| The Consejo Nacional Urbano y Campesino (CNUC), a popular mass-based organization in Tlaxcala and a member of the Other Campaign, led a series of demonstrations this week in opposition to a new law that would legalize genetically modified corn. Tlaxcala is the home of corn in Mexico, with over 300 local varieties that would be threatened with contamination by genetically modified seeds. The new law would force campesinos to register their seeds, possibly opening the door for lawsuits by Monsanto and other international corporations as local seeds are contaminated by genetically modified varieties.
A similar lawsuit in Canada forced a local farmer to pay Monsanto for the yearly use of seeds that contained genetically modified characteristics as proven by DNA testing. In 2001, Monsanto sued Percy Schmeiser, a 70-year-old farmer from Saskatchewan, for violating its patent on an herbicide-resistant canola seed. The suit alleged that Schmeiser knowingly planted some of Monsanto’s “Roundup Ready” canola seed-so called because it has been genetically modified to withstand the company’s Roundup weed killer-without paying for it. Farmers who buy the product sign an agreement with Monsanto, promising to buy new seed each growing season rather than save and replant seeds, and to pay the company an annual fee. Schmeiser claimed the patented seed had blown onto his fields from a neighboring farm or passing trucks. Monsanto contended he had knowingly saved and then used the seed without paying for it. Monsanto won the initial case, as well as two appeals, the last at the Canadian Supreme Court in 2004. Schmeiser went on to sue Monsanto for the expense of cleaning his fields of the Roundup Ready seed, and in 2008 won an out-of-court settlement in which the company agreed to pay those costs.
The Tlaxcala demonstrations included dozens of ejido authorities from around the state, making them some of the most important public demonstrations in the state in recent years. Within hours, state police staked out the home of Luz Rivera, the most visible leader of CNUC. CNUC lawyers suspect the state Attorney General has issued an arrest warrant for Luz in an effort to quell the demonstrations. Luz is currently on a speaking tour in the US sponsored by the Mexico Solidarity Network.
In January 2011 the Congress of the state of Tlaxcala, one day before the legislators left office, approved the “Agricultural Law of Support and Protection of Corn, our original patrimony, in Constant Diversification and Nourishment, for the State of Tlaxcala.”
This law, veiled by a supposed interest in “defending” native corn, approved the planting of genetically modified corn, without taking into account the wishes of Tlaxcalan farmworkers. After a very long, rhetorical introduction, the law states:
“The municipal authority, within its competence and in accordance with this law, authorizes the storage, distribution, and commercialization of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) of corn, with the purposes of conservation, improvement, and preservation of habitat and the earth.”
It should be mentioned that before occupying his current seat as Secretary of Agriculture and Livestock of the state of Tlaxcala, Jaime Jonatan Bretón Galeazzi, held a position as an executive of Monsanto.
The national press publicized the implementation of the law in the beginning of April, three months after it was published in the national registry, a requirement for any new law. In this way, farmworkers, who would be most directly affected by this law, found out through the press-not from their supposed representatives-about this attack on corn, source of every farmer’s livelihood.
Farm workers quickly mobilized to reject the law. On Friday, April 15, they organized a massive protest in the state capital, led by ejido authorities and the Consejo Nacional Urbano y Campesino (CNUC) [National Urban and Farmworker’s Council]; on April 18th, they mobilized again. After this demonstration, a campaign of persecution began against CNUC, members of La Otra Campaña, an international network of grassroots organizations struggling from below and from the left. Since then, the houses and vehicles of several CNUC coordinating members have been monitored and followed by Tlaxcalan ministerial police. When asked, the surveillance officers claimed that CNUC staff, in particular Luz Rivera Martinez, are under investigation by order of State Prosecutor Alicia Fragoso Sanchez, Office of Tlaxcala.
This harassment clearly demonstrates an effort to criminalize social protest by the Mexican government-an increasingly frequent and serious occurrence in Mexico.
With the intent of stopping these systematic attacks on Tlaxcalan campesinos and the repression of all social movements in Mexico, CNUC is calling for a campaign of solidarity and response starting this Tuesday, April 26th.
To speak out against these actions, we ask that you do one or all of the following:
1) Forward this message to everybody
2) Copy, paste, and send the following message to the Tlaxcalan governor at his Facebook account: http://es-es.facebook.com/mariano.gonzalez.zarur
Soy de los Estados Unidos y estoy muy preocupado de lo que usted está haciendo a los campesinos de Tlaxcala con la <<Ley Agrícola de Fomento y Protección al Maíz como Patrimonio Originario, en Diversificación Constante y Alimentaria, para el Estado de Tlaxcala>>! ¡FUERA TRANSGENICOS DE TLAXCALA! ALTO AL HOSTIGAMIENTO CONTRA CAMPESINOS Y LUCHADORES SOCIALES!
3) Copy and paste the message below and tweet at Tlaxcalan Gov. Mariano Gonzalez Zarur:
.@GonzalezZarur ¡FUERA TRANSGENICOS DE TLAXCALA! ALTO AL HOSTIGAMIENTO CONTRA CAMPESINOS Y LUCHADORES SOCIALES!
4) Leave a comment for the State Government of Tlaxcala here.
5) If you speak Spanish and are willing to place an international call, please let these bureaucrats know what you think!
Gobernador C.P. Mariano González Zarur
Tel. 011 52 1 (246) 465-0900 ext. 1160
Secretaría de Fomento Agropecuario
Secretario Ing. Jaime Jonatan Breton Galeazzi
Tel. 011 52 1 (246) 465-0900 ext. 2213
Procuraduría General de Justicia
Procuradora Lic. Alicia Fragoso Sánchez
Tel. 011 52 1 (246) 465-0500 ext. 2