by Jeff Clemetson, Managing Editor
Corn has always been a dietary staple for the people of Mexico. Long before the Conquistadors captured Central America, corn was the staple crop for the Mayans and other civilizations that thrived in the regions of Mexico. The importance of corn’s natural heritage is so important to the Mexican people that this week the country effectively banned all genetically modified corn from Mexico’s borders.
The ban, effective immediately, came from a final decision in an ongoing legal battle with U.S. biotech companies that were fighting a 2005 law in Mexico meant to preserve the over 70 natural varieties of Mexican corn. In the final court decision, 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 (Secretaría 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.”
Although Mexico has always been suspicious of GM corn and has maintained restrictions on its planting, rules were loosened up during the Calderon administration. Recent testing has shown GMO contamination even in remote areas of Oaxaca. The suspension by the Mexican courts will give time for natural corn farmers to bring lawsuits against companies like Monsanto and DuPont that are responsible for the GMO contamination of their crops.
The issue of GMO contamination has been a major problem for Monsanto recently. This year, wheat farmers in Oregon, Kansas, Idaho and others found their crops contaminated with Monsanto’s GM wheat which had been banned form the state for several years. As a result, entire shipments of of wheat had to be destroyed because countries like China and Japan won’t buy GM wheat, costing the wheat farmers millions of dollars.
Several class action lawsuits have already been filed against Monsanto over the wheat contamination, but if history is any guide to how those will turn out, the courts will likely go very easy on the biotech behemoth.