The agribusiness transnationals are bearing down on Latin America with a force recalling their initial assault under the banner of the “green revolution” in the 1960s, or the first incursion of genetically engineered (GE) organisms (also known as GMOs or genetically modified organisms) in the 1990s. From one end of the continent to the other, and under different guises, the GMO invasion is threatening the livelihoods and the health of millions of peasants, first peoples, and consumers. Nearly every country in the region is in the sights of the agribusiness transnationals, the most recent example being Paraguay, where a parliamentary coup d’état took as one of its goals that of gaining approval for GE maize – and the de facto government is now preparing to grant that approval. In Argentina, Monsanto wants to build the largest GE maize processing plant in Latin America; the government is set to amend the Seeds Act to adapt it to that company’s needs. In the Andean region, there are worrisome attempts to overturn the bans on GMOs in Bolivia and Ecuador using bogus arguments. In Costa Rica, too, the Biosafety Commission intends to approve a GE maize variety. It is no accident that in nearly every case it is maize, our maize, that is at stake. Nor is it an accident that Mexico finds itself the focal point for one of the most brutal attacks.
Here comes the avalanche
It is possible that before Felipe Calderón’s term in office is out, or as one of the very first acts of incoming president Enrique Peńa Nieto, commercial planting of GE maize will be allowed on over 2 million hectares in Mexico, beginning in the states of Sinaloa and Tamaulipas. The ETC Group sounds the alarm in a recent report:
The first applications by transnational corporations Monsanto and Pioneer (a DuPont company) to plant GE maize on a commercial scale in Mexico have now been filed. The transnationals want to plant 1.4 million hectares in Sinaloa and over 1 million hectares in Tamaulipas. This is a larger area than the entire state of Mexico. It is 17 times larger than Mexico City, and larger than the areas of Mexico City, Morelos, Tlaxcala, Colima, and Aguascalientes combined. It is also larger than dozens of countries, among them El Salvador, Kuwait, and Luxembourg.
If approved, this irrigated maize will be planted in the coming months and will spread throughout Mexico by the middle of next year. The resulting harvest, traveling via conventional distribution channels, will flood into Mexico City, Tijuana, Monterrey, Guadalajara, and other smaller cities, jeopardising the health of people who eat it in the form of tortillas, atole (a traditional maize drink), tamales, or pozol (fermented maize dough or the drink made from it), or in disguised form as a sweetener, emulsifier, stabiliser, or excipient used in processed foods.The Centre for Studies for Change in Rural Mexico (Ceccam), in a pamphlet it has produced to further resistance to this act of aggression, emphasises the same point:
Grain conglomerates like Cargill and processors like Maseca, Minsa, and ADM buy maize from farmers. Cargill sells grain maize to urban mills for production of the masa (hominy flour) that supplies the tortilla plants. Maseca and Minsa produce maize flour and sell it to the tortilla factories; some of these factors mix the flour with masa, while others (e.g., the ones supplying Wal-Mart) use flour only. Maseca and Minsa also make tortillas and sell maize flour retail. ADM distributes grain maize for the partly state-owned Diconsa chain. All these types of flour and masa will be made from or contaminated with GE maize, since it is impossible to keep it separate from non-GE maize.
To make matters worse, the Mexican government has continually opposed the labeling of genetically modified products. The upshot is that all of us will soon be eating genetically modified maize without knowing it.
For the complete article, please see GRAIN.