Pre-Trial Hearing Judgement : People’s Permanent Tribunal Regarding Corn

Despite everything that successive governments have done to dismantle the Constitution of Mexico, its social and political commitments, and its sense of nationhood that Mexicans formed almost 100 years ago, the Constitution is still its Carta Magna: a document that remains a source of both rights and national union.

Article 39 of the Constitution deems that national sovereignty belongs to the people of Mexico. It belongs to each and every one of those who came to present their cases and offer testimony to us. They are not representating Mexicans. They are Mexican people. They are holders of national sovereignty.

They came to this pre-trial hearing to denounce the systematic violation of the sovereignty which they are granted by the Constitution.

We listened carefully to the cases and testimonies which demonstrated this very serious fact. Much of sovereign Mexican territory, a territory that has been cared for and protected for thousands of years by its original inhabitants, has been handed over to private interests and foreign entities.

Besides the right to culture, indigenous peoples have the right to ownership of the land they have traditionally occupied. The government has acted as owner of these territories, claiming them. The government, for example, is transferring ownership of the subsoil through concessions to transnational companies in violation indigenous peoples’ rights over their territories.

It’s clear that for indigenous peoples it’s not enough to be owners of their land and territory. The planting of GMO corn and mining affects the lives of both indigenous and non-indigenous.

All this implies a misuse of power, which we can see in the testimonies, through new laws, policies and programs. The powers that be have used their powers to dismantle the laws and regulations that protect indigenous sovereignty and territory, as well as the rights of small farmers, in order to accommodate the interests of private corporations and foreign entities. Policies and programs that have been implemented are clearly against the interests of farmers.

This pre-trial hearing focuses on corn. We have heard many voices about what corn means to the Mexican people. Here are some of them, which we share verbatim:

• The Oaxacan people could not understand life without corn. It is our main staple and the foundation of our culture.

• Corn takes care of our community. It’s what’s allowed us to live and resist for thousands of years.

• We farmers have no choice but to continute planting corn, in order to keep our way of life

• We can not live without corn. We will fight to maintain our way of life and corn in it.

• I want to leave my corn to my children, my grandchildren. I want my children to be healthy, living with native corn and everything around them, beans, squash and quelites because they are life.

• I want to continue taking care of my native corn and my country because my corn and my land are sacred and I want to leave them to my children and grandchildren

• Corn is our life.

• Through corn we recreate our spirituality as an indigenous people.

• Corn is our flesh and bones, our health, history and autonomy

• Corn is us and is our national heritage.

• We grow corn to give life to our communities and humanity

• Our relationship with corn is sacred: it is the most precious treasure that men and women have.

This is the experience of corn. This is what governments have refused to see, in their anxiousness to reduce it to a commodity, an object to be bought and sold in the market and offered to the highest bidder.

As said yesterday, in one of the cases: “We denounce the cynicism, irresponsibility and wickedness with which government institutions have addressed the problem. The men and women of Oaxaca are planting our corn even in a system that wants to do away with the Mexican and Oaxacan countryside.”

One of the most serious crimes that the Mexican government has committed is to try to do away with small farmers, destroying an ancient wisdom which is the historical and cultural basis of our nation.

For 60 years this seems to have been one of their obsessions. Many leaders have even said that Mexico would never be a modern country while more than a third of the population lives in the countryside. They repeated again and again that Mexico should imitate the U.S. model, where only 2.5% of the working population produce food. Several Secretaries of Agriculture stated publicly that their duty was to get rid of millions of small farmers. Specific policies and programs were designed for this purpose. Several examples of this criminal mentality were mentioned:

• Farmers fought to have small shops in their communities (CONASUPO) administered by them, in order to access low price staples that they couldn’t produce. For many years, the network of stores DICONSA, with 23,000 establishments in 93% of the country’s municipalities, has been used with a perverse purpose. Under the pretext of lowering the price of food, it has instead discouraged local production of corn and created the risk of transgenic contamination.

• One by one, governments eliminated public projects supporting rural life. It’s true that some programs were corrupt and suffered from patronage. But they represented an economic help for farmers, who began to rely on it in order to continue farming. Many small farmers suffered when it was canceled.

In 1945, 75% of the Mexican population was rural. Half a century later, it was the reverse. While it’s true that many farmers migrated to cities dazzled by the neon lights and promises of modernization, it is clear that many were literally driven out of their communities, because of environmental destruction for which they weren’t responsible, as well as as policies and programs that prevented rural prosperity. Young people left without worthy prospects worthy in their own communities – which also became a cause of emigration.

The reform of Article 27 of the Constitution, made with the purpose of launching ejidos into the open market, was clearly associated with the obsession of the governmentto to get rid of small farmers.

The GMO invasion is part of that strategy. As clearly revealed in the testimonies, the GMO cornoffers no advantage for farmers or our nation. In contrast, transgenic crops have been used as a tool to control agriculture to destruct people’s autonomy. Furthermore, it’s been repeatedly demonstrated through studies that GMOs decrease production.

Indeed, the government has been preparing this transgenic invasion in the service of corporations that created and marketed GMOs. This perverse strategy was thoroughly described at the pre-trial hearing. This is mainly through controling the seed market in Mexico, which is worth 200 000 thousand tons and 1,200 million dollars a year. To this end, they have been laws to the benefit of large corporations and the detriment of small producers, placing them outside the law when they sell or trade the seeds they produce.

The other part of this strategy has to do with food insecurity. Mexico now imports a third of the corn Mexicans consume. In ten years we would be importing half. The government disseminates the falsity that GMOs could solve this problem by increasing production. This position lacks any support and shows the seriousness of the danger Mexico faces. In five of the eight million hectares devoted to corn production, GMO corn cannot work. In much of the Corn Belt, only native corn will work. Is this the crime that want to commit? With GMO corn, the soil’s capacity to produce would be lost. If corn no longer yields, if it can’t be grown because everything is contaminated and can not prosper, farmers must abandon their land. And that is perhaps in the end what the government is looking for. So their lands can be given over ot other interests.

Transgenic contamination can be seen as a direct effect of NAFTA. It was discovered when there was a moratorium on GMO crops. But there was a provision of NAFTA which favored the free movement of transgenics under the false premise of substantial equivalence. Which is this idea that GMO corn is the same as native corn. This premise was adopted by international bodies.

Since 2001, corn imports have grown exponentially. Although it was protected under NAFTA, the government encouraged these imports above the quotas and tariffs agreed upon. It allowed agressive dumping on domestic producers, discouraging them, and forcing them to abandon their crops and their land. With CONASUPO gone, nine transnational corporations absorbed 50% of imports.

Distributed by DICONSA, imported corn reached all parts of our country. People did not know that it was transgenic. Bringing it to Mexico was big business: Mexico did not charge tariffs and the United States supported it through subsidies.

And so one of the perverse effects of NAFTA was the destrucion of communities’ food sovereignty.

This is a historical crime of immense proportions and consequences.

We heard testimonies that clearly demonstrate that GMO contamination is intentional and represents a misuse ofpower, using the state apparatus in favor of private interests.

GMOs are a corporate tool. They belong to six transnational corporations that form an oligopoly. Monsanto controls 85% of the market.

All GMOs are protected under intellectual property rights. To reproduce them or use them without permission of the owners of these rights is a crime. Monsanto genes are patented. The company knows that contamination is inevitable, once extensive planting is done. It’s a premeditated and treacherous crime because it seeks to intentionally appropriate food systems. In the U.S., Monsanto and Dupont trials have already won $ 23 million and out of court settlements for $ 200 million. Soon it will begin to sue Mexican producers.

The crime is even more serious because Mexico is the center of corn’s origin, and therefore holds the gene pool of one of the three main crops of the world, one of the foundations of global food supply. It also holds a reservoir of knowledge necessary to keep corn alive.

We denounce to UN bodies, which know that protecting the birthplace of corn is essential to keep the crops alive. It would be the first time that a center of origin has been contaminated and so far these UN bodies have done nothing about it.

This is even more serious because of the threat of climate change. We know the threat well : where there’s drought there will be more drought, where there is rain there will be more rain. Native seeds have the genetic memory that will contain the solution to changes in climate conditions. These breeds and varieties have the characteristics we need.

Letting these breeds and varieties of corn disappear is a heinous crime, that under no circumstances should be permitted.

This unbearable crime is even more serious if we consider what we mentioned before, that the government’s policies and programs and its misuse of power have undermined food sovereignty in communities, through the exercise of systematic, social and police violence.

“Losing the native corn of our people is losing autonomy,” a witness said in the presentation of one case. Here is the crux of the matter.

In a centuries’ old struggle, communities have strengthened their autonomy and build their own forms of life and government. In Oaxaca, as highlighted in the presentations, they’re still “practicing and strengthening” communities. Thus high levels of self-sufficiency and food sovereignty were achieved. All of this is based on corn. Every family, every community, and every region strivess to produce enough corn for daily consumption. And there are complex mechanisms to cope with periodic difficulties when natural disasters or climate irregularities impede this self-sufficiency.

This organization is the basis of indigenous cultures. It’s the social fabric that allows us to exist as a nation. The slogan “No corn, no country”, which has been around for a decade, is an effective expression of this. Here corn was born, in deep harmony with nature. Here it multiplied, diversified, and adapted to the thousand different conditions of our reality. In that process corn influenced us as a people and was established as the basis of our culture.