dorset chiapas solidarity

September 28, 2013

National Day of Corn (Día del Maíz) and Resistance to Silent Privatization

Filed under: Corporations, Maize — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 7:25 am


National Day of Corn (Día del Maíz) and Resistance to Silent Privatization

Victor M. Quintana S.

La Jornada, 27th September, 2013

dscf9280Two basic energies for Mexico are in danger: the energy that moves machines (oil and electricity) and the energy that moves people (food). Both are essential public goods that are about to fall into private hands. To privatize oil profits and the electricity industry, the government of Enrique Peña Nieto will have to move its proposed legal reforms through blood and fire. However, there is another privatization already underway, of similar proportions, which is being carried out effectively without any consensus or any reforms: that of corn.

Corn, whose National Day is celebrated this coming Sunday, Sept. 29, for the fifth consecutive year through the initiative of a large number of peasant, indigenous, academic and artistic organizations of all kinds, is the basic factor and organizer of our food system and the rural economy. It is the most important vegetable raw material on the planet and the nutritional staple of Mexican families, especially those with lower incomes. In turn, it forms the core of the rural economy, especially in the centre and south of the country. Around it develops the diversity of plants that grow in the milpa [traditional fields centred on corn]: beans, chilis, pumpkins, huitlacoches [corn fungus], etc. This diverse production, when it occurs, allows proper nutrition and relatively self-sufficient households.

The key to the farmers’ crop productivity is diversity: both the types of plants that live in the milpa, and in the multiplicity of races and varieties of corn adapted to the very different latitudes, altitudes, climates and soils of Mexico.

All this is being threatened by the “pincer” strategy of transnational agrochemical company, Monsanto, its allies and recent federal governments. On the one hand, they are pressing for and tolerating the introduction of genetically modified seeds into our country, such as cotton and peanuts. But the real goal is to impose transgenic corn in the soil where it originated. Under the pretext of increasing corn production, making it more resistant to drought, pests and frost, Monsanto and various associations of producers, including CNC [National Confederation of Campesinos], are pushing for the massive release of transgenic corn, until now prohibited by law.

But besides this tolerance of the silent invasion, the federal government, or federal governments, the research infrastructure of the few institutions that care for and develop Native corn have been dismantled. An exemplary case is that of INIFAP [National Institute for Forestry, Agricultural and Fisheries Research] of the Sierra of Chihuahua. This public research centre has done an excellent job in at least two major areas: developing oat seeds, such as the variety Páramo, that are resistant to drought and climate extremes and which have had great success and are now grown as far away as Russia. But above all, it has carried out a patient, thorough and very valuable collection and preservation of native corn varieties originating in the mountains of Chihuahua.

But the federal government caters to Monsanto and seeks to dismantle INIFAP Sierra de Chihuahua. It has dramatically reduced budgets to the point that it is virtually impossible to undertake research and collecting trips, the positions of staff who retire or change positions disappear, which means the technical-scientific team is reduced to a minimum. However, other centres of the same institute, which are oriented to commercial agriculture or export, receive preferential treatment.

This pincer movement is the government’s strategy to deliver corn to transnationals and make transgenics predominate, thereby letting the enormous diversity of native corn die by starvation or invasion. It is proved that this would have all kinds of serious damage: environmental, productive, economic, social and political. It would make us become even more dependent on foreign imports for our basic food; it would sink the rural economy below the waterline; it would wipe out the biodiversity of our countryside. Homogenizing corn cultivation means that only those who can afford the very expensive Monsanto seeds can produce it. It means ending the diversity of corn, which will lead to famine.

maiz in the marketFortunately, resistance to this emerged long ago and reveals itself (and rebels) most clearly on National Corn Day. They conduct campaigns such as “Without corn there is no country”, groups like Seed of Life, indigenous community ranging from the Mixtec [in the south] to Rarámuris [in the north] and many more. Peasant organizations, core activists, academics, artists have filed their complaint in multiple national and international forums, most recently before the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal. They don’t just protest; they preserve native seeds, they evaluate them, improve them, multiply them. They inform, raise awareness, revive and promote cultural events, because corn is also culture.

This creative, diverse resistance, with its deep cultural roots and a food and agriculture project firmly based in them, is what has so far prevented the federal government from granting permission for the release and massive planting of genetically modified corn, which has defended our corn from privatization attempts. It is a resistance that needs to make itself visible and be widely disseminated. Like the other resistances that flourish today in order to claim a future that takes up the best in our history.

Translation by Reed Brundage



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