in addition to the economic consequences, since Monsanto seems to be prepared to initiate a new legal strategy to demand that the farmers who 'are abusing their good faith' used seeds without permission and corresponding payments. In all, these consequences signify a blow to the food sovereignty of our country.
*In a December 2 post by Bill Niman and Nicolette Hahn Niman on the Atlantic Monthly food blog the authors cite a University of Arizona study concluding that about half the food in the US is never eaten and that the typical American household throws away almost $600 worth of food a year; that the Environmental Protection Agency claims that food waste is the single largest component (by weight) of American garbage and that the Department of Agriculture estimates that recovery of "just 25 percent of waste food would feed 20 million people."