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Monsanto will have to wait awhile longer before it can contaminate Mexico’s countryside with its GMO corn. And thanks in part to the work being done by OCA’s Mexico-based sister network, Vía Orgánica, the Biotech Bully may never get the chance to destroy what has traditionally been a global haven for food crop biodiversity.
This year marks the 5-year anniversary of OCA’s Vía Orgánica (the “Organic Way”) Project. Organized and subsidized by the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) in 2009, Vía Orgánica is a non-profit organization that serves as a network for organic consumers and farmers in Mexico. The project operates an organic food market and restaurant, and an eco-ranch that is also an education/training center for sustainable agriculture.
But just like its sister org north of the border, Vía Orgánica, also a key player in Mexico’s anti-GMO movement, and the facebook network, Millones Contra Monsanto (Millions Against Monsanto), which is leading the organic food, fair trade and natural health movements in Mexico.
Vía Orgánica is based in the heartland of Mexico, in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato (170 miles NW of Mexico City). The project’s Millions Contra Monsanto campaign staff, led by Mercedes Lopez, is based in Mexico City. It was the Mexico City campaign staff that played a major role in the unprecedented October 2013 ruling by a Federal Judge banning the “planting of transgenic corn in the country and an end to the granting of permission for experimental and pilot commercial plantings." This was a major victory against “multinationals like Monsanto and Pioneer, who are banned from the release of transgenic corn into the Mexican countryside.”
The ban is temporary. But Vía Orgánica is working tirelessly with international and national organizations such as Greenpeace, Semillas de Vida” (Seeds of Life), and “Sin Maiz, No Hay Pais,” (Without Corn, there is No County) to permanently protect Mexico from GMO crops.
Meanwhile, Vía Orgánica continues to operate a thriving organic food store and restaurant as a commercially sustainable model of how organic food and agriculture can succeed in Mexico. The store and restaurant are in San Miguel de Allende, named top city in the world by Condé Nast Traveler.
In addition to selling a variety of regional, national and North American organic and Fair Trade products, Vía Orgánica also operates a “biointensive organic” ranch, eco-tourism center and farm school. Rancho Vía Orgánica supplies produce to the store and café, and serves as resource and meeting place for small farmers, urban gardeners, students and consumers from across Mexico who want to take classes and learn how to sustainably grow their own organic food. Rancho Vía Orgánica offers a variety of free workshops and classes on horticulture, animal husbandry and natural health.
Vía Orgánica also has its own theater troupe that travels throughout Mexico, performing original plays that both entertain, and inform audiences about the threat Monsanto and other biotech companies pose to the country’s food and agriculture system.
Most importantly, the Vía Orgánica Project is creating a growing network of farmers and consumers dedicated to sustainable organic agriculture in Mexico. And it has become an important center and networking space for activists and green- minded tourists in San Miguel, a United Nations World Heritage site and popular tourist destination.
Griffin Klement is project manager for Vía Orgánica, a project of the Organic Consumers Association.