Local resistance against invasive corporate agriculture is not fruitless – just look at Hawaii and Mexico this week.
The island Kauai, the fourth largest in Hawaii, passed a countywide resolution this week after widespread activist pressure and a marathon hearing that places significant restrictions on biotech and pesticide firms (though stronger rules originally in the bill were defeated).
The Kauai County Council, which holds jurisdiction over the entire island, passed Bill 2491 by a veto-proof vote of 6-to-1, and will require full disclosure of when GMO crops are planted and when pesticides are used, while establishing buffer zones and other rules.
According to Reuters:
“The version of the bill that passed late Tuesday was stripped of some of its tougher conditions and now requires the agricultural companies to disclose the presence and use of genetically modified crops and pesticides; establishes buffer zones around schools, hospitals, homes and other areas, and requires the county to conduct a study on the health and environmental impacts of the industry.”
A similar bill is being considered on Hawaii’s big island.
Kauai is known as the “Garden Isle” and viewed as an ideal testing ground for new genetically-engineered varieties due to its climate, which allows year round growing seasons, including three corn crops per year. It has served as a virtual ‘ground zero’ testing headquarters for many of biotech’s biggest firms for decades.
The USDA issues permits to Syngenta, DuPont Pioneer, Dow AgroSciences, BASF, and, of course, Monsanto to conduct thousands of acres of open field trials in Hawaii, with an estimated 15,000 acres cultivated on Kauai.
A federal judge ruled against the USDA in 2006 after its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) division violated the rules for conducting proper and thorough examinations of the environmental impacts before issuing permits for testing pharmaceutical drugs grown in genetically-engineered crops on Kauai and other Hawaiian islands to ProdiGene, Monsanto, Hawaii Agriculture Research Center and Garst Seed.
More recently, several thousand activists marched in Kauai to demand the eviction of Monsanto and the passage of the bill to levy more restrictions against firms growing GMOs on the island. Nearly 100 residents spoke in favor of the bill in Kauai, while thousands more supported their efforts and pushed for this local, legislative victory.
Meanwhile, Mexico halts GM corn permits
GMOs in Mexico have always been controversial, as attempts to grow corn and other crops directly threaten the immense cultural heritage of thousands of unique varieties of heirloom maize – an irreplaceable depository of thousands of years of agricultural breeding.
But a ten year moratorium against planting GM corn was broken in 2009, when the Calderon administration curbed to biotech pressure and allowed GMO to take root.
Now, according to CIP Americas, in response to a class action lawsuit filed by 20 groups and 53 individuals, a federal court has ordered the suspension of permits for experimental, pilot and commercial plots of genetically modified corn.
A blow to self-interested biotech firms often accused of dominating the world – including Monsanto, DuPont Pioneer, Syngenta, Bayer and Dow AgroSciences, the case was won on the ‘precautionary principle’ basis of preventing harm until crops are demonstrated as harmless via scientific consensus.
But perhaps even more important is the protection it can give to local farmers who’ve depended upon ‘maize biodiversity’ and the continuity of heritage crops for their livelihood for countless generations.
Back in 2002, the widespread, systematic contamination of these maize varieties by UNAUTHORIZED GM corn strains was confirmed, raising alarms about the possibility for new genetically-modified mono-crops to destroy one of the world’s foremost agricultural genetic treasure chests.
Prior to this lawsuit, Monsanto and other corporations reportedly received hundreds of permits to plant about a million hectares in 2012 – a development that outraged many in Mexico’s agricultural community.
In Mexico – and in Hawaii – legal challenges from biotech may be forthcoming, as these transnational firms are unlikely to pack up and go home, particularly as big foundation billionaires including Bill Gates and Carlos Slim have set up new centers to back the development of GM “improvements” to agriculture throughout Mexico, and the Gates and Rockefeller Foundations have sponsored a new ‘green’ revolution based on GMOs and megacorporate control across the globe.