culture, Environment, Lathrop, Manteca, Ripon, San Joaquin, Stockton, Tracy

Festival seeks To Educate on the Corn Crisis in Mexico


www.bilingualweekly.com | “We are the children of the corn, [is] what represented the Aztecs, “said Jonathan Sanchez, instructor of the Aztec dance group Ocelotl, after performing at the Festival.

 But the future for Mexican corn farmers and the meaningful crop is uncertain.

Aztec Dancer at the Corn Festival by Mayra Barrios

by Mayra Barrios (bw) SAN JOAQUIN COUNTY – Cristina Gonzales spent her childhood learning about the native corn production alongside her father in Michoacán, Mexico.

 

Today, Gonzales is part of Los Hijos Migrantes del Maiz (Migrant Children of the Corn); a committee that has organized the Corn Festival in Stockton in the last four years — a festival which this year took place at Taft Park on Sunday August 28.

 

The festival gives the community an opportunity to harvest native corn, cook traditional Mexican corn dishes, and then share them at the festival with the community.

 

But far from enjoying homemade food the festival creates awareness about using Genetically Modified (GM) or transgenic seeds for maize production in Mexico.

 

Transgenic seeds have drastically changed the way corn is harvested today  from the technique that Gonzales learned as a child.

 

Mexican farmers like Gonzales` father used to save their red, blue and white corn seeds using techniques passed down for generations. “In Mexico, our farmers are now afraid because transgenic corn is being imposed on them,” says Gonzalez.

 

In the process of GM corn, transgenic organisms are modified by introducing genes to improve characteristics as resistance to environmental conditions. Eric Holt-Gimenez, Executive Director of Food First in Oakland, California says that “GMOs [genetically modified organisms] patent the genetic material in seeds. This effectively privatizes seeds and it means that farmers can’t save them from year to year,” a practice that is ending tradition of saving the best seeds from the harvest.

 

Holt-Gimenez explains that using transgenic seeds forces farmers to buy seed every season making farmers dependent on transnational corporations like Monsanto, “who takes advantage by raising the prices of seed.” By the time this edition was printed Monsanto’s staff were not available for comments, their website states, “Our pricing is based on the value our products deliver.”

 

Holt-Gimenez describes Monsanto as, “a monopoly” because of their control of the world’s seed market. “They [Monsanto] have done more to destroy the food security of poor farmers than any other company in the history of modern agriculture.”

 

Furthermore transgenic seeds lead to what environmentalists call “genetic pollution” when native maize gets contaminated and destroyed by its combination with GM corn.

 

“Now farmers are being told; if don’t use the seed we are selling you cannot grow your corn,” said Gonzales.

 

According to Monsanto, seeds with high yield provide farmers with agronomic solutions to the challenges they face. As their website states, “We’ve been successful. Our seed products have helped farmers maximize their profits and productivity.”

 

In the Mexican culture corn has a deep spiritual meaning and “through the festival, we are teaching our families the meaning of corn,” says Gonzales.

 

“We are the children of the corn, [is] what represented the Aztecs, “said Jonathan Sanchez, instructor of the Aztec dance group Ocelotl, after performing at the Festival.

 

But the future for Mexican corn farmers and the meaningful crop is uncertain.

 

After the enforcement of the American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in Mexico, trade in maize seed was completely liberalized in the country forcing farmers to modernize their farms and be open to competition. “The effects of NAFTA are already obvious,” says Holt-Gimenez, “it destroyed Mexican small farm agriculture because the campesinos [farmers] could not compete with subsidized corn from the U.S,”

 

But while NAFTA has hurt many it has simultaneously benefited other parts Mexico’s economy. “[NAFTA] has contributed to the integration of Mexico in the global economy,” said Dr. Gene Bigler, Visiting Professor at the University of the Pacific and retired US Foreign Service Officer, “which lowers the cost of the goods and services consumed by Mexicans.”

 

Bigler explained how it is believed that the integration of Mexico with its North American partners helped the country to grow and recover rapidly from the 1994-95 economic crises.

 

Because the loss of jobs is a predictable result of any trade agreement, “many countries accompany their trade agreements with programs to help the workers who are displaced,” explains Bigler. However, “Mexico has done even less to help displaced workers than the U.S… former corn farmers may be one of the largest groups that decided to migrate to the US,” he added.

 

Looking at the Mexican economy, experts like Holt-Gimenez and Bigler agree that the tough competition for farmers is a cause for a massive migration to the U.S.

 

While Holt-Gimenez concludes by saying that [farmers] have to go out of the countryside to border cities like Juarez and to the USA “No one can say that is positive.”

 

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Bilingual Weekly News brings you community news in both English and Spanish, covering information such as Stockton News, San Joaquin News, Latino News, Hispanic News, Mexican-American News, Bilingual News, Government News, Political News, Arts News, Tracy News, Manteca News, Lodi News, Modesto News, Stanislaus News, Education News, Stockton Unified School District, San Joaquin County Office of Education, Health News, Environmental news, and much more!

Discussion

2 thoughts on “Festival seeks To Educate on the Corn Crisis in Mexico

  1. Cross pollination says otherwise.

    Posted by tara | October 20, 2011, 8:41 pm
  2. No one “forces” anyone to use GMO seeds. The farmers there can continue planting their native seeds as long as they like. Anyone saying different has no idea what they are talking about.

    Posted by jjdoublej | September 19, 2011, 7:40 am

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