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New Mexico 'Occupy' protesters: The 99% who love chile

December 5, 2011 |  1:33 pm

Green chile
The Occupy Wall Street movement has inspired folks from Atlanta to Alaska. But the most unusual might be an offshoot in New Mexico that targets food production instead of finance.

Introducing Occupy Green/Red Chile.

New Mexico culture and cuisine owes a fair amount to New Mexico's chile, the spicy red and green pepper that locals add to just about everything. (Please don’t insult it with the spelling “chili.” That’s so ... Texas.)

In the last two decades, the number of acres of chile grown in New Mexico has dropped 75%, the Associated Press reports. That’s partly due to restaurateurs and grocers turning to less expensive peppers from Mexico and Asia.

Now, with scientists at New Mexico State University studying the genetic makeup of the red and green peppers, some folks fear an onslaught of scientifically tweaked chile.

They say peppers altered to grow taller and to better withstand disease could hurt small growers, though chile industry experts have said that’s unlikely. The protesters’ fears also play into an ongoing debate about the safety of genetically modified food. 

So last weekend, Occupy Green/Red Chile members gathered in Albuquerque, KRQE-TV reported, and marched through downtown in bone-chilling temperatures. Their signs demanded “No poison in our green chile” and, in a nod to the protest's origins, “Don't let big corporations steal our state pride.”


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Photo: A green chile is picked during one of New Mexico's earliest harvests. Credit: Norman Martin / New Mexico State University