As huge American Biotech companies Monsanto, DuPont, and ConAgra await imminent approval of their requests for permits to plant more than six million acres (an area larger than the size of El Salvador) in Mexico with GMO corn, resistance by peasant and indigenous organizations and their allies is mounting. If approved, this will be the first time commercial planting of GMOs has been allowed in the center of biodiversity of any crop. Although the stakes at this moment could not be higher, this is not a new battle. When Cortez conquered Mexico in the 1500s, the Spaniards began an offensive against what they viewed as lowly corn, trying to force indigenous farmers to grow wheat instead. Their efforts failed, as have countless attempts throughout Mexico’s history to eradicate a “corn culture” in which corn is more than a livelihood, more than a food, but also an identity, a basis of religion, and a part of the family.
At stake today are indigenous and campesino (peasant) cultural rights; Mexico’s food sovereignty; Mexico’s enormous biodiversity of corn adapted for countless climates, soils, and conditions; and the nation’s health (one of the types of corn they wish to grow, MON603, caused tumors-and other maladies-in rats in a recent peer-reviewed study by French scientist Gilles-Eric Séralini published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology).