A Mexican federal judge has ruled that the government may not authorize field trials or commerical planting of genetically modified (GM) maize so long as lawsuits filed by citizens, farmers, and civil society groups are continuing in the courts.
The judge granted the injunction in a case filed by Accion Colectiva (Collective Action), an alliance of farmers and democracy advocates. The case argues that the government has allowed field trials* and is rushing to approve commercialization without having conducted the safety and contamination tests and environmental reviews required by Mexican law and the Mexican constitution, Article 27 of which requires protection of genetic biodiversity as a common good.
[*Corporate field trials and “safety tests” never involve food safety or environmental contamination, but are the bare minimum to confirm that animals gain weight and/or that a plant grows and produces a crop. The extent of the safety confirmed is merely that the animal or plant doesn’t immediately drop dead.]
Accion Colectiva lauded the ruling as a critical step in their campaign to protect Mexico as “the birthplace of corn”. The lawsuit is part of the broad political campaign, Sin Maiz, No Hay Maiz : “Without Corn, There is No Country”. One of the leaders of the movement, Father Miguel Concha, said that the ruling helps the campaign toward its goal of preserving “the human right to save and use the agrobiodiversity of native landraces from the threats posed by GMO maize.”
This action, like others which seek the necessary abolition of GMOs, focuses on the socioeconomic injustice and impracticality of patents in seeds which are part of the public heritage and property, and the agricultural and environmental destruction wrought by the inevitable contamination of crops and ecosystems wrought by GMOs.
The contamination threat is especially dire in a case like this, which is why the judge issued this injunction. Mexico is a world heritage center for biodiversity. It’s one of the cradles of maize, and a continuing wellspring of the genetic diversity upon which farmers and breeders depend for the continued health of a crop. Mexico is the home of thousands of maize landraces, called criollo. It’s also the home of many varieties of teosinte, the closest wild relative. Breeders frequently go back to the well to seek new traits and replenish the crop’s genetic robustness. Spontaneous cross-pollination between cultivated maize and wild teosinte is also common. This diversity is critical to the future of agriculture and of humanity’s ability to feed itself, since agriculture depends upon a vast array of locally and regionally adapted varieties. The industrially imposed paradigm of a handful of varieties suited to cheap oil, monoculture, and globalized distribution, is not only socioeconomically and politically destructive, but also renders agriculture and the food supply hyper-vulnerable to pests, diseases, and other factors that could cause the harvest to fail.
GMOs assault this ecological and agricultural balance in several ways. Governments and the seed cartel force a handful of proprietary varieties upon the market, driving out natural and economic biodiversity and seeking to render it extinct. (Monsanto has often publicly proclaimed its goal of enclosing all seeds within its patents.) Governments often criminalize the saving and use of public domain seed if it hasn’t been properly “certified” according to corporate and industrial standards. The effect of this planned economy imposed from the top down is often to render diverse and regionally-adapted varieties unavailable. Since a variety must be continually planted in order to continue to exist, a variety whose seeds are not distributed will quickly go extinct.
The era of corporate agriculture has indeed seen a mass extinction event of seeds. Around the world, in country after country, crop type after type, the story has been the same. The staff of available seeds has withered from many thousands to a mere handful. This is a part of the general mass extinction event being caused by industrialization which is not commented upon as much by the general public, but which is perhaps the most critical of all for human survival.
Once out in the field, GMOs also inevitably contaminate their surroundings. They contaminate other crops, and they contaminate any wild relatives in the vicinity. This is why, for example, organic canola is impossible in Canada. It’s also one of the drivers of the rise of superweeds, as wild relatives of canola and sugar beets quickly became contaminated with the herbicide-tolerant GM trait.
In Mexico, widespread GM contamination of maize was quickly discovered, long before GM maize had any legal status at all. By 2002 the government, after trying to quash the story, admitted the contamination. Although GM maize could not be legally planted, since NAFTA the US had dumped a vast amount of GM maize upon Mexico, including kernels which could be used for seed. This is in addition to whatever intentional illegal planting program the cartel and government had undertaken. It’s a common ploy, seen in India, Brazil, and here in Mexico: The cartel encourages widespread illegal planting and contamination. The government, now safely in the briar patch, argues that this accomplished fact should be legalized and “regulated”, instead of the invasion being fought and the criminals brought to justice. For good measure, the regulator will even argue that the extralegal cultivation has already proven the “safety” of the product, as part of its justification for never requiring any safety or environmental testing prior to approval.
Since then, the Mexican government has been working toward full legal approval and commercialization of GM maize. It has authorized widespread field trials and passed restrictive seed laws. Mexican farmers, citizens, medical professionals, scientists, and civil society groups have fought back, and have won some victories. This injunction is the latest round.
Biodiversity is critically important for its own sake and because GM contamination not only degrades the genetics of non-GM varieties of the crop, but that of the crop’s wild progenitors. By polluting the genome of the wild forerunners of maize, GM maize could forestall future breeding of maize as such. This is one of the reasons why contamination makes it imperative that we totally abolish GMOs with all possible speed.
The same battle is being fought around the world. Southeast Asia is the center of eggplant diversity, and in India (where it’s called brinjal), in Bangladesh, in the Philippines (where it’s called talong), eggplant is under assault by the cartel and governments who want to force a handful of Bt brinjal varieties, overriding and destroying the world heritage of what are currently thousands of native varieties. The recent report of India’s Technical Expert Committee (TEC) to the supreme court, among its other anti-GMO recommendations, called for continuing the 2010 moratorium on field trials of Bt brinjal issued by the environmental ministry, primarily on account of the threat to biodiversity. (This vast native diversity is also one of the many pieces of proof that there’s no need whatsoever for GM products. They serve zero human or agricultural purpose, but serve only the goals of corporate profit, enclosure, control, and domination. Always keep that in mind – these are the ONLY purposes of GMOs, and the only reasons corporations and governments are trying to force them upon humanity.)
The contamination issue renders the globalization of GMOs as such illegal under the Cartegna Protocol on Biosafety, which explicitly enshrines the precautionary principle and gives countries the right to ban or restrict GMOs based on the self-evident lack of scientific consensus on health and environmental safety. By now we can add the empirical proof of the lack of any such safety, and of the many health and ecological hazards of GMOs. Few of the signatories who have gone on to allow imports, field trials, and/or commercial cultivation have done so for the sake of any nationally-based industry. On the contrary, they’ve done so under pressure from the US, and because corrupt elements within these governments have profited from selling out the people of those countries. Nowhere have the people benefited from GMOs. On the contrary, without exception they have comprised a new form of colonization. International agreements like the Convention on Biodiversity can be seen only as laws which are brazenly broken by the powers driving globalization, or as scams. Either way we can dispense with the notion that the “rule of law” can ever be a reality anywhere corporatism exists.
(The Protocol was signed by all but a handful of rogue nations like the US, Canada, and Argentina. The Protocol, and therefore this refusal, has nothing to do with what a country may do within its own borders. On the contrary, the refusal to adhere to the agreement has everything to do with these governments’ goal of forcing their export of GMOs on other countries. It demonstrates an aggressive intent.)
All this is further confirmation that there can be no science or health-based public policy without the precautionary principle. We can never rationally, scientifically, or morally run the risks involved with genetic contamination unless the proponents first prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:
1. GMOs are necessary for any rational purpose.
2. GMOs are safe for human health.
3. GMOs can be prevented from contaminating other crops and the environment.
Governments and corporations never even tried to prove any of these. For good reason: The evidence record has since proven that GMOs serve no purpose whatsoever, they present serious health risks, and that preventing contamination is impossible.
Looking beyond the proximate health dangers of GMO products and affiliated pesticides, we see that genetic contamination from GMOs is a danger to the survival of the human race, since it directly threatens our food security. (So, far from GMOs being able to “feed the world”, on the contrary they threaten to inflict starvation upon us.)
Again, this proves that no kind of “co-existence” with GMOs, even if it were sincerely attempted by all parties, could ever work. Nothing will suffice but the total abolition of all GMOs.
Environmentalists often make the argument that we need to preserve endangered species and biodiverse habitats because of all the potential undiscovered medicinal benefits which can be found among them. In this case there’s no question: Humanity has a categorical imperative to preserve the genetic diversity of food crops and their wild progenitors. This is a matter of life and death, and we must treat it as such.