Mexico: judge suspends GM corn planting

Mexican federal judge Jaime Eduardo Verdugo has issued an injunction ordering the Agriculture Secretariat (Sagarpa) and the Environment Secretariat (Semarnat) not to grant further licenses for the sowing of genetically modified (GM) corn, a group of environmental organizations announced on Oct. 10. Mexican law restricts the use of transgenic corn, but recently the government has greatly expanded the area where GM seeds can be sown in pilot projects by companies like the Monsanto CompanyPioneerSyngenta AG and Dow AgroSciences. Environmentalists want to ban all transgenic corn, which they say threatens both Mexico’s biodiversity and the ability of independent farmers to grow organic crops.

Judge Verdugo cited “the risk of imminent harm to the environment” as the basis for the injunction, a temporary restraining order in response to a suit that scientists, farmers, activists and environmental groups filed on July 5 with the Twelfth Federal District Civil Court in Mexico City. The Mexican branch of the international organization Greenpeace noted that the injunction is just “the first step for the definitive protection of biological diversity.” According to attorney Romualdo Hernández Naranjo of the legal advocacy group Collective Actions AC, the real significance of the judge’s order is that the judicial branch has finally agreed to participate in the debate over the use of GM seeds in the country. Until now the federal executive branch has acted on the issue with no oversight from other parts of the government. (Animal Político, Miami, Oct. 11; Food First, Oct. 11)

The news of the Mexican injunction came just two days before activists held an international March Against Monsanto, the Missouri-based multinational that dominates the transgenic seed industry. Protests were reportedly organized for Oct. 12 in more than 500 cities in as many as 57 countries, with about the same level of participation as on a similar day of action on May 25.

Chileans marched in 14 cities, from Arica to Punta Arenas, to reject GM crops and to oppose a proposed Vegetable Breeders Law, which opponents dismiss as “the Monsanto Law.” According to the carabineros militarized police, some 800 protesters gathered in Santiago’s Plaza Italia. Brazilian activists met at Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana beach to protest the “enormous damage that the agribusiness multinationals, symbolized by Monsanto, have caused in Brazil and in the world.” There were also protests in dozens of US cities, including New York, where some 300 demonstrators marched from 42nd Street to Columbus Circle. “Monsanto’s GMO [genetically modified organisms] are like heroin, like cocaine or crack,” said one of the academic researchers who participated in the New York protest. “Once you resort to them, you’re forced to go on using them each year. In part, this is why more than 10,000 farmers in India have committed suicide recently when they weren’t able to go on farming to feed their families; some of them drank the Monsanto pesticide they were forced to buy.” (CNN Chile, Oct. 12; Terra Brazil, Oct. 12; La Jornada, Mexico, Oct. 13 from correspondent)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, October 13.

See our last post on the global struggle against GMOs.