In the Pajaro Valley, where it's not uncommon to see homegrown corn flourishing in front of houses, and where many residents bring their farming knowledge with them from their homeland, the issue of genetically engineered crops hits closer to home than you may think.
A bilingual film festival on Saturday, October 20 will explain just how.
Geared to Spanish speaking voters and anyone who is interested, "People of the Corn, People of Pajaro: A YES on Prop. 37 Bilingual Film Fest" will feature two documentary films which address the impact of GMOs on farmers in Mexico, as well as the general population who consumes them without knowing it.
The film festival's intentions are to put the science of GMOs into accessible language, and to bring awareness to the agricultural-sociological connection between California and Mexico.
"I feel a real affinity and a connection with Prop 37 to not just people who can vote but the farmers who are here, as migrant and immigrant workers," said Dvera Saxton, anthropologist, and Lecturer at the Springfield Community Grange Hall who is in charge of bringing educational information to the members of the Grange.
"A lot of our workers who are here right now are with us because they can't grow their own in Mexico... A lot of Mexican migrants have been displaced from their country not only by the arrival of the GMO seed but the U.S. government dumping tons of GMO corn on the market," said Saxton.
The reality is that since they were introduced in 2001, the monopoly of GMO seed—especially corn—in Mexico has put small farmers, unable to compete with the cheap prices of American GMO corn, out of business.
A YES on Prop 37, also known as the "California Right to Know" ballot, will require clear labels to let consumers know if foods are genetically modified. The most common genetically modified foods occur in processed foods, including baby formulas, as well as corn, soy, cotton and sugar beets, but remain unlabelled. For instance, Walmart is now selling Monsanto's sweet corn, genetically engineered to contain an insecticide, but of course if remains unlabeled.
Aside from putting small farms out of business, GMOs have been linked to environmental problems, and peer-reviewed studies have linked GMO foods to allergies, organ toxicity and other health problems.
Between films, a panel of local experts, farm workers, and scientists will give their perspectives on genetically engineered foods, including Dr. Ann López who works in Jalisco, author of The Farmworkers' Journey, and follows efforts to create markets for maize criollo, or heirloom corn, in Mexico.
Saxton, a Ph.D candidate who is conducting research on agricultural trends for her own dissertation and book, will also be speaking. She also hopes to get local tortilla producer, El Aguila, to attend.
"Their tortillas are available all over the region, they use the stone ground non-GMO corn, and we use their masa at our tamale fest," said Saxton.
"Local tortilla shops are effected by GMO corn too. The larger tortilla companies get the best prices and do things to the smaller companies that make it really difficult for them to stay in business," she said.
The Film Festival is presented by the Springfield Community Grange, which community members revitalized last year.
"We want to encourage people to join us and help us keep doing this critical work," said Saxton.
Elizabeth Fitting, author of The Struggle for Maize which studies the impact of genetically modified seed on small-scale maize producers, migrants, and maquiladora workers from the southern Tehuacán Valley, helped Saxton find the documentary ¡Vamos al Grano! CUIDADO con el Maiz Transgénico! which is one of the chosen films.
The Film Festival is Saturday, October 20 from 2:00 p.m.- 8:30 p.m. at the Springfield Grange at 10 Werner Road, Watsonville, CA.
The Future of Food (Spanish subtitles) screens at 2:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
¡Vamos al Grano! CUIDADO con el Maiz Transgénico! from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m, with speakers in between. There will be non-GMO refreshments served.