In Latin America, the cultivation of genetically modified corn increases without limits. Its frontiers now advance over forests, mountains, communities and other food, making the idea of its containment almost inconceivable. However, in Mexico, an ambitious battle is underway to change this – to stop the introduction of new genetically modified crops and eradicate those already planted.
The Corn Defence Alliance is a group of 53 persons and 20 NGOs. In 2013, they filed a lawsuit against Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow Chemical, Pioneer, Du Pont and the Mexican Government, demanding they comply with the precautionary principle. That is: before planting, the producers of genetically modified crops demonstrate they will not affect traditional crops, or the dynamics of traditional farming practices and diet. Moreover, the Alliance demands there is consultation of those affected – campesinos, indigenous communities, small and medium-sized producers – to determine whether they understand what is being proposed, and whether they agree. The surprising thing is that, until now, it has worked quite well: court after court has upheld their position, and the planting of genetically modified crops has been more or less suspended. It’s a triumph underpinned by a thousand year old conviction you’ll find echoed all over Mexico: the loss of corn means the loss of the world, and not just the world: the whole universe.
“It’s impossible to talk about corn as if it were split off from reality,” says Adelita San Vicente. “We’re living in a time in which many people don’t value anything – not even life itself or that which sustains life, like food. Nothing. We must defend ourselves from that.”
Adelata: sharp-eyed woman with heavy, black hair and a big grin; country teacher with flashes of the agronomist; custodian of seeds and mother of the alliance that will not rest. Before discussing corn, she talks with pain about the tortured and murdered bodies as though they were a daily thing: there’s the photojournalist, Ruben Espinoza, murdered by hitmen along with his three friends in the middle of Mexico City; and the 43 students devoured by the monster in Ayotzinapa. She talks about poverty, wealth, mega-mining, and the impunity with which evil is descending on Mexico. “The only hope is in the people,” she says. She has seen it before: the power of people who just can’t take anymore. “There are so many people protesting on the streets. And that’s because we’re fighting for is who we are – not who they want us to be.”