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Defending maize, defending food

Maize, or corn, is one of the most important grains in the world—no more so than in Mexico, where the plant is indigenous.

And it’s not just a crop—for many in Mexico, maize is a deep cultural symbol intrinsic to daily life.

But maize is under threat in Mexico: despite legislation that restricts genetically-modified (GM) maize there, Monsanto and other transnational industrial agriculture companies and the Mexican government are pushing for its cultivation.

This year we launched a special fund to support the efforts of the Collective Action of Maize—an alliance of over fifty farmers, activists, and environmental organizations.

The Collective is fighting on behalf of countless small-scale farmers who depend on non-imported, indigenous varieties of maize.

María Estela Barco Huerta from our partner DESMI in Mexico doesn’t mince words: “If indigenous and peasant communities do not protect their seeds, it is life-threatening for them and the people of Mexico.”

Scoring a victory in the court system

The Collective is filing a class action lawsuit to permanently ban the planting of GM maize in all of Mexico.

They got a huge win in March 2016 when a federal judge ruled that GM maize can’t be grown in Mexico for commercial use until the case has been resolved.

While the ruling does still allow for experimental trials of GM maize it also means that the government will now require regular assessments of the impact of the of the test crops on neighboring non-GM fields and human health.

“Sufficient information is not given by governments on the risks posed to human health and the danger of contaminating native seeds,” the Collective has said in a statement. “In the case of Mesoamerica, this means the risk of losing ancient varieties.”


Your help in defending maize in Mexico

With our community of supporters, The Mexico Maize Solidarity Collaborative Fund has been supporting the Collective’s legal action and movement building.

The fund also channels resources to local Indigenous-led organizations in Mexico— including our long-term partners DESMI and EduPaz.

With your support, these organizations are continuing their vital work in protecting indigenous varieties of maize and promoting other sound agroecological practices such as seed keeping.

Thank you to everyone in our community—here in the Bay Area and around the world—who has sent messages of solidarity, donated to the fund, and signed the global petition.

These actions of solidarity make a huge difference!

Case carries on—partners are undeterred

While the Collective scored a major victory in March, the claims and appeals are unending.

Over the last three years, the Collective has responded to over 100 complicated challenges to their case, much of the time on a repeal process that requires them to respond to motions within 24 hours!

Up against Big Ag, there are hurdles that block the case’s progress at every turn.

But our partners are unrelenting. They see losing native varieties in the very country from which maize comes from as a fundamental threat in the global fight against GMOs:

“This is just the first of many legal hurdles we will have to overcome in our continued battle to defend the integrity and diversity of Mexico’s corn and its connection with an entire culture.”

Protecting the environment and livelihoods

Grants to our partners mean they can continue their invaluable work with community agroecology and initiatives that conserve resources while developing sustainable livelihoods. All without GM seeds.

Take, for example, our partners’ work supporting indigenous communities to form collectives to grow organic produce, provide them with training, and where possible, support them in obtaining organic certification. This allows them to get a higher—and fairer—price for their products.

In the process, families improve nutrition, production yields and soil fertility, and preserve their ancestral lands. The work also helps develop flourishing and sustainable livelihoods, and proactively addresses the challenges of climate change.

The courage to continue

On the Collective’s recent 3rd anniversary, they asked that Mexico “join the global rejection of GMOs,” citing evidence of lower yields from GM crops, potential damage to human health, and losses to biodiversity.

“Today we celebrate with joy and excitement this anniversary, although we know that there is still much to do to banish this danger to Mexican rural farmlands, and to further prevent plundering of the wealth that [Mexican] indigenous and peasants farming communities give to the world.”

María Estela deftly sums up why we believe so powerfully in this work: “To defend corn is to defend the future of food of indigenous peoples.”

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