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2011 Indigenous People Want to Preserve Their Bio Cultural Heritage and Their Genes

2011 Indigenous People Want to Preserve Their Bio Cultural Heritage and Their Genes

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Published by John Schertow

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: John Schertow on Jun 14, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Peru: Indigenous People want to preservetheir biocultural heritage and their genes
By John Schertow
May 20, 2011Earlier this year, the Quechua People in the Peruvian state of Cusco,launched an ambitious plan to send 1,500 varieties of Potato to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in the Arctic Circle. It was first timeIndigenous Peoples ever contributed to the underground vault, whichalready houses more than 90,000 seed samples from around the world.
Exactly one month after the donation was announced, on April 15
“Peruvian President Alan García
signed a decree allowing the import
and planting of genetically mo
dified organisms (GMOs) in the country,”
explains Amberly Polidor in a news briefing for the Sacred Land Film Project (SLFP).The official decree puts at risk the genetic diversity of the PeruvianAndes, including the tuberous crop we know as potato.The fourth most important crop in the world, Potato was firstdomesticated in Peru about 10,000 years ago. And while westernhouseholds may take them for granted, they are now inextricably tiedto Quechua identity, much like corn to the Maya or Reindeer to theSaami, as the 13-
minute documentary “
“Cusco is the center of origin of the p
otato, with the highest diversity of potato varieties found anywhere in the world. As guardians of thepotatoes, Andean communities have, within challenging politicalcontexts that favor international commercial interests, fought toprotect their biocultural heritage. These actions have been supportedby local governments,such as the Cusco regional government,and have led to five regions producing decrees that prohibit the use of 
GMOs … All that has been accomplished over the last 10 years of actions against GMOs in order to protect Peru’s high
-quality natural,non-
GMO crops is now being threatened,” Alejandro Argumedo of 
ANDES said in an email message to SLFP.Last week, opponents of the decreeconverged in Limato protest.
“Many opponents argue that the country hasn’t conducted enough
research and development in the field, and they are asking for a 15-year moratorium on GMOs, to give Peru more time to build theresearch infrastructure needed to fully assess and make the best
decisions on the use of GMO crops,” Polidor explains.
“Peru’s Congress is 
proposed bill. Meanwhile, Peru’s Minister of Agriculture Rafael
Quevedo recentlyresigned in the heat of criticism over his support of 
GMO crops and his position as director of a company that uses them,”
she continues.
Of course, Potatoes and GMOs aren’t the only concern in the Peruvian
Andes. As Polidor also points out, leaders from the Quechua
recently ” blocked geneticists from collecting DNA
samples from their
community as part of National Geographic’s
ongoing Genographic Project, which has been gathering DNA from
people around the world.”
The Genographic Project, which aims to “collect, analyze and store
100,000 DNA samples of Indigenous peoples worldwide to study human
origins and migrations” has been long viewed with 
suspicion andmistrust by Indigenous Peoples.
If the Genographic Project hadn’t already earned that very suspicion
and mistrust, they have now. An expedition team was planning to
arrive in Peru on May 7 to begin collecting samples from the Q’eros.“The Q’eros —
who are the subject of a segment in Sacred Land Film
Project’s upcoming film
Losing Sacred Ground 
are a traditional,shamanic people who self-
identify as the “last Inca,” says Polidor.
She goes on to say,According to a communique from the Asociación para la Naturaleza y el Desarrollo Sostenible (ANDES), a Cusco nonprofit, the U.S.-basedproject did not consult with local or regional authorities; rather, a localguide hired by the project sent only a one-page letter to thecommunities announcing the upcoming visit.

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