On the second day of formal work at COP 13,  a group of 50 representatives of indigenous cultures from Canada, Ecuador, Chile, China, India, Peru, Mexico and Guatemala – as part of the project “Voices of Maíz” – presented the Ek Balam Declaration stating that they are the rightful possessors, conservationists and breeders of maize and all associated biodiversity. They warn that maize is not a commodity, but the center of life, with a sacred value for native peoples.

Therefore they claim respect for uses and customs of indigenous peoples, their collective and traditional work practices, and demand their voice to be heard and considered in any discussion of all laws applicable to seeds. They also state that the free flow of seeds among original peoples must not be criminalised and that they completely reject transgenic maize in all countries where they have cultivated and preserved the crop through centuries.

Thinking ahead, they seek higher education institutions to design educational programs based on the needs and demands of indigenous peoples, and to promote agroecological production initiatives and the right to a healthy, safe and adequate diet, in accordance with the cultural identity of each village.

(Source: Extract translated from Defienden patrimonio biocultural, Raíces, 8 December 2016).

Here the Ek Balam Declaration full text signed by indigenous peoples


Photo: Manlio Masucci

Voices of Maíz is a collaborative project among various organizations, communities, and individuals coming together to amplify the voices of communities internationally to restore and re-engage the sacred in corn, and to show the fundamental role of Indigenous cultures in the creation and conservation of maize.

This storytelling collaboration “Voices of Maíz” comes in response to the threats corn cultures are facing through the globally imbalanced relationship to maize. This imbalanced relationship has caused a deterioration of the genetic base of maize and in the extraordinarily rich and important ways in which local stewards have maintained agrobiodiversity as part of their cultural fabric.

Key participants in the project include: 
Alejandro Argumedo, Asociación ANDES; Adelita San Vicente Tello, Semillas de Vida; David Lauer, Photographer; Devon Peña, Acequia Institute; Hélène Botreau, Asociación ANDES; Karen Swift, Voices of Maíz coordinator; Kaylena Bray, Voices of Maíz coordinator; Mateo Hinojosa, Photographer/filmmaker; Ruchi Shroff, Navdanya and International Seed Freedom Campaign; Sara Argumedo Gomez, Asociación ANDES; Tezozomoc, South Central Farmers Cooperative

Read more:

Voices of Maíz

Voces del Maíz

Also read [Spanish]:

Demandan consensuar toda propuesta de ley con pueblos originarios

La Jornada, 12 de diciembre de 2016

Seed Freedom in Mexico – Nov. Dec. 2016

This post is also available in: Spanish