Indigenous Mexican corn threatened by U.S. biopiracy

Scientists from the University of California and the University of Wisconsin-Madison working for Mars Inc. company committed biopiracy with the genetic characteristics of a species of corn from the Mixe indigenous community in Oaxaca, Mexico

Indigenous Mexican corn threatened by U.S. biopiracy
Olotón corn is a species native to Mexico and Guatemala – Photo: Daniel Aguilar/REUTERS
English 02/10/2019 20:12 Juan Carlos Zavala Mexico City Actualizada 20:42
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Civil society and agricultural groups that make up the State Space in Defense of Oaxaca’s Native Corn reported that American scientists committed biopiracy, between 2006 and 2015, with the genetic characteristics of olotón corn, which was subtracted from the Mixe community of Totontepec.

During a meeting that took place on September 27 and 28, the representatives of the organism explain that disguised as science and development, the scientists of the University of California and the University of Wisconsin-Madison are working for the company Mars Inc. and performed a series of offenses against Mesoamerican indigenous communities.

These offenses ended in the request to patent the genetic characteristics derived from this corn species called “olotón,” the existence of which is documented since the 1950s in Guatemala and Mexico.

“We are concerned about the international regulations Mexico is pushed to ratified, such as the Nagoya Protocol on the access to genetic resources, and the Convention of the International Union for the Protection to Vegetable Obtentions (UPOV 1991), agreed with the new North American free-trade agreement (USMCA),” they said.

The point they highlight is that “they are instruments that legitimize the rob of genetic resources under an alleged benefit sharing, on one hand, and on the other, the criminalization of free seed exchange to favor the interest of transnational companies, undermining the fact that corn is a Mesoamerican creation that took thousands of years to produce, and that they want to own for their profit.”

For them, this was an act of biopiracy, and they asserted that the scientists of these universities did not make any discovery and only want to garner their ancient knowledge, “showing ignorance and undermining of traditional science that is currently expressed in our communities as a custom,” they pointed out.

The participants of this event on communal corn said that the work in the cornfield has always contributed to cool down the planet. The fact that Western technology allows them to know that olotón corn feeds from nitrogen captured by bacteria living in its roots’ sap, and that they can manipulate this characteristic to reduce the use of petroleum-based fertilizer, “gives them no right to garner this millennial knowledge, that from the indigenous perspective must remain in the hands of those who work the land to produce their food.”

Corn privatization
Regarding public policies for Mexican agriculture endorsed by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, the members of the group asserted that they dislike the fact that they are using “paternalist policies disguised as fighting poverty” to individualize the delivery of minimum resources to farmers.

According to them, this promotes the disintegration of communal tissue while also damaging collective rights of indigenous towns.

“Hence, while they promise to recognize the free determination of indigenous towns, in the practice they impose programs that destroy the community for the sake of transformation,” they asserted.

They said that the federal government program “Planting Life” (Sembrando vida) has the objective of dividing common-use lands to settle the base of their future privatization through the erosion of social tissue; this, promoted by decision making in small groups that ignore the existence of community assemblies.

“Likewise, we see it as the endorsement for the establishment of commercial plantations that pretend to substitute spaces where cornfield is planted,” they pointed out.

The State Space in Defense of Oaxaca’s Native Corn demanded the Mexican government to stop pretending to support agriculture and to leave decisions on the production of their food on the hands of indigenous people and farmers.


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