By Silvia Ribeiro
On March 24, in the midst of the crisis by Covid-19, the so-called federal law for the promotion and protection of native corn was approved with the unanimous vote of the Senate. With such a title many will have assumed that it would be a rule to stop the assault of transnational GM companies on seeds, indigenous peoples and peasant communities. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Beyond the intention of its promoters, this provision favors key interests of the companies that have wanted to advance in the country with their GM and other high-tech seeds for two decades.
For this reason, the Mexican Seed Association AC (AMSAC), whose board is made up of Syngenta, Bayer (now owner of Monsanto), Corteva (merger of Dow and DuPont-PHI Mexico) and other major global seed companies issued a bulletin the same day congratulating legislators on the approval of the law. They declare that this law “is an important step, (…) because it will give certainty to corn producers throughout the country”. They emphasize that “they will continue working to promote the object of this law (…) taking advantage of technological developments, such as improved seeds”. (https://tinyurl.com/vo9pawr)
AMSAC is a board member of the National Agricultural Council (CNA), which in turn is a founding member of the Business Coordinating Council. They represent, for the most part, the business sectors that have devastated peasant life, sustainable production and healthy food. The six global transnational companies that own more than 70 percent of the global seed and agrochemical markets (and 100 percent of the transgenic seeds) have been on the AMSAC board of directors for years. It is the main lobbyist for the seed industry, acting in conjunction with the ANC. They are the ones who fought for and obtained privileges for the transnationals in all the existing laws regarding seeds and patents. (https://tinyurl.com/ruoc3ka ; https://tinyurl.com/t6lxfov)
Before the final vote in the Senate, from which the initiative came, the law to promote native corn was voted, with changes, in the Chamber of Deputies on March 18, with 270 votes in favor. No one opposed it anymore. Could it be that the PRI, PAN, PRD, Morena and all the parties suddenly realized the importance of protecting the corn peoples, their seeds and cultures against the transgenic invasion? Of course not. Because the law does not provide for such a thing. Nor does it prevent the patenting of peasant seeds. But it does separate corn from its peoples, reducing the complex process of thousands of years of many peoples creating milpas, assemblies, forests, and their own forms of government to the promotion of community seed banks, an expression that the majority of the peoples reject, because it comes from the financial system and is alien to their conception of seeds as an element in the integral politics, economy, and worldview of their peoples. Furthermore, it establishes that only native corn is recognized by Conabio, not by the peoples and communities themselves. It imposes on them a new National Maize Council, which although merely consultative, has 16 members, of which only six are from indigenous communities or agrarian ejidos.
But the main reason why the transnationals applaud this law is because it will delimit geographical areas, where the authorities will recognize that there are native maize production systems, which means it opens up the rest of the country to plant any other seed, from hybrids to transgenics or the new biotech seeds that the companies call genetic editing.
Monsanto, Syngenta, and other companies have insisted on this point for decades: that areas must be defined, that in reality they are not interested in planting where there are farmers, only in the rest of the country. Against this fallacious and extremely risky position, which would eventually cause GM contamination to reach the entire country, we have insisted that all of Mexico – and Mesoamerica – is the center of origin of maize and therefore the planting of any genetically manipulated seed should be prohibited.
This position of the so-called law of promotion and other serious errors of it – now approved – were clearly expressed by the Network in Defense of Maize since the publication of the commissions’ opinion, in October 2019 (https://tinyurl.com/vjk8qyl).
Meanwhile, the Monsanto Law, as the current biosafety law passed in 2005 is called, remains untouched by all the now-legislators and officials who promised in the campaign that they would repeal it. Furthermore, Semarnat participated in an online forum on biosafety at the Biodiversity Convention in 2020 and its representative joined the seed industry’s position that there is no need to establish new biosafety frameworks, not even for the highly dangerous genetic promoters, transgenic exterminators.
Why are none of the officials and legislators doing their job to really guarantee biosafety and that what AMLO announced, that no GM maize will be allowed in the country, is a reality?
This article was originally published in Spanish in La Jornada on the 11th of April, 2020. https://www.jornada.com.mx/2020/04/11/opinion/ This English interpretation has been re-published by Schools for Chiapas.