The aroma of roasting green chilies in the fall is part of New Mexican culture. Green chiles are very rich in Vitamin C, which plays an important role in the absorption of other vitamins in the body. It’s dietary fiber is important for a healthy digestive system, and it has high levels of other vitamins and minerals.Chile is a part of New Mexican culture, cuisine and health. The use of peppers has been a part of the Ayurvedic tradition for thousands of years. According to Agrocrops.com India is the world's largest producer, consumer and exporter of chili peppers. It is a tradition that we share.
A recent series of laws passed in our state seem designed to control who owns chile seeds, and to regulate how it is grown, shared or sold.
The bill enacted in 2012 defines “New Mexico chile” as including all types of peppers such as jalapenos, Italian sweet peppers, yellow hots, etc. In 2013, the NM legislature passed an amendment to the Chile Act which criminalizes any grower who uses the name of any city, town, county, village, pueblo, mountain, river or other geographic feature or features located in NM, unless the grower is registered with the NM Department of Agriculture.
In August 2014, the New Mexico Chile Association trademarked the term “New Mexico Certified Chile” for use only by their members. You no longer have the right to refer to your chile as New Mexican, or to call it by its varietal name, unless you register by paying the annual $500 fee plus kickbacks on every pound sold. A verification form must follow every sale a NMCA farmer makes. Now anyone can report a ”suspect” chile grower by calling an NMDA inspector who has the legal right to come onto our place to inspect records related to the chile. There are six inspectors available at an annual cost to taxpayers of about $525,000.
The NMCA lobbied vigorously against the GMO labeling bill presented in 2013 by senator Peter Firth. Why would this organization do this? The make-up of its members may give us a clue. The NMCA is comprised of large chile industry processors. In 2006 it became a nonprofit organization that asks for government and public funding.
Board members include Gene Baca, also vice president of Bueno Foods. Bueno Foods “is asking consumers to demand ‘New Mexican grown chile’ from restaurants and grocers” (Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative). Lou Biad, of Rezolex. Rezolex farms in NM, Texas and Arizona. Dino Cervantes. Cervantes foods reports annual revenue of $20 to 50 million. All three companies import chile from outside the US as well as what is purchased here. Border Foods, and Farm Credit of New Mexico are also members.
The NMCA is working with New Mexico State University’s (NMSU) Agricultural Experimental Station to create GMO chile. Greenfire Times reports that “A lack of transparency, with evidence that, outrageously, tobacco settlement funds have been used to fund a GMO chile… the idea that our limited tax dollars are going to develop a patented seed for a staple crop that will be owned by a state university and international biotech companies is beyond comprehension.”
Jaye Hawkins, executive director of the NMCA, said the state is in danger of losing its chile because farmers will not be able to grow the crop due to the rising labor challenges and foreign competition. "We're chipping away at the problems, and this is just one alternative," she said of the genetic research. This genetically engineered chile seed may be available for commercial farmers to plant within the year. Save NM seeds.org says that the NM state legislature has been funding the development of a genetically engineered chile since 2006.
While this statement on the NMCA’s website assures us that “Some fringe groups have slandered and libeled our members by implying they are currently using GMO chile, despite the fact that none is available at this time.” The rest of this webpage goes on to list advantages of using GMO seeds.
Who can forget Monsanto’s battle with Percy Schmeiser and other small farmers. When NMSU has its GMO pepper seed ready, will small growers face patent lawsuits if crops become contaminated by GMO seeds? We still don’t have labeling of genetically modified organisms. Our traditional chile varieties could be altered forever from GMO crops, and recent legislation seems to be preparing for that. by Athena Wolf