The United Nations World Food Summit met recently to decide whether genetically-modified crops will save poor countries from famine or will contaminate normal crops, presenting a danger to food supplies around the world.
Despite a ban on planting GM corn there, Mexican corn crops have been contaminated by the GM StarLink strain, and this contamination will probably never be eradicated. If it?s discovered that there is some health or environmental danger linked to StarLink in the future, Mexico will have the hard choice of continuing to grow and consume it or will facing starvation.
The most heavily contaminated area is Oaxaca, where one-fourth of the corn has tested positive for GM. Thousands of small subsistence farmers grow corn there. Olga Maldonado says, "Corn is our way of life. Most of what we eat, like tortillas and thick soups, come from the crop."
Six months ago, tests revealed that her corn field was contaminated with genetically modified corn. "I'm concerned because our children eat corn all the time,? she says. ?We don't know whether it's safe to eat or not. The government has told us nothing about these GM plants. Absolutely nothing."
Olga?s corn, like other corn crops in the area, was tested at a high technology laboratory nearby. "Despite the moratorium on GM crop growing four years ago, many GM strains have slipped through the net," says Juan Martin, who's in charge of the testing. "Our best guess is that the Mexican corn harvests have been contaminated by imported corn from the United States. That corn was supposed to be for human consumption but farmers weren't aware of that and they sowed it in their fields."
The Mexican government is quick to defend itself against the charge that it should never have allowed StarLink corn into the country. "If there is GM contamination then it's not because of any government failure," says Victor Arambula, spokesman for the Mexican agriculture ministry. "We've had a number of different campaigns aimed at telling farmers not to use imported corn as seed. Over the last four years, we've made it perfectly clear to farmers that this contamination might happen."
To the outside observer, it seems inevitable that Oaxaca farmers would have been unable to resist the temptation to plant the corn, even if they did receive the government message that they weren?t supposed to (which is doubtful), since they are so poor.
"There will?be a drastic reduction in the variety of corn strains in Mexico," Boone Hallberg says. Hallberg is a botanist who has been working with Mexican corn growers for 40 years. "Until now, when there's been a virus in other parts of the world, people have been able to come here to find strains resistant to the virus. GM contamination will change all that. The thousands of varieties here will be lost forever, threatening food security around the world."
The real dangers of GM food are bigger than eating something that may not be approved for human consumption. Learn the truth from ?Eating in the Dark: America?s Experiment with Genetically-Engineered Food? by Kathleen Hart,click here. Kathleen will be on our June 29 Dreamland show.
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