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Mexican activists protest genetically-modified corn

posted 30 Sept 2012, 15:24 by Mpelembe   [ updated 30 Sept 2012, 15:25 ]

Mexicans take to the street of the capital to protest against the introduction of transgenic maize to the country fearing the indigenous grain industry and native corn varieties will be put at risk.

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO (SEPTEMBER 29, 2012) (REUTERS) -  Protesters descended on Mexico City's famed Zocalo plaza on Saturday (September 29) to denounce the production of genetically-modified corn by large multinational corporations in the Latin American country widely believed to be the birthplace of the staple grain.

Dragging a large stack of corn through the capital's colonial heart, demonstrators protested recent government approvals of large plantations to produce genetically modified corn in Mexico by foreign agricultural biotechnolgy coprorations.

Fearing the growing competition will drive the country's small corn producers to bankruptcy and put at risk the country's 55 varieties of native corn, critics say the government is destroying domestic production.

"Transgenic corn will put at risk the livelihoods of our communities, putting at risk our food supply and putting our risk our health and above all else rob our identity. Transgenic corn is privatising corn in Mexico and we are against this. We want that small and medium size producers, indigenous farmers can give (corn) for us to eat but politics is aligned with (corn production) leaving the region and importing transgenic corn from other countries (like) the United States and South Africa," said protester, Rosario Cobo.

As corn features heavily in many of Mexico's world-famous dishes, the country has long been hesitant to adopt transgenic maize seeds.

Many consumers are concerned about the health and environmental consequences of a transgenic grain.

"The problem with transgenic corn like with other transgenic crops is that there are no sufficient studies that checks the damage that it does to the human body as well as the environment. For various years when there werent sufficient studies big companies such as Monsanto for example started to introduce food which is genetically modified to improve their productivity of the company without taking into account the doubts of the people," said protester Diana Ivonne Gomez.

With Mexico one of the world's biggest corn producers -- more than 20 million tonnes on average per year -- supporters of transgenic corn say Mexico has fallen behind other agricultural powerhouses such as its neighbour the United States where genetically modified seeds are widespread.