dorset chiapas solidarity

July 11, 2016

El sijomal

Filed under: Bachajon, Maize — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 7:17 am



El sijomal


By Xun Betan

6-1-600x407Na’ba sbah te tseltal winik. Photo: Elizabeth Ruiz


Ta yuhil octubre, shachel a’tel sijomal; ta sbahbeyal ya yich’ pasel selab sok sk’altayel. Ta shahchel noviembre ay te stsajel sok sk’utel awal ixim yu’un ya yich’ ts’unel. Ay to mach’a ya sts’un ta shahchibal yuhil diciembre. Ta enero sok febrero yuhil yak’entayel. Ta yutil k’altik ay bayel ta chahp itaj ya yich’ ts’unel sok te stukel nax ya xch’iy mohel.

That is how the trensipal from Bachajon begins the story (+). He describes the second planting of maize (el maíz,) which in the Tseltal language we call “sijomal”. Planting begins in October with the preparation of the fields. In November the seeds are selected and at the end of the month and at the beginning of December the first seeds are planted. In the months of January and February, the fields are cleaned and tended to, then it is the time to plant and nurture along the other plants which grow amongst the corn and in the process enrich the soil with nutrients.

The “sijomal” maize is planted at the end of November and the beginning of December to take advantage of the winter rains which tend to fall in some parts of the jungle in Chiapas. Like every year, the farmers in the region prepare their fields and wait for the first big rain storm. The trensipal says how this year, the planting season changed a lot and the rain arrived late and the harvest that year of the habil k’altik (as we’d say in Tseltal) had very little corn and some parts of fields were completely dry. Now, for the “sijomal” many people don’t plant until the month of December because of the lack of rain. The drastic changes in the climate are greatly affecting the production of maize. So we pray and hold rituals to ask for the health and bountiful harvest from the plants, as part of the field, as part of our foods, just as our ancestors did.

Rituals are ways communities maintain a relationship with Mother Earth, harmonising the production of our food while also nurturing community life. On the other hand there are projects which day after day invade the communities, bringing with them destruction of the natural habitat and community life. This is what has happened with the cattle project in the jungle and the planting of African Palm. Paying for the use of the environment, is just part of taking advantage of the natural resources, which leads to the devastation of the jungle, and then the campesinos are blamed, which later will lead to the giving of permission for the energy reform law on the part of Chiapas, the Pozo Petroleros. Some of this we’ve already mentioned in a EZLN communique where we described this serious problem and the same thing is being said by the indigenous party supporters.

This is how rituals are ways that unite and convoke indigenous communities to maintain on-going community relations. Far from thinking that spirituality is pointless or boring as has happened in some cases in other religions, spirituality embodies knowing, harmony and community. In this way spirituality is a way people systematise knowledge and create internal organisational structures, giving way to the calpules. Within these ranks are more traditional, organizational roles like capitanes, mardomas, and then trensipaletik. “Trensipaletik” are people recognized by their communities for having great knowledge and moral authority. Additionally there’s the deacons or j’abatineletik, who are servants of God’s word representing a local Mayan, Catholic spirituality.

On the other hand we have publicity from the religious sects and the new lines of Catholicism which pressure people to disassociate from their identity and land, encourage dependency and push people to merely be consumers of assistance projects and projects financed by the State. We have the planting of the African Palm in the jungle and other cases as examples. This same situation can also be seen in the new educational model; the use of green school uniforms in indigenous communities is discriminatory; and the school schedule takes children away not just from the land but their families for the whole day. (*) There’s also the school food programme and these same children don’t know what powders they are consuming and they’ll never know about fields and the planting season.

For some years now, the large expanse of the territory encompassed by the ejidos San Sebastián and San Jerónimo in Bachajón, along with the communal lands of Casa del Pueblo de Venustiano Carranza have been in the targets of developers and government who would like to seize it themselves. These cases, along with the dispossession of the campesinos in the Yucatan and in Quintana Roo, among others, show how the indigenous communities have been a hindrance to the System, which seeks in any way it can to banish people from their land. The murder of Berta Caceres is an example of the situation of elimination indigenous communities face and what happens when resisting big deadly projects. The constant murders of women, homophobia, kidnapping and disappearance of people is terrifying and is part of a model that generates terror.

Despite the situation of war started by the State against the indigenous people and the most poor, in the fields we still plant maize, squash, chili and various types of vegetables and fruits, these not only keep the communities alive, but big cities too. Even though the State tried to legalise the planting of genetically modified corn, many people refused to be silent and raised their voices to stop it. It’s the same thing with telecommunications law Article 23 which wanted to prohibit the use of indigenous languages in the national media, and thanks to action by Mardonio Carballo this was stopped. We hope the same will happen with other indigenous communities struggling to defend their land against large wind projects, mining, dams, highways, pipelines among others. Despite all of this we continue and will continue resisting to maintain our connection with Mother Earth.

The trensipal ended the conversation by saying that his corn plants had already begun to flower and in some places there were small ears of corn. When his plants have ears of corn, a ceremony will be held, just as his parents taught him, to thank Mother Earth because soon there’ll be corn to feed his family. It’s also noticeable that the various trees and flowers in the countryside have begun to bloom, these will feature in the celebrations of Semana Santa (Easter Week). This will be followed by habil k’altik, the agricultural year which begins in May with the feast of Santa Cruz. Meanwhile the colorin, peach, mangos , avocados, jocotes, the cuchunuk and lots more are beginning to give us snichimal ko’tantik.


Na’ba sbah te tseltal winik[1]

Ma’yuk mach’a halbilbil yu’un, te tseltal winik bayel binti ya sna’

Te tseltal winik xchamet yo’tan ya yil te ek’etik sok spisil bintik ya xlaj sohl ta ch’ulchan,

sok nix te bintik nak’ajtik ta yut mamal nahbil…

K’alal ya sjak’ yo’tan, te tseltal ya xk’opoj ta stukel nax sok te yo’tane.


A Tseltal person knows a lot of things without anyone having taught them

Full of admiration contemplating the stars and all that happens in the sky.

Just like the inside of a well also hides things

When a Tseltal draws a breath, they speak alone with their hearts.


[1] Avelino Guzmán. a Tseltal Poet, translator and writer from Bachajón, Chiapas, 1975.


(+) trensipal – elder

(*) translator’s note:  One way indigenous identity is proudly expressed is through wearing traditional clothing. The community believes it discriminatory to force children to wear school uniform. Zapatista schools, contrary to State schools, have no uniform. 


Translated by the UK Zapatista Translation Service


Dorset Chiapas Solidarity



March 11, 2016

Transgenic Maize will not be sown in Mexico

Filed under: Maize — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 12:26 pm



Transgenic Maize will not be sown in Mexico



Scientists beat Monsanto in court; native maize varieties (pictured above) will be preserved


On 8 March, a court headed by Judge Benjamín Soto Sánchez notified via an appeal sentence to the Mexican Agriculture Department (Sagarpa) that they are not allowed to grant release or cultivation permissions for transgenic maize until the collective trial promoted by scientists, specialists and farmers is definitively resolved.

This resolution revokes the one that last August had denied the permanent ban on cultivation for transgenic maize. But because of the immediate appeal brought by the Maize Collectivity (Colectividad del Maíz), the ban remained in place at all times.

“Today, we can claim that the precautionary banning measure is definitive until the collective trial or an appeal trial is resolved,” declared the native maize defenders in a press release.

Scientists and specialists signing and heading the collective complaint have no conflicts of interest, since they don’t depend on or have any relationship with transnational companies.

Among the plaintiff scientists are Antonio Turrent Fernández, agronomist; Víctor Manuel Toledo, in the socio-environmental area; Julio Glockner and Narciso Barrera Bassols, in the anthropology, history and culture areas; Raúl Hernández Garciadiego, in ethics and gastronomical heritage; Miguel Concha Malo, director of the Fray Vitoria Centre, in the Human Rights area, and Luciano Concheiro and Patricia Moguel in the food heritage area.

The transnational companies denounced since July 2013 are Monsanto, Syngenta, Pioneer-Dupont and Dow. The scientists also denounced Sagarpa and Semarnat.

Soto Sanchez’s sentence establishes that the collective trial showed the illicit presence of transgenes in native maize crops, so that we can claim that the violation of Mexican and international laws has been demonstrated. Because of this, the appeal sentence bans the granting of permissions for commercial cultivation of transgenic maize.

Double triumph of scientists against transgenic maize

The federal appeal court sentence granted another victory to this group of scientists, inasmuch as if experimental crops were sown, they would be subject to control and a monthly assessment by the federal judge and the scientists winning this legal battle.

Results from experimental cultivations, permissions for which were granted in 2009, have not been assessed at all; with this new ruling, there will be monthly assessments of the containment measures and their efficacy, giving a judge power to revoke permission for the experiments.

Furthermore, transgenic maize intended to be cultivated for research purposes and using glyphosate-based herbicides will be assessed by judges and the plaintiff scientists.

English translation: Observatorio OMG 
Source: La Jornada de Oriente





November 4, 2015

Appellate Court Upholds Suspension of Planting Permits for GM Corn

Filed under: Maize — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 8:32 pm


Appellate Court Upholds Suspension of Planting Permits for GM Corn




La Jornada: Angélica Enciso L.

Because it could cause irreversible damage to corn’s centre of origin, located in Mexico, the federal government may not issue permits for planting genetically modified corn to the transnational corporations seeking to introduce their products into the country, while legal proceedings presented by citizens are settled.
A court ruled in favour of the appeal filed by the Corn Collective against the August 19 judicial decision — which had lifted the moratorium on cultivation of GM corn that has been in effect since 2013. With this ruling, the suspension of issuance of planting permits has been upheld, reported attorney René Sánchez Galindo.

Sánchez Galindo explained that Federal Magistrate Benjamin Soto Sánchez, head of the Second Unitary [Appellate] Court for Civil and Administrative Matters of the First Circuit, confirmed the provisional suspension such that the Secretariats of Environment and Agriculture may not authorize experimental, pilot or commercial planting to the transnationals Monsanto, Pioneer and Dow, among others.

The suspension against issuance of planting permits has been in effect since September 2013, when dozens of researchers and citizens filed a class action lawsuit in defence of native maize and against the cultivation of genetically modified organisms in the country. The lawsuit was accepted by a court which decided, as a precautionary measure, to suspend the process of issuing planting permits. At that time, the planting of GM corn was entering its commercial phase.

The Appeal

On August 19, Judge Francisco Peñaloza Heras, with the Twelfth District Court in Civil Matters, lifted the precautionary measure that prohibited planting of the grain. In response, the Corn Collective filed the appeal that is still not definitively resolved*, but the ruling by Judge Soto confirmed the suspension in the planting of transgenic corn, Sánchez Galindo explained.

Sánchez described the federal court’s argument: the law requires preserving evidence in a judicial proceeding while an appeal works its way through the legal system; given that once GM Corn is planted, the damage would be irreversible.  [MV Note: The risk is unacceptably high that wind-born pollen will contaminate native corns.]

The class action lawsuit against the planting of GM Corn was filed in July 2013. With the accompanying suspension, it has faced 100 legal challenges filed by the federal government and the transnational corporations, including 22 petitions for amparo that 17 federal courts have settled, including the First Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN). In all cases, the courts have decided to uphold the precautionary principle and prevent planting the modified seed.

Supreme Court Ruling on GM Soybean Expected Today

Bernardo Bátiz, adviser in the class action lawsuit on behalf of native corn and former Attorney General of the Federal District, said that the Second Chamber of the Supreme Court, which today will rule on the appeal filed by Yucatán beekeepers against the planting of GM Soybean, must consider that we are a mega-diverse country biologically, culturally and agriculturally.

In a statement released by the collective, the attorney argued that planting GM Corn, Soybean or any other GMO would have many negative effects, including that Mexican honey would no longer be organic.

*Excerpted from Aristegui Noticias:


Additionally, the Court scheduled a hearing on November 17 for those involved.

By telephone, Sánchez Galindo stated: “The Court also set November 17th as the date for the hearing of the appeal.  It is going to be settled there. First will be the hearing, then the Court will have to make its final ruling on the appeal and whether or not the suspension is upheld, but for now it is confirmed that planting is suspended by court order.”

Sanchéz Galindo pointed out that at the hearing, “citizens, scientists and all the defendants — the transnational companies, SAGARPA [Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food] and SEMARNAT [Secretariat for the Environment and Natural Resources]. We are all scheduled for the 17th.”

Sánchez Galindo further considered that there would not be a ruling the day of the hearing, but that the Court could take up to 3 months to hand down its decision. …

Translated by Jane Brundage



October 1, 2015

Mexico’s National Day of Corn Strengthens Citizen Resolve to Keep Mexico Free of GM Corn – Greenpeace

Filed under: Maize — Tags: — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 6:49 pm


Mexico’s National Day of Corn Strengthens Citizen Resolve to Keep Mexico Free of GM Corn – Greenpeace

Photo: Greenpeace-Mexico

Photo: Greenpeace-Mexico

Aristegui Noticias: Greenpeace Mexico commemorated September 29—National Day of Corn—by intensifying its campaign of signatures calling on Mexico’s Courts to ban the cultivation of genetically modified corn.

On Tuesday, various artists and members of the organization gathered at the Federal Judiciary Building … to ask the Mexican justice system to prevent the cultivation of GM corn crops in our territory. A communiqué [released by Greenpeace] reported: “Currently, the planting of GM corn in Mexico is suspended, thanks to the class action lawsuit filed by 53 scientists, intellectuals, farmers, artists, activists, and 22 civil society organizations that have put up a strong legal battle.”

Singer Rubén Albarrán, actress Julieta Egurrola and actor Héctor Bonilla [photo, left], together with Greenpeace activists and volunteers, took part in forming a human ear of corn [photo, right] to show that we are many who defend our corn. They reported: “In the coming days, Mexican courts will decide definitively whether to allow or prohibit the planting of GM corn in our country. Up to now, for more than 20 years, we have prevented its authorization, and we are confident that if we continue relying on your support, we will definitely succeed!”

Sandra Laso, head of the Healthy Eating Campaign, Tierra Sana [Healthy Earth], at Greenpeace, stressed that since Mexico is the site of origin of 59 corn species and their varieties, the federal courts must protect this grain. Hence, she asked to take into account all the scientific arguments brought by the Collectivity of Corn in order to determine the future of this seed, considering its relevance at the cultural level and that it is now [and has always been] a staple of the Mexican diet.

Monsanto Wants to Sow GMOs

José Antonio Tiburcio, director of Monsanto’s Agricultural Transformation programme, reported that in one decade, starting in 2014, they have the objective of producing modernized [GM] corn in one million hectares in the south-southeast region of the country on behalf of 6,000 thousand producers.

He said that the project began last year and so far reports an annual investment of 1.5 million USD, so technical personnel sponsored by Monsanto might support the entire process understood as ranging from planting to the marketing of the [GM] corn.

Tiburcio recounted that in the United States 80% of corn produced is genetically modified; therefore, 80% of the corn that Mexico imports from the northern neighbour is also genetically engineered.

Day of Corn became one of gratitude to farmers who continue sowing

Angélica Enciso L.

La Jornada, 30th September 2015


La Jornada, 30th September 2015

The National Day of Corn grew out of gratitude to the farmers who continue planting native corns. The heart of the celebration were ears of corn in many colours, messages and ceremonies in indigenous languages, and the tasting of tamales and corn in the Botanical Garden at the National Autonomous University of Mexico [UNAM].

Chef Enrique Olvera, recognized a few days ago for his culinary career [Chefs’ Choice Award, awarded by vote of chefs in Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants], explained that in the course of his work, he chats with his customers about different corns, as if they were wine. Speaking to dozens of peasant farmers who took part in the celebration, he said:

“We talk about the harvest, about the region, about the producer. It is the best way of paying tribute to you.”

Chef Enrique added that we must stop talking about the tortilla as a commonplace, as a vehicle for eating a taco or as something simple, and begin “valuing it, seeing the importance and diversity that the corns have for making the tortilla, the ones best for making pinole [corn beverage], for preparing pozole [corn soup], for using corns in the best way.”

Mexican cuisine is a collective effort, we rely on you: “Each corn expresses a territory. In each one we find a different flavour.”

Speaking in the face of the latent threat of sowing GM corn in Mexico, Chef Enrique added: “I would like to thank everyone who has taken part in this struggle. We are part of this community. We will raise our voices when necessary.”

The celebration began with dances and rituals, with a ceremony in Nahuatl symbolizing gratitude for the [just-concluded corn] harvest. Then came the messages, like the one from Cristina Barros with the campaign Without Corn There Is No Country [Sin maíz, no hay país], who pointed out the commitment of the people who work in the countryside, “dedicated to planting our corns, they are coping with climate change with our own corn and seeking strategies” with the corn [hand-breeding new varieties]; such knowledge would be impossible if corn is privatized.

Adelita San Vicente, director of Seeds of Life [Semillas de Vida], argued that this Day of Corn, under the slogan, “Let’s shuck the violence, Stop the agricidio [murder of agriculture]: Let’s fight for indigenous and peasant farming as an alternative civilization”, and she supports calling for “tending the cornfield in order to defend this way of life.”

Greenpeace activists and the actors Julieta Egurrola and Héctor Bonilla demanded that the corn be protected and that Mexicans’ pleas be heard asking for healthy, GMO-free, food.

At the end of the ceremony, activists positioned themselves on the steps of the building to form an ear of corn, and they unfurled a banner with the message:

United for a Mexico Without GMOs“.


Translated by Jane Brundage



August 27, 2015

Court’s Decision to Lift Ban on Planting GM Corn Is an Attack on Native Corn – Agro-Ecology Supporters

Filed under: Maize — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 5:24 pm


Court’s Decision to Lift Ban on Planting GM Corn Is an Attack on Native Corn – Agro-Ecology Supporters


Angélica Enciso L.

La Jornada, 25th August, 2015

In a statement, members of the network of agro-ecology supporters in 11 Chiapas municipalities working with the Union of Scientists Committed to Society (UCCS) pointed out that the court decision to lift the preventative measure that for the last two years has halted the process of authorizing planting permits for GM corn is an attack on the capacity of campesinos to manage their native corn in their local territories and in the country.

[Further,] they warned that Monsanto, Pioneer and Dupont already own 95 percent of [Mexico’s] native seeds, including corn, listed in the National Catalogue of Plant Varieties.

In face of this, they said, seeking the preservation of native corn is not an “emotional” whim, public misinformation or “invalid” evidence as stated by: “Monsanto employees or the one in charge of Science in the Office of the President (Francisco Bolívar). For us corn is identity, knowledge, territory, culture, history, health and the possibility of food self-sufficiency.”

In a statement, they pointed out that in overturning the precautionary measure, Judge Francisco Peñaloza, presiding over the Twelfth District Court for Civil Matters of the First Circuit, left out arguments presented by the UCCS that expose the health risks associated with industrialized and GM food.

Although the judge lifted the injunction, planting of GM corn cannot take place because [as soon as Judge Peñaloza’s ruling was announced,] the Corn Collective that had filed the original class action lawsuit against GM corn in 2013, immediately filed an appeal, which still has to be resolved in court.

Network members added that there is great interest among the transnational corporations driving the planting of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in Mexico, because Monsanto expects GMOs to represent between 75 and 80 percent of its sales.

They pointed out that the judge did not consider that it is not possible to control the GMOs affecting native corn. [The judge’s ruling] violates “the right of present and future generations to access native Mexican biodiversity. We declare that we know the way in which Monsanto and the transnationals grouped together in Agro-bio together with the Mexican government manipulate and weave their strategies of misinformation.”

They added that cultivation of GM corn “has nothing to do climate change or hunger or supposed humanitarian aid: what they want is to steal our corn.”

Translated by Jane Brundage



August 23, 2015

The Dirty War against the Peoples of Corn

Filed under: Indigenous, Maize — Tags: , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 8:21 am


The Dirty War against the Peoples of Corn


Silvia Ribeiro*

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



August 21, 2015

Court Lifts Injunction Against Planting GM Corn, Citizen Group Files Appea

Filed under: Maize — Tags: , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 7:06 pm


Court Lifts Injunction Against Planting GM Corn, Citizen Group Files Appeal


Mathieu Tourliere

Proceso, 20th August 2015
Mexico City – The Twelfth District Court on Civil Matters for the First Circuit today cancelled the precautionary measure [injunction] that has prevented transnational businesses, including Monsanto and Syngenta, from planting GM corn in Mexico.

René Sánchez Galindo, the group’s attorney, confirmed to Proceso that upon learning of the decision, the group of citizen members of the Demanda Colectiva [Class Action] AC, which brought the [original] class action lawsuit that blocked the sowing of GMOs in the country, filed an appeal. Sánchez Galindo pointed out that the issuance of permits remains blocked until the [appellate] court confirms or rejects the lower court’s decision to “knock down” the precautionary measure.

In September of 2013, the Twelfth District Court on Civil Matters for the Federal District had considered that by allowing the authorization of planting permits for GM corn, the risk would exist of endangering dozens of native species, due to the fact that Mexico is considered corn’s place of origin. For that reason, the judge implemented the precautionary measure that froze planting permits for the duration of the judicial procedure by which the Demanda Collectiva sought a judicial ruling on the legality of sowing GM corn.

Since the precautionary measure was issued, the Demanda Colectiva has successfully defended 93 legal challenges and 22 amparo [petitions for protection, similar to injunction] proceedings initiated by both the transnational corporations and federal agencies.

Sánchez Galindo explained that in determining that the injunction be lifted, Judge Francisco Peñaloza Heras considered that there are no elements such that the illegal presence of GMOs might exist in native corn. This [conclusion] was based solely on an assessment by the Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection, despite independent and official studies from the National Institute of Ecology and Climate Change that cite 89 cases of the presence of GM corn in native crops.

In a bulletin issued in the evening, the colectivo deplored that “the court decision failed to rule on all our arguments and evidence”; including that once released into the environment, GMO’s become “uncontrollable” both through pollination, but especially by the campesinos’ traditional system of exchanging seeds. Both circumstances threaten corn’s biodiversity in the country.

“On appeal,” the activists put forward in the bulletin, those arguments “could be heard”, and they trusted that “they will get a favourable ruling”.

Transnationals Applaud Court’s Decision

AgroBIO, the association that brings together businesses and sectors interested in planting GMOs in Mexico, affirmed that as a result of the judge’s decision announced yesterday, the Secretariats of Agriculture (Sagarpa) and the Environment (Semarnat) will begin to resume granting planting permits for GMOs. At the same time, it called on the government to take up again “immediately” the authorizations that were halted two years ago.
Ricardo Guimaraes, president both of AgroBio México’s Executive Board and of the multinational Dow AgroSciences, applauded that “the rule of law has favoured lifting this measure”, and he affirmed that GMO’s bring “economic and environmental benefits”.
With information from La Jornada.

Translated by Jane Brundage



June 19, 2015

Mexican Government Hid Presence of GMOs in Native Corns – Citizen Lawsuit

Filed under: Corporations, Human rights, Indigenous, Maize — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 8:30 am


Mexican Government Hid Presence of GMOs in Native Corns – Citizen Lawsuit

Aristegui News

Photo: Cuartoscuro Archive/Enríque Ordóñez

Photo: Cuartoscuro Archive/Enríque Ordóñez

In connection with the class action lawsuit against genetically modified corn the Secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources (Semarnat) hid from the Twelfth District Court in Civil Matters in the Federal District that between 2004 and 2012 the National Institute of Ecology and Climate Change (INECC), a public body chaired by the Secretary of the Environment himself, detected in several cases the illegal presence of GM corn in native corns in six states of the Republic.

René Sánchez Galindo, lawyer for the campaign Sin Maíz No Hay País [Without Corn There Is No Country], explained that Semarnat lied to the federal court in answering the class action lawsuit filed by 53 citizens and 20 civil organizations. In September 2013, they obtained an injunction to suspend the processing and authorization of permits for planting GM corn that has remained in force for 21 months and has withstood 93 challenges in 17 different federal courts.

The false information provided by Semarnat has been taken up again by the defendant transnational corporations: Monsanto, Syngenta, Pioneer-Dupont and Dow Agrosciences, in connection with judicial processing of the class action lawsuit.

The information from the INECC, Sánchez Galindo added, demonstrates that the flow of pollen and/or seed is uncontrollable. Commercial planting of GMOs has not even been approved, and the presence of GMOs in native corn varieties already exists.

By law, the presence of corns modified through genetic engineering should be zero. The cause could be due either to the importation of GM yellow corn for consumption, mainly by cattle, or to experimental and pilot plantings between 2009 and 2013.

If commercial planting of GM corn were to be allowed, the effect on the human right to the conservation, sustainable use and biodiversity of native corn varieties and their wild relatives, would be irreversible.

Translated by Jane Brundage



May 25, 2015

The Genetic Memory of Corn and Cultures

Filed under: Maize — Tags: — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 9:18 am


The Genetic Memory of Corn and Cultures

By Phil and Kathy Dahl-Bredine


In Mexico a judicial process is beginning, to decide whether genetically modified corn will be widely planted here in the centre of origin of corn. There is every reason against permitting this, from the fact that the seed is more expensive and does not yield more, to laboratory experiments that indicate potentially severe health effects from its consumption. The patent systems associated with these corns are effectively designed to concentrate control of seeds in corporate hands, and now the World Health Organization has determined that the herbicide, glyphosate, that most current GM corns are modified to resist, is a probable cause of cancer. The technological package that necessarily comes with GM corn raises production costs and creates total dependency on agribusiness corporations. Reason enough…

But here in Oaxaca those of us who still plant the rich variety of native corns have an additional reason. We have corns with a great variety of genetic strengths. In this Mixtec village of Yucuyoco it is the dry season. Yet many of us have just finished planting an ancient variety of corn called “cajete” that can resist months of drought until the first rains come in June.

This and hundreds of other varieties of native corns contain 10,000 years of genetic history and corresponding diversity. Biologists teach us that though all of this history is still in the memory of the corn seed, a corn plant at any one time “expresses” only a select part of the genetic richness it contains. What other hundreds of potential interesting “unexpressed” qualities might the cajete corn contain? But what characteristics will it express if contaminated with GM corn pollen? Will it still be drought resistant?

We wait to see if the culture of corporate privilege and political corruption that is behind the idea of patented genetically modified seeds is stronger than our reasons. In the meantime we wonder about how this culture came to be so dominant.

Perhaps a culture is like a living plant. Each one contains thousands of years of experience and values within it. We could perhaps call this its genetic history, its cultural memory. But it may be, much like the native corn, that at any one time in history a culture can only “express” a small part of its “genetic” richness.


No doubt Western culture has in its genetic history basic human values such as community feeling, sharing, reciprocity, solidarity and community responsibility. Yet over the last so many centuries, the primary genetic material that is being “expressed” is an extreme individualism, unsustainable acquisitiveness, greed, and a violent economic, cultural, and military aggressiveness.

What turns of history and of ideological manipulation have caused this part of Western culture’s genetics to be expressed so forcefully and become dominant in our times is an interesting question.

Fortunately, the human family has alternative cultures, each with its own genetic history and cultural memory. In Yucuyoco, the dominant cultural traits still being expressed have to do with what some Oaxacan indigenous thinkers have called “communality”. In spite of centuries of cultural, economic and military aggression by Western civilization, communal landholding, mutual aid in the form of gueza, community service projects called tequios, and economic redistribution systems such as the mayordomias associated with village celebrations are dominant values of the culture. Human solidarity with the spirits of the Earth, with ancestors and with the Mother Earth of the Mixtec villages.

They are also dominant features of other Latin American indigenous societies, variously called “buen vivir”, “sumak kawsay” or “lekil kuxlejal”, among other terms. Indigenous civilizations have had their empires and their violence historically. But the part of their genetic memory that is being expressed today represents the basic values that the human family needs to confront the world of violence and depredation that the dominance of Western civilization has helped to create.

What historical turns and ideological principles have led the indigenous cultures to express these communitarian values in this time in history? What can we do to help Western culture rediscover these values?

And which set of cultural values will the courts of Mexico affirm when they decide the fate of GMO corn and of the “people of corn” here in Mexico?



April 19, 2015

The Pathways of Corn

Filed under: Maize — Tags: — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 8:00 am

The Pathways of Corn

Silvia Ribeiro

La Jornada, 18th April, 2015


Corn sown in order to eat is the sacred sustenance of the man who was made from corn. Sown by business, it is the starvation of the man who was made of corn.

Simple and profound, each day these words of Miguel Ángel Asturias become more meaningful. Now the business of sowing starvation belongs to four transnational corporations that want to monopolize and transgenically contaminate corn, until the hands that bred and cared for this food of mankind might even have to buy seed from them and pay them for “inappropriate patent use” should their ancestral corns be contaminated with GMOs.[i]

The attack is extensive, but the defence is even more so. So important is maize in Mesoamerica, that the transnationals cannot believe they are encountering so many obstacles to imposing their will, which they have done with impunity on many other issues. So deep are the roots and reasons for the women and men of corn, which like the sun, unfailingly returns, dissipating the clouds, weaving sunrises, germinating new seeds and growing new ears of corn in many colours, shapes and flavours.

For the last 21 months, planting genetically modified corn in Mexico, its centre of origin, has been legally suspended, an unprecedented and praiseworthy event, which is now entering a new phase. Collective AC, the legal representative of a class action lawsuit filed by 53 individuals and 20 organizations, announced that after overcoming a long [legal] process [designed] to prevent this issue from even being discussed, the legal process for considering the case against GM corn for damages that it entails for biodiversity and health, among others, is now set to begin. In 2013, in connection with this class action lawsuit, the court approved an injunction that suspended the planting of GM corn at the experimental, pilot and commercial levels, while it also ordered the authorities to refrain from undertaking any procedure aimed at issuing new planting permits until the charges brought are decided.

Across the last 21 months, they had to face 91 challenges filed not only by Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow, Pioneer (DuPont) but by the Secretariats of both Agriculture and Environment. The challenges presented by the Secretariats represent shameful acts, the diversion of State authority in order to favour the profitability of transnational businesses against the interests of the peoples who created the corn and against the will of the vast majority of Mexico’s citizens. In November 2014, the final ruling of the international Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal made this point clear.

Business and government together have filed 11 petitions for amparo [injunction] (nine by the transnationals; two by the federal government) to reverse the restraining order and another 11 (again nine corporate; two federal) against the grounds for the class action lawsuit. Collective AC had to respond to each of the challenges, and it also filed 26. To date seventeen courts have been involved: one federal court, one court of appeal, three amparo courts, one administrative commission, 10 collegiate [district] courts, and the first chamber of the Supreme Court. When all appeals against the lawsuit are finally turned down, the legal procedure will begin. Along the way, several courts also ruled in favour of the suspension [restraining order] as a precautionary measure, such that it will be maintained during the legal proceeding.

The sowing of GM corn is suspended not only due to this important legal work and the action of honest judges who affirmed the defence of the country’s most important genetic heritage. It is also suspended thanks to the defence of the land, seeds, soil, water and forests by [indigenous] communities and ejidos in all corners of the country; and thanks also to every neighbourhood and organization that decides to eat [corn] tortillas without GMOs, thanks to every school, forum, dining room and talk show where their atrocities are reported and where it is sought to build or strengthen networks for ensuring that the hands of small farmers might remain free of GMOs, these same hands that supply corn to local markets and fairs. Thanks to strong national and international public opinion against the release of GM corn in its centre of origin, because it condemns the inevitable contamination in Mexico, which is the global genetic reservoir of corn that is [with rice and wheat] one of the three grain pillars for the global food supply.


Eduardo Galeano was a beloved presence who always felt and supported the struggles of the peoples of corn. Citing the Popol Vuh, Eduardo told us that when the gods were making human beings, before they made them of the corn that is their true essence, they tried making them of wood. Although they seemed to be human beings, they were insensitive and ambitious; they did not respect the earth or other living beings. The gods thought they had eliminated them, but some escaped and today, Galeano told us, they rule the world.

But despite their assaults, they are also broken and finally die. Defence of the corn and its communal care will live on forever, in perpetuity. Eduardo continues walking along the pathways of the corn. His words and feelings, like the seeds that return to grow and marry with many others bred by the indigenous communities, will continue to germinate.  

Translated by Jane Brundage

[i] MV Note: Corn is a crop with open pollination; that is, its pollen can travel long distances on the wind. Thus, in the case of the GMOs, the danger is contamination of native corns by windborne GMO pollen



December 27, 2014

Time Is Against Genetically Modified Corn

Filed under: Maize — Tags: , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 5:51 pm


Time Is Against Genetically Modified Corn

Silvia Ribeira*

La Jornada, 27th December, 2014


B5GgXddCYAAwb95Another year is ending in which the struggles of the peoples of corn, in various ways, continue to impede the release of genetically modified [GM] corn in Mexico, its centre of origin. It is an issue of global importance and a breath of fresh air in the face of such disaster that the country is living through, with a State that massacres daughters and sons, young people, peasants, indigenous people.

In its final report delivered in November of 2014, the international jury of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (TPP) called for banning GM corn in Mexico, in order to contain the contamination and violation of the rights of the peoples who created the corn. It appealed to several UN agencies, such as the FAO [Food and Agriculture Organization] and the Convention on Biological Diversity, to fulfil their global obligation to protect the centre of origin of maize [corn] ( It supported the legal measure that suspended the planting of GM corn in response to the collective action filed by 53 individuals and 20 organizations, and that still stands, despite the concerted attack by multinationals and the government.

Corn is one of the three main staple food grains across the planet, and it is the greatest agricultural feat that humanity has inherited. The foods we eat were not originally as we know them today. All the seeds cultivated in the world are the result of collective care, of the mutual breeding that indigenous and peasant communities have been doing for centuries, converting the seeds into the heritage of the peoples in the service of humanity, as reviewed in La Via Campesina. From the teocintle, which is almost a grass, Mesoamerican communities created a plant with ears that presents an enormous variety of colours, sizes, flavours, properties, and that grows from the hotlands at sea level up into the cold mountains at altitudes of 3,000 meters [9,800 feet]. When the conquistadores arrived, corn was grown from Canada to Tierra del Fuego. Corn is a humanized plant: it neither exists nor multiplies without the action of human beings. But its pollen is spread on the wind and by insects and birds. Corn marries with other corn varieties, and those [hybrids] with still others, moving, brightening both themselves and us, coming back to grow again thanks to peasant hands that take in the corn, feed it and from it feed themselves and feed us.

dsc5121Genetically modified corns violate all this. They are hybrids developed in the laboratory, to which genes are introduced from species that would never interbreed in nature, only to serve the great, standardized industrial production, with heavy machinery, using great quantities of pesticides. They are not in order to increase production, since the crop yields are equal to or less than already existing corn hybrids, but like all the genetically modified organisms [GMOs], they are a tool for corporate control. These GMO’s and seeds are patented by a few transnational companies who are aiming for total control of farmers and seeds. Once in the [open] field, GM contamination is not only inevitable, but it has serious consequences for corn farmers, the environment and health, but it is business for these companies.

Monsanto, DuPont-Pioneer, Syngenta, Dow, have about 95 percent of the global market for GM seeds. In turn, Monsanto and DuPont (through its subsidiary PHI Mexico) control 95 percent of the market for hybrid corn seed in Mexico. These powerful companies cannot believe that they have still failed to legalize the cultivation of GM corn in Mexico, especially when the official trend has been to deliver the nation’s wealth to the higher transnational bidder. The government authorized hundreds of thousands of hectares of GM cotton and soybeans and since September 2012, it wanted to authorize the commercial planting of GM corn. It came up against widespread resistance from the peoples, social movements and organizations, environmentalists, intellectuals, artists, scientist critics, consumers, both nationally and internationally, that blocked it.

Injunctions filed by organizations of beekeepers on the Yucatán Peninsula stopped the legal planting of GM soybeans, which threatens to end beekeeping and the peasants who make their living from it. In the case of corn, the popular resistance has been ongoing for more than a decade, managing to postpone experimental plantings for years and paralyzing commercial planting. In October 2013, a protective injunction decreed by Judge Jaime Manuel Marroquín ordered the suspension of authorizations for experimental and commercial plantings, before a class action lawsuit legally represented by Collectives AC and Seeds of Life [Semillas de Vida].

Since then, these companies, together with SAGARPA [Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food] and SEMARNAT [Secretariat of the Environment and Natural Resources], have presented 90 appeals in various courts, trying to reverse the suspension. All have failed. This case of the State working with multinationals against the public interest and for the transfer of ownership of one of the country’s vital assets, is one of the examples that the TPP used to demonstrate the diversion of power systematically engaged in by the Mexican State.

Corn is forever woven into the life of the peoples, and there is no time for ending the resistance to the dispossession. As the TPP wrote in its ruling, picking up on the testimony by Luis Hernández Navarro about the situation in Mexico:

“The Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal, Mexico Chapter, is simultaneously witness and midwife to a new reality. They, up there, have the timepiece. You and us, down here, we have the time.”


*Silvia Ribeira 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




November 30, 2013

GMOs, Environmental Devastation and Crímes against Humanity

Filed under: Corporations, Maize — Tags: , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 7:18 pm


GMOs, Environmental Devastation and Crímes against Humanity

Silvia Ribeiro*

La Jornada, 30th November, 2013
cartel-audiencia-maizTwenty-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.

maize[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.” (

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:

*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



November 25, 2013

Guilty “To defend Mexican corn is to defend the future of the world”

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



“To defend Mexican corn is to defend the future of the world”

**Permanent People’s Tribunal Hears Testimony on “Violence against Corn, Food Sovereignty and Sovereignty of the Peoples”

Gustavo Esteva, La Jornada, November 25th, 2013

maiztppWe rigorously accuse them of their crimes, we judge them and find them guilty. We are demanding that when the rule of law is restored they be brought to trial before the courts in order to pronounce against them the judgment that has already been reached by popular opinion and history.

The Permanent People’s Tribunal [PPT] is the world’s most prestigious court of opinion. Its judgments have no legal effect, but its national and international impact is enormous. About two years ago, the PPT accepted well-founded charges against the Mexican government and opened its Mexico chapter, thus setting off a fascinating process. Communities and peoples gave content and meaning to the work of the intellectuals, scientists and experts who performed the technical tasks needed to proceed with the trial.

From November 19 to 21 in Mexico City, the issue-based hearing “Violence against Corn, Food Sovereignty and the Sovereignty of the Peoples” was held. For many hours, testimonies were presented that powerfully illustrated the 145 properly documented cases delivered before an international jury consisting of eminent personalities from Argentina, Canada, Chile, Ecuador, Spain, France and Mexico. (I was privileged to be part of this jury.)

What took place this week is just the tip of the iceberg. Thousands of people in hundreds of organizations, communities and towns across the country worked patiently to identify clearly and precisely the crimes committed, to document them with legal rigour and to prepare the formal case presentations. One of the most interesting aspects was to appreciate the transformation of the cases’ protagonists. The vague but deeply felt indefinable malaise displayed two years ago was now expressed in convincing, rigorous and effective presentations of well-defined crimes, their consequences and of the actions to follow. Control of their cases is also control of their own lives.

The words were chilling. I do not want to exaggerate. But it is possible that there might be no worse crime in Mexico than this [destroying food sovereignty]. Not only does it endanger the very existence of the nation, until it becomes nothing more than a poor colony of the United States with the worst of dependencies, its stomach. It also affects the present and future of the peoples and, indeed, the peoples of the entire world. Dismantling the livelihood of a people, the foundation of their culture, the main condition of their autonomous subsistence, is to condemn them to extermination.

The jury’s ruling broadly endorsed the thesis that had been forming in the process of documenting the accusations and accumulating the evidence, particularly with the work of the Network in Defence of Maize [Corn]:

• The serious dismantling of the entire legal and administrative system of protection and support of the countryside and of the campesinos.

• The role of the Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) as a supranational mechanism for the dispossession of rural towns and peoples and for the occupation of much of Mexico to the benefit of a few transnational corporations and their domestic partners. Laws enacted in recent years clearly illustrate this sense of what is being done.

• The invasion of the world’s origin of corn by means of genetically modified organisms betrays the past, severely damages the present, and endangers the future of Mexico and the world.

• The extent to which the global food system, dominated by these corporations, is responsible for much of climate change and the world’s grave food situation: nearly one billion hungry people, half the world’s population with inadequate diets.

The jury demanded a total ban on GMOs in Mexico and the abandonment of NAFTA. It recognized the moral courage of the communities and indigenous peoples who defend the corn throughout Mexico and affirm their autonomy, the importance of resistance before the government and corporations and the global significance of their struggle. The jury flatly stated that to defend Mexican corn is to defend the future of the world.

Only one phase of the tribunal’s work has been concluded. Many other activities will be held leading up to the final hearing of the tribunal in about a year.

Without a doubt, what happened this week–by demanding the punishment of those responsible and by directing the long task of repair and regeneration of the damages that they have caused–is a valuable contribution that enriches the struggle of our peoples to resist those who have been committing one of the worst crimes that has ever been perpetrated against Mexico and against its peoples.

Translation by Jane Brundage



November 17, 2013

Environmental Devastation, Corn and Repression – State Crimes on Trial

Filed under: Corporations, Displacement, Human rights, Indigenous, Maize, Mining, water — Tags: , , , — dorsetchiapassolidarity @ 9:35 am


Environmental Devastation, Corn and Repression – State Crimes on Trial

Silvia Ribeiro*

La Jornada, 16th November, 2013

Tribunal Permanente de los Pueblos MéxicoIn session in Mexico is the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (PPT), a prestigious international body that for almost fifty years has brought together juries made up of international experts to hear and adjudicate on violations against the people. Founded by Bertrand Russell and Jean Paul Sartre, it presented to the world the atrocities committed during the Vietnam War and then those committed during Latin American dictatorships. Much that we know today about those attacks would not have been made public without the peoples’ testimony before this Tribunal and the broadcast work that they perform.

The Mexico Chapter of the TPP was installed in October of 2011. TPP Mexico Chapter held its first session in May of 2012 in Ciudad Juárez, implacable mirror of the country’s devastation. Dozens of social organizations–unions, human rights, peasants, women and sexual diversity, environmentalists and others–came to present testimony, laying down a baseline for Mexico’s record.

The TPP Mexico Chapter is titled “Free Trade, Dirty War, Impunity and Peoples’ Rights” and the main accused is the Mexican government for diversion of power; that is, for using the State apparatus and its resources, including legal ones, to favour large national and transnational economic interests to the detriment of the population and for

“using the law to prevent justice.”

The TPP Mexico Chapter has been organized into seven thematic hearings:

  • Violation of Labour Rights;
  • Environmental Devastation;
  • Attacks against Corn and Food Sovereignty;
  • Femicide and Gender Violence;
  • Migration;
  • Misinformation and Attacks Against Journalists;
  • Dirty War and Impunity.

Audiencias "Devastación ambiental", "Violencia contra el maíz" y "Represión a los movimientos sociales"Organizers of each core theme have been holding pre-hearings across the country, collecting testimonies given before national and international expert adjudicators. The current sessions correspond to the thematic hearings:

  • Environmental Devastation and Peoples’ Rights (November 15-17); and
  • Violence against Corn, Food Sovereignty and Autonomy (November 19-21).

As a macabre demonstration of the initial indictment, a cross-over hearing had to be added:

  • Repression of Social Movements (November 22-24), where fifty (50) cases will be presented.

Under the core themes of Environmental Devastation and Corn, respectively coordinated by the National Assembly of Environmentally Affected Groups and the Network in Defence of Maize [Corn], 25 preliminary hearings have been held, in which 140 environmental cases and 70 attacks against corn and food sovereignty were documented.

5to campamento de Jóvenes ante el Desastre y la Emergencia NacionalDuring the general hearings, pre-hearing [testimonies] are summarized and emblematic cases are presented before the national and international juries, including Gianni Tognoni (TPP, Italy), Larry Lohman (England), Marco Ferreira (Argentina), Antoni Pigrau (Spain), Dora Lucy Arias (Colombia), Luis Macas (Ecuador), Andrés Carrasco (Argentina); alternative Nobel prize winners Tony Clark (Canada), Camila Montecinos (Chile) and Pat Mooney (Canada); joined by Mexican experts Gustavo Esteva, Joel Aquino and Raúl García Barrios.

Last week two pre-hearings were held:

  • Policy of extermination against the Maya people on the Yucatán Peninsula; and a
  • Scientific preliminary hearing at the UNAM [National Autonomous University of Mexico] organized by the Union of Concerned Scientists Committed to Society (UCCS) and titled “Genetically Modified Crops in Mexico” with an emphasis on Corn.

In different but converging ways, strong evidence was exposed in both pre-hearings of the harm caused by the introduction and planting of genetically modified organisms [GMO] and the toxic pollution they entail, in addition to the corruption that accompanies them so the government might allow planting of GMOs despite the clear [injurious] impacts and disadvantages.

Yucatán Península

On the Yucatán Península, the government authorized planting of 258,000 hectares of GM soybean, of which 14,000 hectares have been planted. The effects have been devastating for thousands of campesino beekeeping families, whose bees die as a result of the pesticides. Moreover, since the pollen is contaminated by the GMO, they cannot sell the honey.

The seepage [filtración] of pesticides increases with GMOs.  This seepage has already begun in the Peninsula’s underground rivers, which are the only ones in the world. This seepage will destroy another of Mexico’s treasures, while at the same time it contaminates drinking water and destroys flora and fauna. This is added to the many plunders to which the Maya people have been subjected–a battering that has gone on since the Conquest. Proud and stubborn, the Maya peoples continue to resist. They defend their communities, a fact which was recognized by the adjudicators who attended there.

Scientific Preliminary Hearing

Invitación a la Preaudiencia: "Cultivos Transgénicos: El caso de México con énfasis en maíz"The scientific pre-hearing had 23 solid testimonies that clearly show that the GMOs are a failed technology that brings no benefit. GMOs carry with them irreversible risks to the biodiversity, risks to human and animal health, and to the more than 23,000 varieties of campesino corn that are a fundamental part of the culture and diet throughout Mexico.

Documentary evidence was also presented of the corruption that is rife among many of the officials and scientists who have taken part in decisions about bio-safety, against the evidence of independent science committed to society and critical of the GMOs. Several cases will be presented at the upcoming hearings.

TPP sessions are open and present an opportunity to see the stunning X-ray of Mexico put together by more than 400 organizations. Sessions are held November 15-22 November in the STUNAM auditorium, Calle Centeno 145, Col. Granjas Esmeralda, Mexicaltzingo Metro Line 12  from 9:00 AM to 7:00 PM. For more information about the programme, juries and sessions, go to:

Translation by Jane Brundage

*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.



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