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ACGF official learns about Mexicans' spiritual connection to corn, contamination concerns

by Robert Schubert
CropChoice editor

(Feb. 22, 2002 – CropChoice news) – God molded the first people from dirt. But they couldn’t pronounce the true name of the deity, so floods washed them away. When the second group of people – made of wood – committed the same sin, the creator incinerated them. Then came the third people, people of the corn. They pronounced the true name of God and so were the chosen ones. This Mayan story of creation underpins the spiritual connection that many Mexicans have with corn. It also helps to explain their anger over the transgenic contamination of native corn varieties that the Mexican government and researchers at the University of California at Berkeley discovered last year.

A representative of the American Corn Growers Foundation learned this Mayan religious story on a trip earlier this year to the Quintana Roo state of Mexico to discuss the genetic contamination issue with government officials. They expressed concern that the same U.S. corn, genetically modified with the insecticidal bacterium bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), could cross-pollinate with indigenous varieties on the Yucatan Peninsula.

Although Mexico maintains a ban on the planting of genetically modified corn, the state officials from the Agriculture and Economic Development ministries acknowledged the black market for transgenic seed and the fact that corn is blowing from trucks and into fields.

The Corn Growers Foundation official recalled telling them that the "burden of segregation should rest with the seller of the grain, not with the buyer. Therefore, they should institute a labeling program."

"They really liked this idea and planned to bring it up at an upcoming meeting of (state) governors," he said before summing up his feelings about the meeting and the situation.

"So here we have Mexico that bans the planting of GMOs. To the north we have Canada that is facing major questions about GMOs, especially in light of the lawsuits on canola contamination and the Canadian Wheat Board's call for a ban of GMO wheat. Then there is the United States, right in the middle, pushing GMOs on everyone, even when they don't want them. I guess NAFTA really means North American Forced Trade Agreement."