Magazine article Tikkun

Mustard Seeds and Mountains

Magazine article Tikkun

Mustard Seeds and Mountains

Article excerpt

When i was little, I was enthralled with "The Parable of the Mustard Seed." I knew what a mustard seed looked like, as my mother and grandmother spent many an hour each summer canning dill pickles; quite often I was allowed to sprinkle in the mustard seeds before adding the requisite stalk of dill. In my child's mind, I wondered why we are called to have faith "the size of a mustard seed." With faith this size, we are told in Matthew's Gospel, we have the potential to move mountains. Why must faith be compared to something so tiny, so insignificant? At the time I reasoned that faith should be more like a bulldozer or a tractor if one was indeed to "move mountains." It was not until I was in my late thirties that I realized the beauty, the joy, and the strength that is truly housed in something so very small.

For a while now I have been haunted by the notion that in our modern day seeds are sown not just for food. They are now used as emblems of power or blessings of resistance. In one such instance, we find the Ponca Nation dotting the Nebraska landscape in the path of the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline with sacred Ponca red corn seeds. Up until the spring of 2014, with the first planting in opposition to tarsands removal, red corn seed had not been planted in the rich Nebraska earth-the original homeland of the Ponca People-for close to 140 years. These sacred seeds are now termed "Resistance Corn." These are seeds the Ponca people brought with them along the Ponca Trail of Tears from Nebraska to Oklahoma in 1877. The Ponca people know that one cannot dig a pipeline where the sacred red and blue corn seeds are sown, so they resist by sowing and reaping these sacred crops. Their acts defy those who wish to harm the earth and her natural resources as much as they are acts of faith in the sacred power held within a single kernel of corn.

Kernels of Resistance

Corn is not only a resistance crop used to fight oil exploiters; it is also at the center of a Genetically Modified (GM) crop debate in Mexico, a country that up until the twentyfirst century relied solely on native maize seeds. In late 2009, the federal government of Mexico allowed small-scale experimentation of GM corn, directly in opposition to an earlier mandate. One of the reasons behind this action centers around declining Mexican corn revenues on the world stage due to cheaper US-subsidized corn flooding global markets. However, Demanda Colectiva Maíz, a community of people organized to support the legal defense of native corn, squashed a GM experiment in September 2013 with a lawsuit claiming that biodiversity is a human right. In support of their claims, the then-presiding Judge Jaime Manuel Marroquín Zaleta stated, "If the biotech industry gets its way, more than 7,000 years of indigenous maize cultivation in Mexico would be endangered, with the country's sixty varieties of corn directly threatened by cross-pollination from transgenic strands."

Yet the fight progresses onward. In late August of 2015, even though the collective won the lion's share of almost 100 separate legal battles thrown its way, primarily by Monsanto and Syngenta, Judge Zaleta's 2013 ruling was overturned. Since then the lobbying group AgroBIO has been heavily petitioning for transgenic GM crop cultivation, particularly of corn, to recommence in Mexico. But the overturned ruling has also prompted many chefs and other food activists to join with Demanda Colectiva in speaking out and rallying against GM corn and the havoc it would inflict upon the nation's staple maize economy.

Many Davids, Six Goliaths

When six corporations hold the patents for almost all of the commercial seeds in the world, how many countries, how many lawsuits, and how many of us will it take to band together to slay this modern-day Goliath? I am plagued with many questions: Do we have a sacred responsibility to the earth and to all her inhabitants? Should we stand with our brothers and sisters in Nebraska and Mexico? …

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