(Beyond Pesticides, October 18, 2013) On October 10, a judge in Mexico issued an injunction against the planting and selling of genetically engineered (GE) corn seed, effective immediately, within the country’s borders. The decision comes nearly two years after the Mexican government temporarily rejected the expansion of GE corn testing, citing the need for more research. The decision prohibits agrichemical biotech companies, including Monsanto, DuPont Pioneer, Syngenta, PHI Mexico, and Dow AgroSciences, from planting or selling GE corn seed in Mexico, though imports of GE food will still be allowed.
This move follows the filing of a class action lawsuit on July 5 by farmers, beekeepers, environmentalists, and scientists, in total representing 53 citizens and 20 civil associations. “The action encompasses what we have been calling for over the past fifteen years: the protection of maize as the staple food of Mexicans and the preservation of our country, free of transgenic crops”¦” said Adelita San Vicente, representing seed interest group Fundación Semillas de Vida A.C.
The injunction was granted by Judge Jaime Eduardo Verdugo J. of the Twelfth District Court for Civil Matters of Mexico City, who cited “the risk of imminent harm to the environment” due to GE crops. The order requires Mexico’s Secretary of Agriculture (Secretaría de Agricultura, Ganadería, Desarrollo Rural, Pesca, y Alimentación) and Secretary of the Environment (Secretaría de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales) to immediately “suspend all activities involving the planting of transgenic corn in the country and end the granting of permission for experimental and pilot commercial plantings.”
According to Greenpeace Mexico, which has been heavily involved in the sustainable agriculture campaign and GE dialogue, the injunction is just the first step toward the definitive protection of the country’s biological diversity, and full recognition of Mexicans’ right to a healthy environment, safe food, and untainted corn as a cultural heritage.
The lawsuit is supported by scientific research, dating from 2001 and documenting the ongoing contamination of Mexico’s native corn varieties by transgenes from GE crops, including Monsanto’s Roundup ready varieties and the herbicide-resistant varieties marketed by DuPont Pioneer and Bayer CropScience.
With 53 percent of caloric intake and 22 percent of protein in the Mexican national diet coming from corn, the grain represents an important daily staple that is also inherently interwoven into the country’s cultural heritage. National campaigns, including “Sin Maiz, No Hay Paiz” (“Without Corn There is No Country”), have rallied against the introduction of GE corn into Mexico, raising debates about the need to safeguard national heritage, save native seeds, and protect environmental and human health.
The injunction against GE crops in Mexico is still a far cry from an outright ban. Further legal proceedings are now expected to follow, where all parties will enter into a legal arguments supported by experts who present supporting evidence for and against genetically modified corn. For the moment, the injunction prohibits the planting of GE seeds, allowing the plaintiffs time to gather support for their case.
In the U.S., there have been several injunctions against GE crops that have temporarily stopped their planting. For example, in 2007, a U.S. District judge filed an injunction against the planting or sale of GE alfalfa until the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) conducted a legally required Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Four years later, upon completing the EIS ””which determined unregulated GE alfalfa would contaminate natural alfalfa, cause the loss of U.S. export markets, dramatically increase pesticide use, and drive the rise of Roundup-resistant superweeds”” USDA announced plans to again deregulate GE alfalfa. In response, Beyond Pesticides along with other environmental and farming organizations filed a suit challenging the agency’s deregulation. In 2012, a U.S. District Judge in San Francisco ruled that USDA’s decision to deregulate GE alfalfa was not unlawful.
The explosion of GE crops on the market has led to growing pest and weed resistance, which has resulted in increased pesticide use. This treadmill threatens wildlife, particularly sensitive species. A 2012 study found the herbicide Roundup (glyphosate), which is sprayed on thousands of acres of Roundup Ready corn and soybeans, to induce morphological changes in three species of frogs. GE crop-induced herbicide applications are also indirectly affecting the health of beneficial species. Widespread applications of Roundup destroy sanctuary land and the plant species that support beneficial insects and other wildlife.
The best way to stop the planting of genetically engineered crops in the U.S. is to purchase foods that have the USDA certified organic seal. Under organic certification standards, genetically modified organisms and their byproducts are prohibited from food production. For more information on this issue, see Beyond Pesticides’ webpage on genetic engineering and see our related Daily News entries.
All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.