Hunger Strike Aims to Stop GMO Corn in Mexico
By Saulo Araujo
January 23rd, 2013
By Claire Gilbert and Saulo Araujo
Regional leaders of Grassroots Internationals’ partner UNORCA (the National Union of Autonomous Regional Peasant Organizations) began a hunger strike today to call for a stop to the destruction of Mexican agriculture. The network of peasant and indigenous organizations in coalition with urban workers and student groups is calling for halt of planting GMO crops in Mexico.
Today, UNORCA published an open letter (below) about the hunger strike expressing their outrage about “the terrible blow that would come with the imminent approval of large-scale commercial planting of GMO maize in Mexico, and we demand that the Mexican government place the interests of peasants and the majority of Mexican farmers above the interests of a few transnational corporations.”
The situation is urgent because three biotech giants have applied for permits to grow 6 million acres of GMO corn in the Northern Mexican states of Sinaloa and Tamilaupas. On September 7, 2012, Monsanto requested permission from the National Service of Food and Agriculture Inspection Office (SENASICA) to plant three GMO corn varieties (MON89034-3, MON88017-3 and MON-00603-6) in 1,729,737 acres in 10 municipalities of Sinaloa state. They hope to begin planting in the next two months to harvest the first commercial crop of GMO corn in Mexico this summer.
Mexico, the birthplace of corn, contains a broad biodiversity of corn varieties. If allowed to proceed, this will be the first commercial planting of a GMO crop at its center of origin anywhere in the world. The impacts of this decision are critical for the cultural and food sovereignty of Mexico’s small farmers, but also for the health of Mexico’s urban population.
Further, the introduction of GMO crops impacts all of us, because by destroying the diversity of one of the world’s most important crops, we could be left without thousands of varieties of corn, adapted to different conditions, that could help us to adapt to climate change.
“If the planting goes into effect in Mexico, the loss of biodiversity will not affect only Mexicans. Because corn as other crops belongs to humankind,” says Veronica Villa, representative of ETC Group in Mexico. ETC Group is a think tank dedicated “to address the socioeconomic and ecological issues surrounding new technologies that could have an impact on the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.”
Grassroots International supports the Hunger Strike and awaits a public debate on February 7, 2012 at the Universidad Nacional in Mexico City. There, for the first time, representatives of the federal government have agreed to talk publically about and debate this issue.
Mexico City, 21 January 2013
This Wednesday, January 23rd, we will start a new phase in our struggle against the planting of GMO maize here in Mexico, consisting of a collective hunger strike held in front of the Angel of Independence monument in Mexico City. National peasant leaders from our organization from more than 20 states of our republic will begin a sit-in at this very symbolic location.
This act of voluntarily using our own bodies for civic protest will remind us of our almost 30 million fellow Mexicans who cannot find enough food to fill their stomachs on a daily basis. We want to reach the hearts and minds of the people of Mexico and the World to share our grave concern for the health, culture and economy of our nation, eroded by a development model that only benefits a tiny minority, a minority which includes the transnational corporations that today conspire to appropriate for themselves one of the greatest heritages of our peoples: MAIZE.
We want to express our indignation faced with the terrible blow that would come with the imminent approval of large-scale commercial planting of GMO maize in Mexico, and we demand that the Mexican government place the interests of peasants and the majority of Mexican farmers above the interests of a few transnational corporations. After his official visit to Mexico in 2011, the Special Rapporteur for the Right to Food of the United Nations, Olivier de Schutter, recommended that the government of then-president Calderón immediately suspend experimental planting of GMO maize, because of its impact on the rights of peasants, on biodiversity, and because of the importance of maize in the diet and culture of Mexicans. The government ignored that recommendation.
This is not just an issue for peasant farmers. The coming GMO maize invasion would impact all people as consumers, and would aggravate the terrible food dependency that our country suffers from. We respectfully ask you to join our struggle with a one day solidarity fast, and joining our sit-in if you can, or from the place where you live and work, by speaking out publically to express your support for our actions, sending a message to us and/or to the news media.
We are enormously grateful for your support.
National Union of Autonomous Regional Peasant Organizations (UNORCA)