Mexico: Monsanto pushes for more GMO corn

As of April 26 environmental activists still hadn’t learned the Mexican government’s response to requests that the Missouri-based biotech giant Monsanto Company filed on March 26 for permission to expand the sowing of transgenic corn in four northern and western states. Monsanto asked for clearance to sow commercial crops in 28 municipalities in the state of Chihuahua, 11 in Coahuila and nine in Durango. These requests were in an addition to filings it made in January and February to carry out noncommercial pilot projects in the same municipalities and in Comondú in Baja California Sur. Another biotech company, Swiss-based Syngenta AG, filed on March 26 for permission to carry out pilot projects in the state of Sinaloa. People opposing the use of genetically modified organisms (GMO) for crops say the total requests would affect 12 million hectares.

At the end of 2011 the Mexican government lifted the last barrier to growing GMO corn for consumption, although the sowing is still regulated and is confined to dry northern and western states where GMO proponents claim it is less likely to contaminate native corn. Environmentalists say even the limited sowing so far has already affected native crops as far away as the southern state of Oaxaca, where local communities and communities from other states testified this month to a committee of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal (TPP), an international group founded in Italy in 1979 to influence world opinion on various issues. The use of transgenic corn causes malformed plants and low productivity and puts small producers out of business, community representatives told the committee in what was called a “pre-hearing” to decide whether to go ahead with the case. The committee’s members are Camila Montecinos from the Chilean office of the Barcelona-based group Grain; Joel Aquino, a Mexican campesino leader; Mexican author Gustavo Esteva, who writes about autonomy and community development; and Indian environmental activist Vandana Shiva. (La Jornada, Mexico, April 5, April 27)

Monsanto reported a net income of $1.48 billion for its second quarter, which ended on Feb. 13, up significantly from the $1.21 billion it earned in the same quarter last year. The company seems equally successful in influencing US politicians. A “continuing resolution” passed by Congress and signed by President Barack Obama in late March to fund the US government’s budget this fiscal year turned out to contain a section protecting companies from lawsuits over health risks that might be related to genetically modified seeds. GMO opponents called the section the “Monsanto Protection Act.” (Huffington Post, April 3, some from AP)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, April 28.

See our last post on the struggle against GMOs.