Don Quijones: Mexican Gourmet Chefs Sharpen Knives in Monsanto GMO War

By Don Quijones, of Spain and Mexico. Originally published at Wolf Street

In the last two years, Mexico has become one of the major battlegrounds of the 21st century global food wars. On one side of the battle line is Demanda Colectiva AC, a collective of 53 scientists and 22 civil rights organizations and NGOs fighting to protect Mexico’s extraordinary wealth of food crop biodiversity; on the other is a coalition of the world’s GMO goliaths led by US agribusiness giant Monsanto.

Their ultimate goal is simple: complete control over the Mexican food chain. And in their bid to achieve it, they can count on the unwavering support of Mexico’s Ministries of Agriculture and the Environment.

On Tuesday they won a vital, albeit not yet decisive, victory when Mexico’s XII District Court overturned Judge Marroquín Zaleta’s 2013 ruling to suspend the granting of licenses for GMO field trials.

In his original ruling, Zaleta cited the potential risks to the environment posed by GMO corn. If the biotech industry got its way, he argued, more than 7000 years of indigenous maize cultivation in Mexico would be endangered, with the country’s 60 varieties of corn directly threatened by cross-pollination from transgenic strands.
A Sympathetic Ear or Two
The response of the world’s agribusiness conglomerates was swift: within months they – and their ever-loyal lackeys in the Mexican government – had appealed Zaleta’s ruling on 93 separate counts. By March, the legal collective had won 85 legal battles against the transnational seed corporations and many of the appeals, and challenges launched by Monsanto & Friends had been unanimously rejected by the courts [read: In Global Food War, Monsanto Trips Over Mexican Judge].

However, it was only a matter of time before the behemoths of global agribusiness found a judge with a sympathetic ear, especially given the pressure being exerted behind the scenes by ranks of GMO lobbyists and Environment and Agriculture Ministry officials.

Now that Zelata’s original suspension has been overturned, the race is on to get GMO seeds planted in Mexican soil. AgroBIO, a lobbying association representing businesses and sectors interested in developing transgenic crops in Mexico, has stated that the government has effectively been given a green light to begin issuing licenses for GMO cultivation in Mexico.
78 Chefs Sharpen Their Knives
But Mexico’s popular resistance is unlikely to yield quite so easily. Indeed, signs are that the fight could well go mainstream. Demanda Colectiva AC has just launched a public appeal for members of scientific, academic, artistic and civil society organizations to lend their support in its battle to safeguard Mexico’s crop biodiversity. The collective is expecting a particularly strong response in the days leading up to National Corn Day, on September 29.

And 78 high-profile gourmet chefs have already joined the struggle, El País reports. They include Enrique Olvera, the head chef of Pujol, a Mexico City-based eatery that is in sixteenth place on Restaurant magazine’s ranking of the world’s best restaurants; Mikel Alonso (Biko); Jorge Vallejo and Alejandra Flores (Quintonil); Alex Ruiz (Casa Oaxaca); Elena Reygadas (Rosetta); Jair Téllez (Merotoro) and Mónica Patiño (Delirio).

In an open letter to the government, the chefs sharpen their knives against the court’s recent decision to overturn the moratorium. The cultivation of GMOs could pose an “existential threat to the diversity of Mexico’s native species of corn,” they argue.

They also caution that it is still unclear just how harmful trangenics can be to human health. For example, the World Health Organization’s cancer arm, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), recently reclassified glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s biggest selling herbicide Roundup, as “probably carcinogenic to humans.”

Given that corn accounts for a staggering 53% of the average calorie intake and 39% of protein consumption in Mexico, even the slightest possibility that GMO varieties of corn could be damaging to human health should be reason enough, at least in a sane world, for any government to suspend its use until the nature and severity of the threat can be ascertained.
Power and Control
GMO cultivation would also exacerbate the concentration of land and seed ownership in Mexico, the letter warns, echoing similar fears expressed by award-winning professor of Cellular Neurobiology David R. Schubert in a 2013 letter to Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto (read a summary here):

Once transnational corporations dominate the seed market of a particular crop (as has happened with Soy and is fast happening with Corn), they will continue introducing GM seeds for other crops and increasing their power over Mexico’s agricultural sector.

The gourmet cooks point out that an increasing number of countries, including Europe’s two biggest economies, Germany and France, have banned the cultivation of GMOs, with no tangible side effects. “What’s stopping Mexico from doing the same?”, they ask.

The chefs also defend the ancient right of smallholders and farmers to keep the seeds from their own harvest and exchange them among themselves, rather than have to buy new batches each year from copyright-protected mega-corporations like Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta, Bayer, Dow, and BASF.

Although these six companies own roughly three-quarters of the world’s commercial seeds, whether genetically modified or not, they prefer to sell GMOs, for two reasons: first, they use a lot more agrichemicals, an industry in which the same companies have a controlling stake; and second, by patenting GMO seeds and getting governments to ban uncertified seeds, the companies can guarantee that farmers will have to come back for more, year after year, decade after decade.

And this act of locking customers that used to grow their own seeds into buying patented seeds forever, this act of controlling the global food supply via these patented seeds, aided and abetted by governments, just happens to be best, most lucrative deal out there for Monsanto & Friends, and it doesn’t matter what the consequences down the road may be. By Don Quijones, Raging Bull-Shit.

Mexico and other Latin America economies are skittering deeper into trouble, and now there’s blood on the Bourse. Read… “Hot Money” Flees Latin America, Triggers Currency Bloodbath, Risk of Mega Debt Crisis

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  1. jb

    If corn accounts for 39% of dietary protein intake, GMO Corn blocks protein uptake and assimilation in chickens, which is why they are fed supplemental soybean meal. So, maybe the solution is to add some soybean meal to our totillas

    1. Vatch

      I didn’t know that some GMO corn blocks protein absorption. Can you provide a source for that information? I didn’t see it in the article (I did see the warning about increased cancer risk because of the use of glyphosate, to which some GMO varieties are resistant).

      I know that any variety of corn (maize) provides less protein than rice or wheat. People whose diet is heavily dependent on maize corn have an increased risk of pellagra, which is partly caused by a niacin deficiency. The liver can manufacture niacin, but adequate amounts of tryptophan are needed, and maize corn has very little tryptophan.

      1. different clue

        I read somewhere that soaking/simmering mature dry corn kernels with lime or wood-fire ashes ( a process called by such names as nixtamalization and hominization and so forth) and then drying them back out mobilizes the kernel-borne niacin and renders it digestive-systemically absorbable and uptakable. That is how the Indian Nations avoided the pellagra problem with corn. I should imagine that beans and other things eaten with the corn provided the amino acids the corn did not provide.

        About the runaway effort to plant frankengene corn all over Mexico in order to pollute native corn with bioactive xenogene fallout . . . every conspiracy has some unwilling draftees among its members. If those unwilling draftees can be secretly found and secretly cultivated as sources of information on where the frankencorn is being planted, then organized clean-gene strike forces can be sent to every frankengene corn test plot to destroy all the corn plants.

        1. Vatch

          Thanks for the interesting link about nixtamalization; there’s always something new to learn! You’re absolutely correct about the nutritional value of including beans with corn. Squash is another food that provides additional nutrients for people on a high corn diet.

          1. different clue

            Interesting. And this might be a second reason why squash would be one of the Three Sisters. Not just as an agronomic force multiplier growing with the beans and corn in the field, but also as a nutritional force multiplier boiling with the beans and corn in the pot. And squash seeds must contain yet other protein and fat worth eating. Some have been bred big enough to be worth shelling and eating. Pumpkin seeds/ “pepitas”, etc. The “egusi” melon of Nigeria grown for its high fat/ high protein seeds.

            I would like to see millions of gardeners doing millions of selection searches among what they grow for interesting new directions to breed in. For example, I once cracked open a cantelope melon seed to eat the “meat” inside the shell to see what it tasted like. As small as it was, it was able to taste kind of like rich fatty pecan. But one would have to shell a thousand cantalope seeds by hand to get enough cantalope seed-meats to get as much actual nut-mass as what one pecan delivers. Who is going to sit there and shell a thousand cantalope melon seeds?

            Now . . . what if millions of melon-eaters all began checking their melons for the very biggest seeds? And planting those biggest seeds and selecting the progeny for even bigger seeds? And more biggerer seeds after that? After a thousand years of such selection, our descendants would have cantalope melons with 20 or 30 or maybe 50 big cantalope nuts inside, worth shelling in order to eat. Maybe even a cantalope with one single coconut-sized pit inside, a pit filled with tasty cantalope nutmeat.

  2. Dave Finley

    If the farmers get hybrid seed, which is what most commercial companies sell, they still need to go back to the company for more seed next year.

    1. tegnost

      From the article…”The chefs also defend the ancient right of smallholders and farmers to keep the seeds from their own harvest and exchange them among themselves, rather than have to buy new batches each year from copyright-protected mega-corporations”

  3. Auntienene

    The chefs should refuse service to policians and judges who favor big agribusinesse, as well as the ag executives.

    1. different clue

      And publicly and loudly shame them out of their restaurants. Of course if the chefs do that, they might well want to hire bodyguards and security forces to defend themselves and their restaurants against the MexiGovernment-connected Cartel assassin-forces who would be sent in to murder the chefs and bomb or burn down the restaurants.

  4. susan the other

    Pena Nieto is a sell-out to neoliberalism. First he gave away PEMEX and silenced student protests by murdering them; then Mexico received its quid – several US corporations relocating over the border; now Monsanto and Friends has bought the judicial system and will rush to plant GMO corn and get it in the ground before the heritage farmers can organize their opposition. And next year we will hear what Mexico got for selling out its farmers. It is as sleazy as it gets. And it is all thanx to Pena Nieto.

  5. different clue

    If gardens are outlawed, only outlaws will garden.

    If seed-saving is outlawed, only outlaws will save seeds. If Mexican corn seed saving is outlawed, will several million Mexican peasants and farmers arm themselves as best they can and save their seeds anyway? Preparing as best they can for a Guatemala-dirty-war style campaign against every seed saver by the Armed Forces and Cartel Assassins of the MexiGovernment?

  6. jawbone

    Ted Genoways, a contributing editor for the New Republic and an agriculture journalist, tells The Takeaway that some FBI bureaus have made agriculture technology the number two most important security issue, second only to terrorism.Ted Genoways, a contributing editor for the New Republic and an agriculture journalist, tells The Takeaway that some FBI bureaus have made agriculture technology the number two most important security issue, second only to terrorism.

    The Takeaway on NPR (WNYC in my area) covered this on Friday, 8/28/15. What leapt out to me was the FBI maintained to the FISA court that tracking industrial spying was a matter of US national security, since Monsanto’s corn seeds were needed to “maintain US dominance over the world’s food supplies.” It was necessary to use all tools, including FISA, to deter attacks on these seed copyrights.

    The author of the article went on to say that the US government has used food, corn especially, as weapons against both Russia and China in the past.

    The hegemone does what the hegemony feels it must do….

    Link to the article:

  7. different clue

    Probably this is the thin wedge towards the ultimate goal of declaring GMO opponents to be terrorists against the National GMO Security future. To be followed by defining gardeners growing FrankenFree Clean-Genes crops as terrorists after that.

    That gives me an idea for a character and logo for use on our side of the War of Extermination to the Mortal Kombat Death of One Side over the Other Side. “No GMO” seed could be referred to as “FrankenFree”. As in Free of GMO FrankenGenes. And a character could be created to praise FrankenFree varieties. And that character could be named Mr. Clean Genes in honor of the Mr. Green Jeans of Kaptain Kangaroo fame.

    Mr. Clean Genes is your badge of quality. Mr. Clean Genes says . . . It’s FrankenFree!

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