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The Pathways of Corn

tags : corn, maize, pl-en,

The Pathways of Corn

Silvia Ribeiro

La Jornada, 18th April, 2015


Corn sown in order to eat is the sacred sustenance of the man who was made from corn. Sown by business, it is the starvation of the man who was made of corn.

Simple and profound, each day these words of Miguel Ángel Asturias become more meaningful. Now the business of sowing starvation belongs to four transnational corporations that want to monopolize and transgenically contaminate corn, until the hands that bred and cared for this food of mankind might even have to buy seed from them and pay them for “inappropriate patent use” should their ancestral corns be contaminated with GMOs.[i]

The attack is extensive, but the defence is even more so. So important is maize in Mesoamerica, that the transnationals cannot believe they are encountering so many obstacles to imposing their will, which they have done with impunity on many other issues. So deep are the roots and reasons for the women and men of corn, which like the sun, unfailingly returns, dissipating the clouds, weaving sunrises, germinating new seeds and growing new ears of corn in many colours, shapes and flavours.

For the last 21 months, planting genetically modified corn in Mexico, its centre of origin, has been legally suspended, an unprecedented and praiseworthy event, which is now entering a new phase. Collective AC, the legal representative of a class action lawsuit filed by 53 individuals and 20 organizations, announced that after overcoming a long [legal] process [designed] to prevent this issue from even being discussed, the legal process for considering the case against GM corn for damages that it entails for biodiversity and health, among others, is now set to begin. In 2013, in connection with this class action lawsuit, the court approved an injunction that suspended the planting of GM corn at the experimental, pilot and commercial levels, while it also ordered the authorities to refrain from undertaking any procedure aimed at issuing new planting permits until the charges brought are decided.

Across the last 21 months, they had to face 91 challenges filed not only by Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow, Pioneer (DuPont) but by the Secretariats of both Agriculture and Environment. The challenges presented by the Secretariats represent shameful acts, the diversion of State authority in order to favour the profitability of transnational businesses against the interests of the peoples who created the corn and against the will of the vast majority of Mexico’s citizens. In November 2014, the final ruling of the international Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal made this point clear.

Business and government together have filed 11 petitions for amparo [injunction] (nine by the transnationals; two by the federal government) to reverse the restraining order and another 11 (again nine corporate; two federal) against the grounds for the class action lawsuit. Collective AC had to respond to each of the challenges, and it also filed 26. To date seventeen courts have been involved: one federal court, one court of appeal, three amparo courts, one administrative commission, 10 collegiate [district] courts, and the first chamber of the Supreme Court. When all appeals against the lawsuit are finally turned down, the legal procedure will begin. Along the way, several courts also ruled in favour of the suspension [restraining order] as a precautionary measure, such that it will be maintained during the legal proceeding.

The sowing of GM corn is suspended not only due to this important legal work and the action of honest judges who affirmed the defence of the country’s most important genetic heritage. It is also suspended thanks to the defence of the land, seeds, soil, water and forests by [indigenous] communities and ejidos in all corners of the country; and thanks also to every neighbourhood and organization that decides to eat [corn] tortillas without GMOs, thanks to every school, forum, dining room and talk show where their atrocities are reported and where it is sought to build or strengthen networks for ensuring that the hands of small farmers might remain free of GMOs, these same hands that supply corn to local markets and fairs. Thanks to strong national and international public opinion against the release of GM corn in its centre of origin, because it condemns the inevitable contamination in Mexico, which is the global genetic reservoir of corn that is [with rice and wheat] one of the three grain pillars for the global food supply.


Eduardo Galeano was a beloved presence who always felt and supported the struggles of the peoples of corn. Citing the Popol Vuh, Eduardo told us that when the gods were making human beings, before they made them of the corn that is their true essence, they tried making them of wood. Although they seemed to be human beings, they were insensitive and ambitious; they did not respect the earth or other living beings. The gods thought they had eliminated them, but some escaped and today, Galeano told us, they rule the world.

But despite their assaults, they are also broken and finally die. Defence of the corn and its communal care will live on forever, in perpetuity. Eduardo continues walking along the pathways of the corn. His words and feelings, like the seeds that return to grow and marry with many others bred by the indigenous communities, will continue to germinate.  

Translated by Jane Brundage

[i] MV Note: Corn is a crop with open pollination; that is, its pollen can travel long distances on the wind. Thus, in the case of the GMOs, the danger is contamination of native corns by windborne GMO pollen