Press Release to Oppose New Mexico Certified Chile Trademark Program

August 19, 2014

To: Assignments Editor

From: Save NM Seeds Coalition

Contact: Suzi Jamison at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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The Save New Mexico Seeds Coalition disagrees that “New Mexico Chile” is the

same as “Idaho Potatoes.”... The New Mexico Certified Chile trademark program

sounds like a good idea, but here is the NM Truth.

Hatch chile does not exist. The New Mexico Chile Association (NMCA) would love for

you to believe there really is a Hatch chile, but what’s in a name?

Real New Mexico (NM) chile is not the same as “Florida Oranges” or “Idaho Potatoes.”

Neither state has native oranges or potatoes. NM has landrace chiles locally adapted

from seed saved for over 400 years. These chiles are named after the geographic areas

where they are grown. New Mexico State University (NMSU) developed modern chile

varieties for the chile industry, primarily used in processing and grown predominantly in

the southern part of NM. These seeds are not saved.

Save NM Seeds is not opposed to supporting NM grown chile but to the laws introduced

and passed for the benefit of the NMCA and NMSU. Sales of landrace chiles,

sometimes called “chile nativo” (native chile), are doing phenomenally well at local

farmers markets and roadside stands. If the NMCA wants to create a certified trademark

for their “New Mexico Chile,” it should be a strictly voluntary program and not impede on

local growers’ freedom to farm.

In 2011, a bill called “The New Mexico Chile Advertising Act” was introduced on behalf of

the NMCA by Senator George Munoz from McKinley County. The NMCA is comprised

of chile industry processors and businesses, some who also have operations in Texas,

Arizona, Mexico, and elsewhere. Enacted in 2012, the bill made it “unlawful for a person

to knowingly advertise, describe, label or offer for sale chile peppers as NM chile…, or a

product as containing NM chile, unless the chile peppers or chile peppers in the product

were grown in NM.” This law defines “New Mexico chile” as “capsicum annuum, which

includes all types of peppers such as jalapenos, Italian sweet peppers, yellow hots, etc.

The law allows for 5% of non-New Mexican chile to be included.

In 2013, the NM legislature passed an amendment to the Chile Act called “Expanding

the Violations of the NM Chile Advertising Act”. This bill now 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 they are registered with the NM

Department of Agriculture. This is an attempt to take control of our local identity and our

chile by blurring and commodifying a staple food crop. Paul Romero, a farmer and

nativo chile producer from Velarde says, “This law threatens local autonomy of seed and

food sovereignty. The geographic origin of seeds should be respected and the names

honored.”

The public posture of NMCA is that they are presenting the truth. But the tactics they

have used are anything but honest. At the hearing of the amended Chile Act in the

Senate Judiciary Committee in 2012, Chairperson Sen. Richard Martinez, announced

the committee would recess at 6 pm and called out the bills to be heard that night. The

chile bill was not mentioned. The committee did not end at 6 pm. The vice-chair, Sen.

Joseph Cervantes continued the hearing and the bill passed. Sen. Cervantes’ brother is

the current NMCA Board President, Dino Cervantes, who ironically plants more chile

acreage in Mexico than in New Mexico.

The NM Department of Agriculture (NMDA) held a hearing on July 10, 2013, on

amending the NM Chile Act. At this meeting we learned that if a farmer planted Isleta

chile seed in the South Valley of Albuquerque and registered their farm, the chile could

be called “Hatch chile.” The “NM Chile Act” makes it legal to be deceptive or misleading,

as long you register. Even chile grown in Chaves County could be called “Hatch chile.”

The NMCA lobbied vigorously in opposition to the GMO labeling bill presented in the

2013 legislative session, arguing that it was unnecessary regulation. Yet they want to

regulate, place burdensome paperwork and verification requirements on small nonindustry

growers, tracking every sale and location of farms.

This law is another block in an entire construct of laws designed to control who owns

chile, and to regulate how it is grown, shared or sold. NMSU is developing a genetically

engineered chile for the NMCA, using traits from our landrace chiles. NMSU receives

funding (on behalf of the NMCA), will own the seed patent (on genes taken from the

public domain), regulates and knows the location of chile farmers (through enforcement

of the NM Chile Act by NMDA), and certifies the seed (NMSU Seed Certification Office).

It is wrong to use taxpayer money to prop up one troubled industry at the expense of

local viable economies. The NMCA should not be functioning as a governmental entity,

nor should they be using taxpayer money to regulate other businesses. The NMCA is an

association for private business and has no right to determine laws that affect other

businesses or businesspeople. The NM Department of Agriculture should not be

functioning as an enforcement arm of the NMCA. The net effect of this law is that

lobbyists have moved into the legislative and regulatory bodies of government, and are

using taxpayer money to do so. Efforts to trademark and further commodify a staple

food crop should never come at the expense of a successful and healthy way of life. Or,

as historian and nativo chile producer, Estevan Arrellano puts it: “Stay out of our

huertas!”

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Seed Freedom

Percy Schmeiser

 

Mr. Schmeiser, a canola farmer from Canada, speaks about his  experiences of being sued by Monsanto for “planting” their seeds.  When in fact, the Monsanto seeds cross-contaminated seeds he had been saving for over 30 years. (www.percyschmeiser.com)