As the battle over genetically modified foods continues to rage across the planet, significant victories are being scored on both sides. The victories on the pro-GMO side usually come about as announcements made by officials after a series of meetings of men in suits, talking quietly, behind closed doors, even, perhaps, making undisclosed promises or threats. The victories on the anti-GMO side are more likely to come after noisy rallies of people who are not so well-dressed. In both cases, however, there is someone in a position of authority listening.
The latest round was heard by Judge Jaime Eduardo Verdugo of the Twelfth Federal District Court for Civil Matters of Mexico City. He obviously was not persuaded by the men in the suits. Verdugo ruled that GM corn posed ”the risk of imminent harm to the environment.” He ordered the Mexico’s Secretary of Agriculture and Secretaría de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales, (environmental protection agency), to “suspend all activities involving the planting of transgenic corn in the country and end the granting of permission for experimental and pilot commercial plantings” immediately.
The battle over GM corn has particular significance in Mexico, the land that is universally recognized as the birthplace of maize. The people of Oaxaca have been cultivating corn for over 10,000 years. It is now home to scores of different varieties as well as its wild grass ancestor, teosinte. Recent studies have found evidence of transgenic (GM) corn that has infiltrated these traditional corn races, putting their future survival in jeopardy.
GM corn had already been banned in Mexico back in 1988. However, the government has recently been persuaded to allow experimental trials in hopes of increasing production. This week’s action came about in response to a lawsuit brought by 53 different parties, including scientists, human rights groups and environmental activists, aimed at blocking additional field trials that were being planned by several major corporations.
The groups are hoping to have the suspension turned into an outright ban.
The suspension does not affect the importation of GM corn into Mexico, so there should be no impact on U.S. corn exports. Mexico ranks second behind Japan as the largest export market for U.S. corn.
In a separate incident, Monsanto has responded to an Associated Press story about doctors in Argentina raising concerns about the misuse of glyphosate herbicides. Glyphosate, also known as Roundup®, is generally being used far more heavily in conjunction with specialized GM varieties of corn that have been developed to tolerate its herbicidal effect. Monsanto criticized the report, insisting that glyphosate is safe and putting the blame on the individuals, using the NRA’s shopworn logic that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” The company said, “If pesticides are being misused in Argentina, then it is in everyone’s best interests – the public, the government, farmers, industry, and Monsanto – that the misuse be stopped.”
A major study released last year found that rats exposed to glyphosate and GM corn developed tumors and had a higher mortality rate than the control group. The company disputed the results, though other studies have had similar findings.
RP Siegel, PE, is an inventor, consultant and author. He co-wrote the eco-thriller Vapor Trails, the first in a series covering the human side of various sustainability issues including energy, food, and water in an exciting and entertaining romp that is currently being adapted for the big screen. Now available on Kindle.
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