Corn, continued from page 13 Aldo as he read the manifesto. “We found this in a backyard garden in Gueletao,” he later explained. “It contains not one but three different genetically modified strainstwo of Bt \(chemically engineered to resist Starlink.” After 45 possible cases of allergic reaction were recorded by health officials, the U.S. Department of Agriculture refused to approve Starlink corn for human consumption. The presence of Starlink in Kraft Corporation “Taco Bell” brand taco shells in the spring of 2000 triggered the most massive recall of a packaged food item in U.S. supermarket history. Avantis, the European biotech corporation which developed the seed, was forced to buy up the entire U.S. Starlink-grown corn harvest that year. Now, suspect Starlink is showing up in U.S. corn exports to Japan and Korea. Aldo Gonzalez’s corn stalk only confirms the suspicion that Starlink has been loosed on Mexico. “We have listened patiently to the scientists but now we are tired,” he said. “We will not listen to them anymore. Basta Ya with their lies!” A flood of indignant brown faces followed Aldo to the microphones. “First you come and destroy our agriculture so you can sell us your poisons,” Cirilio Pena, a grandfather from a village on the Tehuatepec Isthmus protested. “You are trying to kill us like you killed your own Indians.” Shaking a fistful of seeds, he held back a sob. “This is the only legacy we leave to our children.” “FUERA SEMILLAS ASESINAS!” the Indians chanted, “GET THOSE KILLER SEEDS OUT OF HERE!” Accused of being racists and imperialists and the artifacts of both ecocide and genocide, the distinguished scientists focused on their shoes. Peter Raven, a NAFTA maven and National Medal of Science laureate whom Time magazine has designated a “hero of the planet,” arranged and rearranged his pens. “We have seen with sadness the complicity of the authorities who do the dirty work of the transnational corporations,” Aldo said. “Now we can no longer wait for the government to act. The threat to our corn is greater every day?’ The corn wars have raged in Mexico ever since Chapela’s discovery up in Calpulapan. But nowhere have they raged more pertinently than in Oaxaca and Puebla, where corn was first nurtured and domesticated 5,000 to 7,000 years ago to become the sustenance of the great central Mexican Maize cultures from Teotihuacan to the Toltecs and the Aztecs. To the south, the Mayan sacred book, the Popol Vuh, designated the Mayans as the people of corn. The modern-day Mayan Zapatista rebellion germinated during the setting of NAFTA corn quotas and exploded on January 1, 1994. Ten years later, Mexico imports 6 million tons of corn from the United States, much of it genetically modified. The Mexican government has tuned out the incessant Basta Ya! of Indian farmers demanding an end to such imports. One particular villain is Undersecretary of Agriculture for International Trade Victor Villalobos, who threatens to end a 1998 moratorium on the planting of GM corn in Mexico. At a meeting of Biodiversity Protocol signatories late last year, Villalobos vetoed the labeling of GM corn imports. Because grain monopolies like Cargill refuse to separate GM from naturally grown corn shipped to Mexico, Greenpeace activists have taken to hooking onto the anchors of ships carrying corn to Veracruz port to prevent the landing of potentially contaminated grain. The dignity of the Indian people is contagious. To defend our corn is to defend the sun, the earth, the water, the wind. We will never relinquish the defense of our corn. Oaxaca is not the only battlefront in the Corn Wars. As chair of the interdisciplinary biosecurity commission, Villalobos pushed legislation through the Mexican senate that would have purportedly \(\(guaranteed” the nation’s corn supply by removing all obstacles to the importation of transgenics. But the bill was stalled this spring in the lower house following a hearing at which both Chapela and Saskatchewan farmer Percy Schmeiser, whose scuffles with Monsanto are legendary, testified \(See Decked out in a pin-striped blue suit and florid tie, the 73-year-old Schmeiser, the very portrait of avuncular gringoness, electrified the Mexican legislators with science fiction horror tales of Monsanto’s Gene Police, raids by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police \(“they deadly pesticides, and super-weeds. Monsanto’s persecution of Schmeiser for allegedly stealing wind-blown GM seeds that ruined his crops will be decided this June by the Canadian Supreme Court. A verdict that the St. Louis biotech titan cannot patent life forms like seeds and plants could knock the struts out from under the industry. Percy Schmeiser arrived in Mexico fresh from sweet victory in northern California’s Mendocino County where, despite being outspent by the biotech industry 20 to one, activists overwhelmingly passed a measure establishing the first GM-free zone in North America. Adjacent counties are preparing similar measures that could bar GMOs from all of coastal northern California, another potential body blow to Big Biotech. Ironically, many Oaxacan Indian farmers, driven from their land by errant Mexican government agricultural policies that encourage heavy NAFTA imports, work in Mendocino’s many vineyards. Meanwhile, back home, Luis Bustamante, director of Oaxaca’s official Institute of Ecology, has proposed similar legislation to the state congress, passage of which would make Oaxaca the first no-GMO beachhead in Mexico. Last month’s hearing in Oaxaca was the fruit of complaints filed by 17 NGOs and indigenous organizations with the NAFTA Environmental Cooperation Commission. The preliminary report of the tri-national committee of prestigious scientists, which contains whole chapters that appear only in English, will be submitted to the NAFTA ministerial 4/23/04 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 19
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