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Daily News Blog

08
Apr

U.S. Acts To Block Mexico’s Protection of Traditional Varieties against Contamination from Engineered Corn, Challenges Food Sovereignty

(Beyond Pesticides, April 8, 2024) When Mexico in 2020 decided to protect its traditional varieties of corn for reasons of health, safety, environmental protection, and food sovereignty with the banning of the importation of genetically engineered (GE or GM-genetically modified) corn by 2024, the powerful biotech industry and the U.S. government began a concerted campaign to stop the country’s efforts. With the opposition spearheaded by BIO, “the world’s largest trade association representing biotechnology companies, academic institutions, state biotechnology centers and related organizations across the United States and in more than 30 other nations” (as described in its March 15 press release), including companies like Bayer/Monsanto, the U.S government is calling Mexico’s action a trade barrier. The U.S. is invoking the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), the trade agreement that replaced the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 2020.

This is just one of the latest examples of corporate power reigning over U.S. environmental and economic policies. Mexico has already announced a delay in the planned April 1 ban on the importation, production, distribution, and use of glyphosate. Interestingly, this is all happening despite reports that the Biden administration is seeking to “tackle corporate abuses,” which is apparently limited  to tax reform and encouraging competition,

>> Tell the U.S. Trade Representative and the U.S. Secretary of State to withdraw opposition to Mexico’s ban on imported GE corn. 

Mexico’s decision to stop importation of GE corn into its country is examined in report by CBAN, which highlights the scientific rationale underpinning Mexico’s decision to “safeguard the integrity of native corn from GM contamination and to protect human health.” Mexico’s decision is meant to “protect the rights to health and a healthy environment, native corn, the milpa, biocultural wealth, peasant communities and gastronomic heritage, as well as to ensure a nutritious, sufficient and quality diet.” The phase-out of GE corn imports into Mexico was immediately challenged by the U.S. and Canadian governments as a trade violation under USMCA. In August 2023, the U.S. Trade Representative set up a dispute settlement panel under USMCA to stop Mexico from going forward with its ban. So far, there has been no public update from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, however, the biotech industry said in its March 15 release, “BIO thanks U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai and USTR Chief Agriculture Negotiator Doug McKalip for pursuing this action in support of U.S. farmers and agricultural innovation.”

Within Mexico, there is over a decade of judicial and executive actions against the spread of GE crops, as well as the use of toxic petrochemical pesticides. In 2013, a judge in Mexico issued an injunction against the planting and selling of GE corn seed, effective immediately, within the country’s borders. The decision came nearly two years after the Mexican government temporarily rejected the expansion of GE corn testing, citing the need for more research and prohibited agrichemical biotech companies, including Monsanto, DuPont Pioneer, Syngenta, PHI Mexico, and Dow AgroSciences, from planting or selling GE corn seed in Mexico. Then in 2020, Mexico announced the phase out of glyphosate from use or importation into the country by 2024, joining other nations that have issued bans, including Germany, Luxembourg, and Vietnam.

With such a history, why challenge this action, which affects only a small proportion of corn—white corn used for human consumption, as opposed to yellow feed corn or seed corn? Under the USMCA, “[E]ach Party has the right to adopt measures necessary to protect human, animal or plant life or health, called Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) measures, and is clear that such measures should be “based on scientific principles.” The GE/chemical industry intervenes whenever decisions are published finding that GE crops or the chemical on which they depend are harmful, often leading to U.S. government and corporate agribusiness pressure on other governments when they move to ban glyphosate use or advance restrictions on genetically engineered or modified crops. When U.S. government agencies, such as USDA, EPA, and FDA, have bought the line of corporations—many linked to those agencies through the revolving door—the fingerprints of those corporations are all over policies including labeling, agriculture policy, pesticide registration, food tolerances, and foreign policy.

In fact, in deciding to ban GE corn, Mexico has established a scientific basis for its decision. The government hosts a database of scientific studies that document the health impacts to insects, pollinators, and animals fed GE corn, as well as the adverse health impacts of glyphosate on humans. In addition to herbicide-tolerant GE crops, the CBAN report states, “Most GM corn plants are genetically modified to kill insect pests. The GM plants express a toxin from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) that is known to harm the guts of specific types of insects but not others. Farmers have long used Bt as a spray to kill pests but the Bt toxins in GM crops are different from this natural Bt in structure, function, and biological effects.” The report continues, “In fact, peer-reviewed studies across the scientific literature continue to find that Bt toxins in GM plants can harm insects (spiders, wasps, ladybugs, and lacewings, for example) that are not the intended targets.”

For background, see Ready or Not, Genetically Engineered Crops Explode on Market.

>> Tell the U.S. Trade Representative and the U.S. Secretary of State to withdraw opposition to Mexico’s ban on imported GE corn. 

 Letter to U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai

I am writing to ask you to withdraw U.S. opposition to Mexico’s ban on imported GE corn. Despite reports that the Biden administration seeks to “tackle corporate abuses,” the actions of the U.S. government appear to be limited to tax reform and encouraging competition, while corporate interests continue to override existential health and environmental concerns. A case in point is the attempt to stop Mexico’s ban on imported genetically engineered (GE or GM) corn.

In 2023, Mexico decided to stop importation of GE corn into its country. Mexico’s decision is meant to “protect the rights to health and a healthy environment, native corn, the milpa, biocultural wealth, peasant communities and gastronomic heritage, as well as to ensure a nutritious, sufficient and quality diet.” The phase-out of GE corn imports into Mexico was immediately challenged by the U.S. and Canadian governments as a trade violation under the 2020 U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). In August 2023, the U.S. Trade Representative set up a dispute settlement panel under USMCA to stop Mexico from going forward with its ban.

Over the last decade, Mexico has taken judicial and executive actions against the spread of GE crops and the use of toxic petrochemical pesticides. In 2013, a judge in Mexico issued an injunction against the planting and selling of GE corn seed within the country’s borders. The decision came nearly two years after the Mexican government temporarily rejected the expansion of GE corn testing, and prohibited agrichemical biotech companies from planting or selling GE corn seed in Mexico, citing the need for more research. In 2020, Mexico announced a phase-out of glyphosate’s use or importation into the country by 2024, joining other nations that have issued bans, including Germany, Luxembourg, and Vietnam.

With such a history, why challenge this action, which affects only a small proportion of corn—white corn used for human consumption, as opposed to yellow feed corn or seed corn? Under the USMCA, “[E]ach Party has the right to adopt measures necessary to protect human, animal or plant life or health, called Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) measures, and is clear that such measures should be “based on scientific principles.” The GE/chemical industry challenges decisions finding that GE crops or the chemical on which they depend are harmful, often leading to U.S. government and corporate agribusiness pressure on other governments when they move to ban glyphosate use or restrict GE crops. When U.S. government agencies, such as USDA, EPA, and FDA, have bought the line of corporations—many linked to those agencies through the revolving door—the fingerprints of those corporations are all over policies including labeling, agriculture policy, pesticide registration, food tolerances, and foreign policy.

In fact, in deciding to ban GE corn, Mexico has established a scientific basis for its decision. The government hosts a database of scientific studies that document the health impacts to insects, pollinators, and animals fed GE corn, as well as the adverse health impacts of glyphosate on humans. In addition to herbicide-tolerant GE crops, most GE corn plants are genetically modified to kill insect pests, expressing a toxin from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) that known to harm the guts of specific types of insects. Farmers have long used Bt as a spray to kill pests but the Bt toxins in GM crops differ from this natural Bt in structure, function, and biological effects. In fact, peer-reviewed studies continue to find that Bt toxins in GM plants can harm nontarget arthropods including spiders, wasps, ladybugs, and lacewings.

Please immediately cease U.S. opposition to Mexico’s ban on imported GE corn.

Thank you.

Letter to the Secretary of State and the White House:

I am writing to ask you to withdraw U.S. opposition to Mexico’s ban on imported GE corn. Despite reports that you seek to “tackle corporate abuses,” your actions appear to be limited to tax reform and encouraging competition, while corporate interests continue to override existential health and environmental concerns. A case in point is the attempt to stop Mexico’s ban on imported genetically engineered (GE or GM) corn.

In 2023, Mexico decided to stop importation of GE corn into its country. Mexico’s decision is meant to “protect the rights to health and a healthy environment, native corn, the milpa, biocultural wealth, peasant communities and gastronomic heritage, as well as to ensure a nutritious, sufficient and quality diet.” The phase-out of GE corn imports into Mexico was immediately challenged by the U.S. and Canadian governments as a trade violation under the 2020 U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). In August 2023, the U.S. Trade Representative set up a dispute settlement panel under USMCA to stop Mexico from going forward with its ban.

Over the last decade, Mexico has taken judicial and executive actions against the spread of GE crops and the use of toxic petrochemical pesticides. In 2013, a judge in Mexico issued an injunction against the planting and selling of GE corn seed within the country’s borders. The decision came nearly two years after the Mexican government temporarily rejected the expansion of GE corn testing, and prohibited agrichemical biotech companies from planting or selling GE corn seed in Mexico, citing the need for more research. In 2020, Mexico announced a phase-out of glyphosate’s use or importation into the country by 2024, joining other nations that have issued bans, including Germany, Luxembourg, and Vietnam.

With such a history, why challenge this action, which affects only a small proportion of corn—white corn used for human consumption, as opposed to yellow feed corn or seed corn? Under the USMCA, “[E]ach Party has the right to adopt measures necessary to protect human, animal or plant life or health, called Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) measures, and is clear that such measures should be “based on scientific principles.” The GE/chemical industry challenges decisions finding that GE crops or the chemical on which they depend are harmful, often leading to U.S. government and corporate agribusiness pressure on other governments when they move to ban glyphosate use or restrict GE crops. When U.S. government agencies, such as USDA, EPA, and FDA, have bought the line of corporations—many linked to those agencies through the revolving door—the fingerprints of those corporations are all over policies including labeling, agriculture policy, pesticide registration, food tolerances, and foreign policy.

In fact, in deciding to ban GE corn, Mexico has established a scientific basis for its decision. The government hosts a database of scientific studies that document the health impacts to insects, pollinators, and animals fed GE corn, as well as the adverse health impacts of glyphosate on humans. In addition to herbicide-tolerant GE crops, most GE corn plants are genetically modified to kill insect pests, expressing a toxin from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) that known to harm the guts of specific types of insects. Farmers have long used Bt as a spray to kill pests but the Bt toxins in GM crops differ from this natural Bt in structure, function, and biological effects. In fact, peer-reviewed studies continue to find that Bt toxins in GM plants can harm nontarget arthropods including spiders, wasps, ladybugs, and lacewings.

Please immediately cease U.S. opposition to Mexico’s ban on imported GE corn.

Thank you.

 

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