Mexican judge rules that GMOs are imminent threat
By Professor Devon G. Peña
An October 10 press release with Mexico City byline announces the banning of genetically-engineered corn in Mexico. According to the group that issued the press release, La Coperacha, a federal judge has ordered Mexico’s SAGARPA (Secretaría de Agricultura, Ganadería, Desarrollo Rural, Pesca, y Alimentación), which is Mexico’s Secretary of Agriculture, and SEMARNAT (Secretaría de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales), which is equivalent of the 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 unprecedented ban was granted by the Twelfth Federal District Court for Civil Matters of Mexico City. Judge Jaime Eduardo Verdugo J. wrote the opinion and cited “the risk of imminent harm to the environment” as the basis for the decision. The judge’s ruling also ruled that multinationals like Monsanto and Pioneer are banned from the release of transgenic maize in the Mexican countryside” as long as collective action lawsuits initiated by citizens, farmers, scientists, and civil society organizations are working their way through the judicial system.
The decision was explained during a press conference in Mexico City yesterday by members of the community-based organizations that sued federal authorities and companies introducing transgenic maize into Mexico. The group, Acción Colectiva, is led by Father Miguel Concha of the Human Rights Center Fray Francisco de Vittoria; Victor Suarez of ANEC (National Association of Rural Commercialization Entertprises); Dr. Mercedes Lopéz of Vía Organica; and Adelita San Vicente, a teacher and member of Semillas de Vida, a national organization that has been involved in broad-based social action projects to protect Mexico’s extraordinary status as a major world center of food crop biodiversity.
According to the press release, Acción 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 ruling marks a milestone in the long struggle of citizen demands for a GMO-free country, acknowledged Rene Sanchez Galindo, legal counsel for the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, adding that the ruling has serious enforcement provisions and includes the possibility of “criminal charges for the authorities responsible for allowing the introduction of transgenic corn in our country”.
Father Miguel Concha said the judge’s decision reflects a commitment to respect the Precautionary Principle expressed in various international treaties and statements of human rights. Concha emphasized that the government is obliged to protect the human rights of Mexicans against the economic interests of big business.The lawsuit seeks to protect the “human right to save and use the agrobiodiversity of native landraces from the threats posed by GMO maize”, said the human rights advocate.
The class action lawsuit is supported by scientific evidence from studies that have – since 2001 – documented the contamination of Mexico’s native corn varieties by transgenes from GMO corn, principally the varieties introduced by Monsanto’s Roundup ready lines and the herbicide-resistant varieties marketed by Pioneer and Bayer CropScience. The collection of the growing body of scientific research on the introgression of transgenes into Mexico’s native corn genome has been a principal goal and activity of the national campaign, Sin Maíz, No Hay Paíz [Without Corn, There Is No Country].