Corn: Monoculture

ambience: Mexican music, flute, drum

We’re in Chiapas, Mexico at an annual corn celebration. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet presented by Dupont. The festival celebrates corn and encourages farmers to readopt their traditional ways of growing the native crop. Salomon Nahaman [Salomon Na-am-AN] is an anthropologist, based in the city of Oaxaca. He studies the interaction of indigenous technologies and the environment.

“I think that corn is a fundamental food for the Mexican people. Not only for the indigenous population but all of Mexican society. Growing corn was some of the most important knowledge that the Mesoamerican society gave to the world. I think corn is one of the most adaptive and diverse plants and I think it’s one of the most important areas of knowledge that we have among indigenous people. But there’s a danger of losing all this knowledge because there’s a tendency to homogenize all the plants, to eliminate diversity and variety in corn. I think it’s an error to destroy the variety of plants that we have of corn.”

At one of the festival’s round table discussions, some regional farmers agreed with professor Nahaman’s point of view.

“We don’t just want our corn, we also want other things…And our historical corn permits the life of other plants, beans, calabaza, many more plants. In Popo Vuh – the Mayan codices – it mentions the greatness of corn because it’s surrounded by many other plants.”

“One part of the identity of indigenous peoples that we can’t fail to mention is our past. I think it’s important to think of the past when we construct the present and the future.”

Pulse of the Planet is presented with support provided by the National Science Foundation.

Corn: Monoculture

Fewer varieties of corn threatens the heritage of a Mesoamerican culture.
Air Date:05/30/2007
Scientist:
Transcript:

ambience: Mexican music, flute, drum

We're in Chiapas, Mexico at an annual corn celebration. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet presented by Dupont. The festival celebrates corn and encourages farmers to readopt their traditional ways of growing the native crop. Salomon Nahaman [Salomon Na-am-AN] is an anthropologist, based in the city of Oaxaca. He studies the interaction of indigenous technologies and the environment.

"I think that corn is a fundamental food for the Mexican people. Not only for the indigenous population but all of Mexican society. Growing corn was some of the most important knowledge that the Mesoamerican society gave to the world. I think corn is one of the most adaptive and diverse plants and I think it's one of the most important areas of knowledge that we have among indigenous people. But there's a danger of losing all this knowledge because there's a tendency to homogenize all the plants, to eliminate diversity and variety in corn. I think it's an error to destroy the variety of plants that we have of corn."

At one of the festival's round table discussions, some regional farmers agreed with professor Nahaman's point of view.

"We don't just want our corn, we also want other things...And our historical corn permits the life of other plants, beans, calabaza, many more plants. In Popo Vuh - the Mayan codices - it mentions the greatness of corn because it's surrounded by many other plants."

"One part of the identity of indigenous peoples that we can't fail to mention is our past. I think it's important to think of the past when we construct the present and the future."

Pulse of the Planet is presented with support provided by the National Science Foundation.