Mexico: government accused of GMO violations

The Mexican government is violating its own laws on genetically modified organisms (GMO) in the way it handles experimental corn crops, according to a complaint the Greenpeace organization has filed with federal environmental protection authorities. The group charges that the government has failed to monitor experimental transgenic corn adequately, has allowed the corn to be planted on private farms, and hasn’t ensured that the plants are disposed of properly after cultivation.

Raising GMO corn is illegal in Mexico, but the government can permit some experimental cultivation as long as there are strict controls to prevent contamination of the country’s at least 52 native varieties, which indigenous farmers developed over thousands of years. Experimental planting has been allowed in the Cuauhtémoc Valley in Chihuahua and the Laguna region of Coahuila, both in the relatively arid north, where the government claims there are few native varieties of corn at risk. However, contamination was detected in 70 hectares of land in the Cuauhtémoc Valley in September 2008.

Greenpeace calls experimental planting “a farce.” According to Aleira Lara Galicia, coordinator of the group’s National Sustainable Agriculture Campaign, corn reproduces through open pollination, so that the wind or insects can spread the GMO breeds to places far away from the experimental areas. Pollen doesn’t respect borders, she says, and transgenic corn was already detected in the southern part of Oaxaca as early as 2001. (Vanguardia, Coahuila, May 9; Adital, Brazil, May 9, from Servindi and Vanguardia)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, May 15.

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