Mexico health authorities have feared for some time that transgenic varieties of corn with a competitive advantage might gradually displace valuable genetic diversity. For these reasons, specific varieties of transgenic corn were already prohibited in Mexico for some time.
"We have in several instances confirmed that there are transgenes in landraces of maize in Oaxaca," says Ariel Alvarez-Morales, plant geneticist at the Mexican Center for Research and Advanced Studies (CINVESTAV) in Irapuato. The ramifications of this will not be known for some time.
Corn is a staple food crop in Mexico, intricately intertwined with the country’s cuisine, history, and culture. Authorities know that Monsanto’s genetically modified corn could cause both health and environmental issues.
Now, it appears that Mexican authorities have finally made their decision. According to Environmental Food and Justice, Judge Jaime Eduardo Verdugo J. of the Twelfth Federal District Court for Civil Matters of Mexico City ruled that the genetically-engineered corn posed "the risk of imminent harm to the environment." He also ordered Mexico’s Secretary of Agriculture and SEMARNAT (Secretaria de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales), equivalent to the U.S. EPA, to immediately "suspend all activities involving the planting of transgenic corn in the country and end the granting of permission for experimental and pilot commercial plantings."
The ruling means that Monsanto and other biotech companies will be required to halt all activities in the country, giving collective action lawsuits initiated by citizens, farmers, scientists and other concerned parties a chance to work their way through the judicial system.
There are also reports on growing demands by eco-activists for the Mexican EPA to use prosecutorial powers to pursue conscious violators of GMO plantings, but others argue for a shift in focus to the producers and purveyors of GMO seeds, especially since many farmers often do not realize they are planting transgenic crops. Reports suggest that some farmers are not informed because of purposeful mislabeling, the removal of labeling, or other factors that restrict their access to information, which in any case is unlikely to serve as a sufficient basis for farmer decisions on farm management, given interference and political subterfuge by market-steered interests.
According to a local press release, Accion Colectiva [Collective Action] aims to achieve absolute federal declaration of the suspension of the introduction of transgenic maize in all its various forms, including experimental and pilot commercial plantings, in Mexico, "which is the birthplace of corn in the world."
This is a huge victory for the Mexican people, and provides at least temporary protection for the 20,000 varieties of corn grown in Mexico and Central America. The decision comes just days after thousands of people in over 50 countries participated in the global March Against Monsanto. The website of the Russian TV channel Russia Today (RT) reports, that rallies, drawing hundreds of protesters each, have been held in some 500 cities worldwide. Rallies are, among others, being held in Berlin, Strasbourg, Chicago, London, Sydney and Mumbai.
The Big Island of Hawaii County Council Committee has also passed a GMO prohibition bill which is progressing to the full Council on October 16.