Dispatches from an international conference on genetically modified corn
Carmelo Ruiz is a Puerto Rican journalist, a research associate of the Institute for Social Ecology, a fellow of the Environmental Leadership Program, and a senior fellow of the Society of Environmental Journalists. This week he is attending the Maize and Biodiversity Symposium..
Tuesday, 9 Mar 2004
OAXACA CITY, Mexico
So here I am in the Mexican state of Oaxaca after three plane trips (San Juan to Houston to Mexico City to Oaxaca). This is my first trip to Mexico. I’m here to attend an international scientific symposium on the effects of genetically modified corn, organized by the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation, a body created through the NAFTA environmental side agreement.
On Thursday, the CEC will present its report on the biotech corn controversy. Most of my Mexican sources tell me they expect nothing short of greenwash, or at best a wimpy attempt to please both supporters and opponents of genetically modified crops. They also expect the report to be long and extremely technical in nature.
Apparently anticipating such a possibility, civil society groups, peasants, indigenous peoples, progressive organizations, NGOs, and environmental groups like Greenpeace Mexico are coming to Oaxaca tomorrow to give the scientists and bureaucrats a piece of their mind. It promises to be a very interesting exchange.
A little background is in order: GM corn was found to be growing in Mexico back in 2001. (See an article I wrote about this for CorpWatch.) This was a most startling discovery since planting GM crops had been illegal in Mexico since 1998. But there it was, aggressively cross-breeding with local varieties grown by indigenous peoples and campesinos.
University of California researchers Ignacio Chapela and David Quist made the discovery and published it in the prestigious scientific journal Nature. For their efforts, they were subjected to a campaign of vicious attacks that included slanderous anonymous emails.
However, Chapela and Quist’s discovery has been vindicated beyond a shadow of a doubt. Now, what will the effects of this biotech corn be? Are the biotech corporations right when they say there’s nothing to worry about?
We’ll see what the CEC report has to say. Anyway, gotta go to bed now. Tomorrow’s going to be a long day.