16:20 - 16:55
The Production of Food: Reflections on Ancient Traditions and Agribusiness from a Bioart Perspective


We will discuss the topic of maize production in Mexico and how the problem has been addressed in Biotech Art, specifically by the Mexican artistic collective Bios ex Machina and the installation They will be ashes, but will make sense (slightly toxic) that worked with transgenic corn.


They will be ashes, but will make sense (slightly toxic) by Bios ex Machina is an installation that engages with the efforts to confront the alterations of the Mexican landscape in recent decades: the transition from traditional agriculture to industrial agribusiness. It focuses on the topic of maize, because maizehas a symbolic significance for Mexican culture, being deeply rooted in the national imagery, in the ancient myths, in the food, and further, it can also be thought as an axis of a way of being, of dwelling and transforming nature and culture. The installation acknowledges the challenge that it has been for Mexico to adopt the practices of late capitalism, to change the agricultural landscape in order to cope with the competition of the USA and the Californian crops, and to slowly develop an agricultural industry, which does not consider the traditional crops and farming but sees the land as something instrumental that can be exploited for economic gain and growth.

These social and political transformation processes have led to the loss of Mexico’s national self-sufficiency in maize, which has consequences for the people, especially in the region of Oaxaca, the country where maize originated. As part of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Mexico has been pursuing a liberalization of agricultural trade since 1994, which has led to a drastic increase in imported corn from the USA and Canada. With these imports, genetically modified maize has finally arrived in the region that is the cradle of maize and has contaminated maize varieties in Oaxaca. In 2001 US-American scientists first detected traces of genetically modified maize in the region of the Sierra Juárezand published their results in the journal Nature. The article triggered a wide controversy in the life sciences, and also led to social mobilization such as the Mexico-wide campaign “Sin maíz no hay país” and a discourse about the cultural significance of traditional maize varieties.