Monday, November 25, 2013

Corn-Free Diné Nation

The Diné, or Navajo, nation, which is home to 250,000 people and stretches over ten million acres between Arizona and Utah, declared a ban on GMOs and chemical pesticides at this year's Corn Is Life Gathering.

Now, first of all, yes, there is apparently something called the Corn Is Life Gathering. As we know, corn originated in the Americas and has long had spiritual significance for indigenous peoples. Diné Hataali Avery Denny's opening to the Gathering included remarks like, "Before there were human beings...there was corn. The spirit of the corn...the corn song, they were always here." and "Take care of your family corn. The corn is praying for you to come home and be healed."

Don't tell that guy about my blog.

The conference, which ran for three days, set out to discuss the effects that pesticides, genetic modification, and other symptoms of industrialization have had on traditional growing practices, particularly of corn. By the end of the conference, it was decided that the best way to care for and respect the plant was to ban all pesticides and GMOs from the Nation, not an easy thing to do, since it lies so close to the heart of American industrial agriculture, and can be contaminated by winds, birds, and everything else that pollinates across legislated borders.

The Diné Nation gave many reasons for the ban, ranging from food sovereignty as a form of independence to the necessity to preserve natural seed diversity as insurance against crop failure. The full document is available here.

I wonder what, if any, impact this news will have on GMO legislation in the rest of the United States. Is it one more step on the inevitable path toward labeling, more comprehensive testing, and maybe even banning? Or will it be largely ignored as more and more of our food becomes over-industrialized and of questionable origin? And if that's the case, will neighbors of the Diné nation sneak over there for non-GMO groceries like some people go to Reservations for duty-free cigarettes and legalized gambling?