The Española City Council passed a resolution Oct. 8, which supports traditional agriculture and opposes genetically-engineered seeds and the persecution of local farmers that often accompanies them. The resolution is part of a broader effort by the New Mexico Food and Seed Sovereignty Alliance to push genetically-modified organisms (GMO’s) out of the state.
GMO’s can contaminate nearby traditional heirloom crops through cross-pollination, altering their DNA, and seed patents historically put local farmers at the economic mercy of corporations, like Monsanto, who maintain strict control over their seeds.
Tewa Women United Environmental Health and Justice Program Coordinator Beata Tsosie-Pena, who presented the resolution to the Council along with Marian Naranjo of Honor Our Pueblo Existence, said in an interview that she expects a seed library in collaboration with the Española Public Library to open next month. She said the seed library is aimed both to preserve heirloom seeds and to educate youth about traditional agriculture.
The Alliance includes Tewa Women United, the New Mexico Acequia Association, the Traditional Native American Farmers Association, and Honor Our Pueblo Existence.
The resolution, approved in a unanimous vote Oct. 8, characterizes seed patenting and genetically-engineered seeds as destructive, but does not bind the city to action or set new restrictions. Councilor Peggy Sue Martinez suggested considering a stronger ordinance—a proposition supported by several other councilors.
“Any genetically-modified seed that comes into this Valley will affect the long term DNA of any seed,” she said. “It’s really important for this Council to adopt this and not only adopt this, (but pursue a) really, really strong ordinance that disallows any genetically-modified organisms—seeds, or trees or plants—to come into this community, because they do alter the DNA of all our traditional seeds, and those seeds to me are like gold.”
Tsosie-Pena said the Alliance, formed in 2006, aims to protect not just the Española Valley but the entire state from GMO’s. She said they want to establish New Mexico as a genetic engineering-free zone: mandating labels on imported genetically-engineered produce, requiring farms in participating counties and municipalities currently using genetically-engineered seeds to phase out of the practice and disallowing the commodification or patenting of heirloom seeds.
“It would also mean widespread protection for farmers whose crops were contaminated,” she said. “That’s the big vision, but of course we have to start small.”
She said the resolution was drafted in part by Naranjo and Tsosie-Pena’s colleague in Tewa Women United’s Environmental program, Kathy Sanchez, and has been passed at several local governments and tribal entities.
Tsosie-Pena led the 2016 creation of the Healing Foods Oasis—a community garden in Valdez Park—in collaboration with the city, and Tewa Women United continues to maintain and hold events supporting the garden, which collects water runoff from City Hall.