A judge in Mexico City, Mexico, has recently approved a temporary injunction against the approval of any new genetically modified or GM food permits for experimental or commercial corn plantings.The suspension is to remain in effect until pending lawsuits alleging environmental dangers are resolved. This is a victory for food sovereignty and agricultural integrity. The announcement was made at a press conference in Mexico City, where officials notified the public and press that all GM corn plantings including pilot commercial plantings were to be immediately suspended.
Though not necessarily permanent , the injunction came after years of protest against transgenic crops, particularly those that threaten the continued cultivation of staple crops like corn.
For Mexico, corn, also known as maize, is a primary food crop for which there are hundreds, if not thousands of heirloom varieties currently being grown. If GM corn varieties are allowed to be cultivated along side them, at any considerable scale, Mexico's entire agricultural heritage could become extinct.
“The decision came after years of lobbying by activist who noted that Mexico, the birthplace of modern day maize and its cultivation in Mexico-knows a little bit about how to create various disease resistant strains of corn, given that Mexicans….have been doing it for millennia, ”writes Gustavo Arellano for the OC weekly.
Despite a moratorium on GM corn cultivation in Mexico that dates back to 1998, many native maize varieties have still tested positive for low levels of modified genes, which proves that Genetically Modified Organisms or GMOs cannot be contained and have a tendency to contaminate other crops. Because of this, a coalition of 53 groups and individuals which includes scientist and human rights groups, filed a lawsuit last year to suspend all trials of GM corn and other experiments that could be causing contamination.
Agreeing with their argument, a Mexican judge ruled that all field trials of GM corn in Mexico must end, citing specific imminent environmental risk.
A press release recently issued by the non-governmental organization, La Copenacha, affirms this decision, noting that Mexican law requires Justices to protect the interest of the people rather than the interest of big business, which in this case means multinational chemical companies like Monsanto.
Mexico will still import GMO corn, despite suspension
The ruling is timely, as many areas of Mexico have been pressured in recent years to accept not only field trials of GM corn, but also commercial plantings, despite their risk to native corn varieties. Unfortunately, the ruling does not go far enough, say experts, as Mexico will continue to import GM corn from other countries like the U.S.- roughly one third of the corn Mexico consumes is imported.
“The ruling has understandably caused joy across Mexico and the entire anti - GMO world, but its also not as far reaching as you think,” added Arellano. “The judge in question didn't ban the import of GMO corn into Mexico and in this globalized society, Mexicans are just as likely to eat corn from Minnesota as they are [to eat the variety] elote from Puebla.”
Even so,the decision has earned considerable attention the world over, as Mexico is now the only country in North America to ban the cultivation of GMO crops. Neither the U.S. nor Canada has taken any action, thus far, against the growing onslaught of GMO pollution within their borders, despite the fact that most other developed countries in the world have either banned GMOs or require them to be at least properly labelled.