1st November 2013

GMOs: set-back in Latin America and hope in Europe for multinational seed companies

The Mexican government, upon request by some producers, had authorised the cultivation of transgenic maize in Spring 2009. This authorisation is now being challenged by the decision of a Mexican judge that is banning GMO maize in the country. The 2009 regulation stipulated that authorisations could be granted by the Ministry of Agriculture on a case by case basis and provided that cultivation would not take place in areas known as "diversity centres", in which wild varieties and native breeds of maize grow that exist only in this region of origin.  [read]

The decision made by the Mexican judge a few days ago, after years of deliberation, amounts to an indefinite banning of GMO maize in Mexico. This means that from now on, companies like Monsanto are no more allowed to sell their transgenic seeds in Mexico.

The reason given to justify this decision is that GMO seeds are a threat to agricultural biodiversity.  Being more productive than conventional seeds, GMO varieties are likely to eliminate local varieties in the medium term, making maize production more vulnerable to future diseases and climate change.  The decision is welcome by civil society organisations and particularly UNORCA (the National Union of Autonomous Regional Farmer Organisations) that had organised an intensive national anti-GMO campaign in the country since last January. [read]

Let’s recall here that maize originates from Mexico and is the result of thousands of years of selection conducted by Mexican farmers on teosinte. Let’s also keep in mind that since the implementation in 1994 of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) among Canada, Mexico and the United States, Mexican imports of maize (mostly GMO maize) from the US have been multiplied by more than 5 in value between 1995 and 2012, making the country increasingly dependent on its big northern neighbour for its main staple food.

The Mexican decision is a new draw-back for seed companies who seek to develop GMO seeds worldwide. This comes after the revelations made a few weeks ago by a report that GMO crops in Brazil (second world GMO grower after the US) were illegal [read] and at a time when EMBRAPA, the autonomous national research organisation, is trying to bring to market a GMO bean to fight off the golden mosaic virus. It will be interesting to see what the reaction by the seed multinationals will be to this Mexican decision, knowing that one of the rules under NAFTA is that investors from a signatory country may file a complaint against a state if its legislation (e.g. an environmental or health regulation) hampers their activity and could claim massive financial compensation.

While they are suffering set-backs in Latin America, seed multinationals have new hopes in Europe. It has just been disclosed a few days ago that, after having approved the cultivation of MON810 maize a few years ago, the European Commission was getting ready to authorise a transgenic maize variety proposed by Pionner, a branch of the second world seed company DuPont from the US. This maize variety is TC1508 that is resistant to ammonium glufosinate, a highly toxic pesticide  [read]

To be continued...


Last update:    November 2013

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