Mexico defends its ban on GM corn

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Canada and the US are using the Canada-US-Mexico trade agreement to challenge Mexico’s ban on using genetically engineered (genetically modified or GM) corn for making traditional foods. The Mexican government’s submission to the trade dispute panel has just been published and it forms a strong defense of its restrictions on GM corn.

The Government of Mexico writes, “There are five major issues surrounding glyphosate and GM corn that the Panel should consider: i) the relationship between glyphosate and GM corn; ii) the health risks caused by glyphosate and GM corn with tolerance to certain herbicides; iii) the risks faced by the environment caused by glyphosate; iv) the damage caused to Mexico’s native corn by the transgenic introgression resulting from GM corn; and v) the damage to the biocultural richness of peasant communities and Mexico’s gastronomic heritage.

Mexico writes that “Over these three decades, according to the scientific literature, there is no scientific consensus on the safety of GM crop consumption.” In its submission of 199 pages, Mexico calls out the US government for using “pseudo-scientific propaganda” in its arguments when it discusses a body of literature that it claims confirms GM food safety. Mexico writes, “These are publications that lack scientific rigor: they are not endorsed by scientific institutions, neither public nor private, they have not been peer-reviewed, they are not based on the scientific, experimental or social method, and many times they are biased or their authors have a conflict of interest. There is also propaganda that, in order to favor and promote the use of GM crops…” (See para 88 and its related footnote). Mexico also notes the large number of outdated sources used by the US government, and states that most of the studies showing GM foods to be safe have been conducted by biotechnology or associated companies (para 184).

Mexico summarizes the purposes of its restrictions on GM corn as:

  • The protection of human health, which includes i) direct exposure to glyphosate as an agricultural chemical product, and ii) the protection of human health from food safety risks arising from the consumption of genetically modified corn grain.
  • The conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity with respect to Mexico’s native corn varieties and corn per se;
  • The conservation of the biodiversity and genetic integrity of Mexico’s native corn varieties and corn per se as ‘exhaustible natural resources´; and
  • The protection of the biocultural, agricultural (e.g., milpa) and gastronomic wealth of Mexico’s native corn varieties, including the protection of the agricultural traditions of mostly indigenous peasant communities.”

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