Government Approves Genetically Modified Corn Cultivation

by Carmelo Ruiz Marrero, CIP Americas Program

In October the Mexican government approved requests from U.S. biotechnology companies Monsanto, Dow Agrosciences, and Pioneer to cultivate “experimental” GM corn. The approved cultivation, that will cover a total of 120,000 square meters, will be located in the states of Sinaloa, Sonora, Tamaulipas, Coahuila, and Durango.

This act puts an end to the moratorium on GM corn cultivation that governed the country for 10 years. The moratorium had been established in response to demands made by scientists and environmentalists who warned that in Mexico, being the center of corn origins and diversity, GM corn pollen could irreversibly contaminate other corn cultivations. The surreptitious and illegal presence of GM corn in Mexico has been documented since 2001. The consensus among experts is that this contamination is due to corn imports from the United States that have massively increased due to NAFTA.

The approval has caused angry protests from a variety of sectors, from academics and scientists to campesinos, indigenous peoples, and environmentalists. The Mexican daily La Jornada reports that in Chihuahua environmentalist, campesino, and indigenous groups have announced that they will not permit the cultivation of GM corn and that they will destroy the crops if necessary. In other parts of the country there have been local protests and more actions are planned.

According to ETC Group researcher Slivia Ribeiro, the approval is a violation of the country’s biosafety law, which is already quite favorable to the biotech industry: “The whole process has been plagued by irregularities, even within the framework demanded by the limited biosafety law… [I]n the public consultation on the experiment requests, the government ignored the vast majority of technical and scientific opinion as well as those of many social and citizen organizations because they were critical of the release.”

Ribeiro adds that the government “did not take into account the large quantity of opinions, protests, letters signed by a wide sector of the Mexican and international community, denouncements, demonstrations, and endless number of reasons continually presented for the past decade, solid arguments from a large variety of perspectives—scientific, economic, political, social, cultural, historical, geographic—against the liberation of GM corn in Mexico.”

“The introduction of GM corn in rural Mexico will be a coup de grace to our food independence, as our corn producers will be dependent on companies like Monsanto,” denounced Aleira Lara, who coordinates the Greenpeace campaign against GM products. “The rural workers will be sued by these companies when their lands are contaminated and no producer will be able to return to planting their own seeds, as they have done up to now. They will have to pay royalties to the corporations to return to their planting. To what interests is the Mexican government responding? Evidently, not to those of the people and the nation.”

The Union of Scientists Committed to Society (UniĂłn de CientĂ­ficos Comprometidos con la Sociedad) sent a letter to Mexican President Felipe Calderon against GM corn, signed by 700 distinguished national and international scientists and academics, including experts, intellectuals, and artists from the fields of biology, biotechnology, agronomy, and ecology, and even the humanities, social sciences, anthropology, economy, biosafety, politics, and law. “This year, you have the historic responsibility of preventing the irreversible damage to one of the most valuable natural resources in the world: the diversity of Mexican maize,” states the beginning paragraph of the document.

“We are convinced, with the knowledge base that we have from available scientific evidence, that this decision represents a disproportionate and unnecessary risk. This should be avoided at all costs for the good of Mexico and the world. United by a well-grounded ethical commitment to preserve this resource for humanity, we demand that your administration take drastic measures to guarantee that no strain of GM maize be planted in Mexico, the place of origin and diversity of this important food.”

With respect to the issue of genetic contamination, the declaration affirms that the effects “of the introduction of trans-genes into the germplasm of maize—a botanical heritage watched over by campesinos and indigenous peoples in Mexico—could be irreversible and progressive due to the gradual accumulation of trans-genes in this germplasm. This would undoubtedly mean that the responsibility that you have over this issue will transcend to future generations like no other.”


This article first appeared Nov. 19 on the website of the Center for International Policy’s Americas Program.

Carmelo Ruiz-Marrero is director of the Proyecto de Bioseguridad Puerto Rico, a research associate at the Institute for Social Ecology and a senior fellow at the Environmental Leadership Program. His blog is on-line at:


ETC Group

UniĂłn de CientĂ­ficos Comprometidos con la Sociedad

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From our Daily Report:

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World War 4 Report, Jan. 31, 2009

From our Archive:

Greenpeace blocks GM corn at Veracruz
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Reprinted by World War 4 Report, December 1, 2009
Reprinting permissible with attribution