May 13, 2017

The Corporations are Driving Forced Migrations and Genetic Contamination

Filed under: GMO Contamination — Tags: , , — Russ @ 8:13 am


Long ago the US government and Western corporations launched their attack on the human innovation, freedom, and ecology of Latin America. NAFTA was a significant escalation of this war of aggression. Mexico’s courts remain a rare support for resistance to this assault, though we abolitionists must never count on any court.
Independence is not the opposite of community, but a precondition of it, where it means the lack of dependency upon distant, unaccountable, alien entities. People who are dependent on centralized hierarchies whose interests and knowledge are alien to the community can never be free or secure within that community, but every day face centrifugal pressures driving them away from one another and into conflict with one another. These forces often physically destroy the community and drive the people literally off their land.
There’s another kind of relationship, interdependence, where we work with the land and its fruits which sustain us. The stability of this relationship is a precondition for broader political and economic independence. Only where we control the land and the food it produces can we enjoy political and economic independence. At the opposite extreme, no dependency could be more productive of absolute helplessness than to lose our ability to control and rely upon the land, instead being forced into thralldom to a centralized agricultural and food system which has no knowledge of agriculture or food and cares nothing about them, which cares for nothing but its own power and profit. To be dependent upon such a system is slavery.
Mexico is reeling from the blows of corporate assaults in many sectors. US agribusiness has been the most aggressive in its drive to commodify Mexican agriculture, seize control of the land, and drive the millions of small farmers who depend upon this land off of their land and into a vastly more profound dependency upon the pure whims and chance of a cruel, vicious globalization system.
One of their core tactics is the forced colonization of GMOs around the world. Land-grabbing and commodification is the primary operational assault of technocracy. GMOs are designed to render land-grabbing and commodification quickly profitable within the government subsidy framework. As the most exalted and idolized technology of governments today GMOs are the recipients of complete subsidy and policy protection. This complete subsidization by the taxpayers is the only thing which renders this otherwise unprofitable and worthless product viable at all.
Mexico, ravaged by NAFTA, has been relatively resistant to GMO proliferation. In spite of the support of several government agencies, citizen campaigns have won public support and court victories which have so far staved off the commercialization of GM maize.
Maize is a storied crop in Mexico, prominent in mythology and folklore and central to the Mexican national vision. A popular saying goes, “Sin Maiz, No Hay Maiz”: “Without Corn, There is No Country”. Maize is the core food and retail crop for millions of small farmers and their families who depend upon it for their food, livelihood, freedom, and community.
Because maize is a wind-pollinated crop, it is one of the crops most easily cross-pollinated by other varieties. To maintain the genetic integrity of a landrace or variety requires strict precautions on the part of the farmer and a relative lack of cross-pollinating influences. Even though GM maize has not yet been legally approved in Mexico, transgenic contamination of indigenous varieties began quickly following NAFTA, from GM seed which was mixed into the maize shipments the US immediately began dumping in Mexico. This infiltrated seed was planted and its pollen then spread with the wind, contaminating ears of other varieties, whose seed was then planted, and so on in a gradually expanding process of contamination.
This demonstrates two truths. One, within a commodification framework it’s impossible to keep supply chains segregated. The commercial debacle with Syngenta’s Viptera maize contaminating US maize shipments to China, resulting in the loss to US traders and farmers of billions in sales, legally is an ongoing case. Two, once GM varieties of a crop like maize are released into the environment, it’s impossible to prevent their contaminating non-GM varieties. These are two proofs that “co-existence” is physically impossible. It’s also politically impossible, which is demonstrated here by the relentless struggle on the part of the cartel to force this product upon a society which does not want it.
Ignacio Chapela and David Quist first documented this contamination in 2001. The Mexican government confirmed the contamination shortly afterward. In spite of this documentation, the corporate flacks and their fanboys have never stopped slandering Chapela and telling the direct lie that there’s no GM contamination of maize in Mexico. This is an excellent example of how all pro-GM activism is based on nothing but bald-faced lies, and more profoundly on an absolute contempt for the very idea of truth or falsehood, fact or fiction. This contempt for fact is rampant among engineers and even among scientists ever since the corporate science paradigm, which can be summed up as “science, and truth itself, are nothing but what the corporate marketing department says they are”, has become dominant over organized science and technology development.
Subsequent studies have traced the spread of transgenic contamination across large swaths of the country (see p. 17 of the link). This gradual genetic corruption and depletion has been ongoing while no GM maize is being legally grown. This is thanks to the citizen campaign organized by Accion Colectiva (Collective Action), an alliance of farmers, scientists, doctors, lawyers, consumers, and civil society advocates, all acting cooperatively as public citizens. Their suit argues that the government 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 constitution, Article 27 of which requires protection of genetic biodiversity as a common good.
Mexico is one of the world centers of maize origin and diversity. The future of the crop depends to a great extent on the genetic integrity of the maize landraces of Mexico and other parts of Latin America, as well as the integrity of teosinte, the wild relative from which maize evolved. The maize independence of humanity is dependent upon this genetic spring, while the corporate stanching of this spring would kill all food independence.
Transgenic contamination is a major problem and is getting worse. But we must place it in the context of the bigger, longer arc of the genetic depletion of agriculture. The genetic diversity of maize has been steadily suffering constriction and depletion over the last century.
The more narrow and depleted a crop’s genetic range becomes, the more vulnerable the crop is to pests, weed pressure, disease, drought, flooding, adverse soil conditions, weather, and climate. An early disaster was the 1970 Southern Leaf Corn Blight which wiped out as much as 50-100% of the crop in regions of the US. A subsequent National Research Council investigation pegged the precarity of the maize gene pool as the cause of the wide vulnerability of the crop. Specifically, a gene for male sterility (the T cytoplasm gene) bred extensively into most varieties of the crop (as a “labor-saving”, i.e. job-destroying, feature for the harvest of seed corn) had the collateral effect of rendering plants which carried the gene more vulnerable to the blight. In spite of this early warning shot over the bow, the genetic uniformity and depletion has only gotten worse since then.
The 1970 episode also provides a stark demonstration of what can happen if a particular crop gene is bred into the bulk of the crop varieties and deployed very quickly over a vast geographic range without any precautionary assessment of possible harmful collateral effects. In fact by the late 1960s many agronomists were becoming uneasy about the ubiquity of the T cytoplasm gene, and some were predicting a pandemic like the one that hit in 1970. Here the gene was conventionally bred. But the same principles apply even more ominously in the case of GMOs, since the transgenic insertion process is far more likely than conventional breeding to generate harmful mutations. GMOs, combining the worst of both worlds – pivotal conditions of genetic uniformity along with uniquely chaotic genetic unpredictability – are recklessly being deployed as fast as possible over unprecedented geographic ranges.
Like with most other evils of GMOs, transgenic contamination is an escalation of an existing malign trend in corporate agriculture, the depletion of agricultural germplasm. Corporate control of agriculture was endangering the future of humanity in this way prior to GMOs and would be doing so in their absence. GMOs are just making it worse.
All this is just one refutation of the standard lies that GMOs are supposed to comprise a solution to pests, drought, and other crop afflictions. On the contrary, by accelerating the process of genetic narrowing and depletion GMOs render agriculture ever more vulnerable to every kind of affliction.
The GMO biological assault on maize is part of a wider economic assault on small farmers and their communities. GMOs accelerate the corporate agricultural process of driving great masses of people off the land. The goal is corporate enclosure and control of the land in order to eradicate regionally based production of food for human beings and replace it with globalized commodity production for profit. GMOs are intended to aggravate and accelerate this great evil of corporate agriculture.
In Mexico, the process of land-grabbing, dumping, and enclosure of the land in favor of vast commodity plantations is forcing the migration northward of effectively stateless economic refugees. This process too has been ongoing for decades and was escalated by NAFTA. The commercialization of GM maize would escalate it further. I’ve written extensively about how GMOs are an impossible technology for small farmers, which for them can never be anything but an assault and an often deadly trap.
Whenever you see someone in America complaining about the northward migration of Mexicans, remind them that this is a forced migration driven by US globalization policy. The big corporations profit in two ways: The agribusiness corporations seize control of the land in Mexico, while by forcing this migration all corporate sectors benefit from how it further drives down wages in the US. As always and everywhere, the corporation is the enemy of humanity.
I briefly traced here a few of the long arcs of the corporate threat to humanity’s future. The biological and genetic threats posed by GMOs and the broader genetic engineering project are among the most dire. Those fighting in Mexico are fighting for the independence, freedom, and health of us all. Such grassroots groups, organizing people from every walk of life as public citizens to fight corporate power and thwart the attempt to impose corporate domination, are the only groups fighting today for freedom and community. The bell tolling for the assassination attempt on Mexican community independence, via assault on the genetic basis of our food, is tolling for all of us, everywhere, as we face the same assault wherever we are, whatever we eat. We must abolish corporate agriculture.

1 Comment »

  1. Russ, have you caught wind of the story of Azure Farms in Oregon? I can’t even get my head around what kind of special insanity and destruction is going on…

    “Given that almost no one with experience in weed management believes that any long-established weed, noxious or otherwise, can be eradicated with herbicides, one wonders why the County has adopted such a draconian change in its noxious weed control program. I can think of two plausible motivations – a desire by companies and individuals involved in noxious weed control activities, via selling or applying herbicides, to increase business volume and profits; or, an effort to reduce or eliminate acreage in the Country that is certified organic.

    Weeds are classified as noxious when they prone to spread, are difficult to control, and pose a public health or economic threat to citizens, public lands, and/or farming and ranching operations. Ironically, by far the fastest growing and mostly economically damaging noxious weeds in the U.S. are both noxious and spreading because they have developed resistance to commonly applied herbicides, and especially glyphosate.

    There is near-universal agreement in the weed science community nationwide, and surely as well in the PNW, that over-reliance on glyphosate (Roundup) over the last two decades has created multiple, new noxious weeds posing serious economic, environmental, and public health threats.”


    Comment by Pete — May 16, 2017 @ 7:13 am

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