GMOs, Environmental Devastation and Crímes against Humanity
La Jornada, 30th November, 2013
Twenty-two judges, personalities and experts, from twelve countries designated by the international secretariat of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (TPP), listened for ten days to a summary of hundreds of testimonies from organizations and communities across the country about environmental devastation, contamination from genetically modified corn, destruction of food sovereignty and repression of those who resist the trampling of their rights, their cultures, their lands, forests, rivers and forms of social organization.
The days were intense, and the reports are breath-taking. When seen all together, it is a lot of devastation. But it is also notable and full of spirit to see the effort and dedication of thousands of people, of hundreds of communities, and rural and urban organizations to show their realities. They documented abuses suffered while maintaining their capacity to resist. In all this, they still find ways not to be victimized and beyond … they find ways to rescue the joy of life even amidst such pain. They still find ways to be rural people, small farmers, indigenous peoples, supportive neighbours and caregivers of the corn, of the cornfields, of the forest, of the town squares, of the assemblies, of their cultures and their self-managed economic and political forms.
At the hearing, “Violence against Corn, Food Sovereignty and Autonomy,” the jury ruled that “given the environmental, health and economic risks associated with subjugating the global centre of corn’s origin, as well as forming the basis for the survival of the peoples who created it and who bequeathed [the corn] for the good of humanity and for global food security, the testing, release and circulation of genetically modified corn must be banned in Mexico.”
They also considered the testimonies of Mayan organizations from the Yucatán Peninsula, which showed how the planting of GM soya bean destroys beekeeping and the revenue of thousands of rural indigenous families in order to favour a few agricultural employers and Monsanto. GM soybean kills bees by the increase of pesticides. The pollen from GM soya beans is contaminated, which prevents the export of honey. It also promotes the devastation of forests in order to develop soya bean fields that can be sprayed from airplanes, thus causing great chemical contamination, diseases and poisoning the land and water. The jury also recommended eliminating the production of GM soya beans.
[The jury’s ruling] was based on consideration of offences to the peoples, to the environment, and to national and international food security, but it was also based on documents submitted by scientists and farmers showing that tested alternatives exist for producing sufficient corn without using GM methods. The scientists’ and farmers’ documents also showed that a variety of crops can be cultivated, including non-GM soybeans, on the Yucatán Peninsula. Finally, it was demonstrated that if the government proceeds with the planting of GM corn in Mexico (a historic crime threatening 10,000 years of history and corn’s future both in its cradle and in the world), it is not in order to meet any need either of the population or of large-scale farmers, who can plant non-GM hybrids, but exclusively to favour the multinational corporations Monsanto, Pioneer, Dow and Syngenta.
At the hearing “Environmental Devastation and People’s Rights,” the jury ruled that such devastation is part of State action to favour corporate interests over the public interest; in several cases, in conjunction with the illegal repressive actions undertaken by corporations themselves, such as the mining companies. The jury heard evidence regarding destruction of the national water system and of, among others, the contamination and environmental devastation caused by mining, dams, highways, uncontrolled urbanization, garbage dumps, and oil, industrial and agrochemical exploitation. The jurists declare:
“We vigorously condemn the Mexican State for the misuse of power that has caused the environmental devastation of the country. The offences reported are also classifiable in the category of crimes against humanity, as defined in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and as verified in the context of a widespread and systematic attack against the Mexican civilian population.” (www.afectadosambientales.org)
Another demonstration of the crimes against humanity occurred during the hearing on repression of social movements. Forty-two historic and current cases were presented, whose victims were people and organizations that are justly resisting events reported during the other hearings.
Philippe Texier, former judge of the French Supreme Court and a member of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights with forty years’ experience in the TPP, declared that “the situation of rights violations that Mexico’s people and communities are experiencing has been made almost invisible, both by the press and by international diplomacy,” which must change.
Antoni Pigrau, renowned jurist from the Spanish State and other of the twenty-two judges who participated in the TPP sessions in Mexico, added that “there are overwhelmingly affirmative indications that successive governments and private parties in Mexico have committed violations of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, to which Mexico is a signatory.”
In order to understand the far-reaching significance of these statements, we remember that this Court’s mission is to prosecute crimes of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
In 2014 the Permanent Peoples Tribunal will hold thematic hearings on femicide, migration, violence against journalists and disinformation, and the dirty war. Many communities and organizations are already preparing additional hearings in order to document more cases, all of which will enrich the general dossier to be tried in 2014. For more information: tppmexico.org
*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. She is based in Mexico.
Translation by Jane Brundage