Mexico: activists protest GMO corn with giant banner

Four activists from the Mexican branch of the international environmental organization Greenpeace climbed the Estela de Luz monument in downtown Mexico City on May 16 to protest efforts by multinational companies to increase the commercial use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the country's corn crops. The protesters unfurled a 70-meter banner reading "No GMO" and showing an ear of corn with a time bomb. Near the monument Greenpeace spokesperson Aleira Lara told reporters that transgenic corn is a time bomb for the Mexican countryside, since it endangers the 59 native strains of corn. The activists continued the protest for four hours and then left in a van; the Mexico City police made no effort to arrest them.

Now a favorite site for protests, the 104-meter Estela de Luz was built by the center-right administration of former president Felipe Calderón Hinojosa (2006-2012) for the 2010 commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the War of Independence and the 100th anniversary of the Mexican Revolution. It cost more than 1 billion pesos (US$78 million), five times the initial estimate. (La Jornada, Mexico, May 17; Hispanically Speaking News, May 17) 

The Mexican government still regulates the planting of transgenic corn, but it has begun allowing its use in crops for consumption. The Missouri-based biotech giant Monsanto Company and other multinationals now have outstanding requests for permission to expand the sowing of transgenic corn in northern and western states; activists say this will cover millions of hectares and the seeds will contaminate native corn. According to Camila Montecinos from the Chilean office of the Barcelona-based group Grain, the contamination is in fact intentional, "a carefully and perversely planned strategy" for marketing patented GMO seeds. The multinationals "chose maize, soy and canola because of their enormous potential for contamination," Montecinos says, since the pollen is carried by the wind. "When contamination spreads, the companies claim that the presence of transgenic crops must be recognized and legalized." (