Mexican crop circle asks the question

Feature story - 14 August, 2006
John Lundberg, a professional cropcircle maker talks about his latest work, a giant question mark in a maize field in Mexico and working with us.

Greenpeace activists protest against the contamination of Mexico's maize supply from genetically engineered maize.

"For years I'd thought that crop circles would be an ideal medium forpromoting Greenpeace's genetic engineering (GE) campaign. The cropcircles generate an alien mystique, encouraging people to consider theunknown.

Greenpeace's GE campaign aims to prevent alien organisms from contaminating ourplants and food, while raising awareness of the unknown consequencesthat could arise from such material entering the food chain.

Thiscombination of mystery, creativity and an underlying message perfectlyreflects the work that Greenpeace is doing worldwide. It was alsoembodied in the formation we created for them - a 65 meter (200 feet)circle with a question mark at its centre."

Why a question mark?

"Forthousands of years, maize (corn) has been an essential food for thepeople of Mexico; it also plays an integral part in their culture andreligion. Unfortunately, in recent years the maize has been tainted byGE varieties entering the country and being planted by unaware farmers.As a result, normally GE-free maize is showing signs of geneticcontamination.

So the question mark conveys a simple message -contamination is happening, but nobody knows exactly where it is takingplace, nor where it could lead for the wider environment.

A day after our crop circle creation we were transported to a tiny village called Cuanajo in the state of Michoacan. A celebration was held to honour the regions GE free status. The festival was an amazing cultural experience, each type of maize has a purpose. Maize for tortillas, tamales, atoles, pozole, animal feed and also to create handcrafts which they sell in market stalls.

Protecting this precious diversity is paramount for the people, regional government, scientists and environmental groups who have all worked together to cement the region as GE free. Other surrounding regions are also interested in following this example to create their own GE free zones.

Themore I find out about the issues surrounding GE, especially withinMexico, the happier I am to have been involved in this project. Withliterally thousands of different strains of maize in Mexico, it'svitally important for both its people, and the rest of the world, tokeep the seeds clean and maintain their variety.

Working withGreenpeace in Mexico was a rewarding and fun experience - even duringthe rainy season! Circlemakers hope to continue our relationship withGreenpeace and I also hope that Mexico can successfully rid itself ofgenetic contamination and keep its maize GE-free."

JohnLundberg is a British artist and documentary filmmaker. In the early1990s he founded Circlemakers, a UK-based arts collective famous forcovertly creating hundreds of the world's most spectacular crop circles.

Theformations crafted anonymously by John and his collaborators havecreated headlines around the world. Eventually Circlemakers began to beapproached by companies asking if they could create crop circles to beused in TV shows, movies, music videos, adverts and PR stunts.

They'vecreated crop circle in the UK, US, New Zealand, Japan, acrosscontinental Europe and now in Mexico.

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