In recent months, the introduction of GM corn has become a hot issue in northern Mexican border states. Opponents fear that GM products will contaminate native corn species, as has already happened in different parts of Mexico, and with unpredictable, long-term environmental consequences. Pro-GM farmers think increased yields from the news crops will help them survive the Jan. 1, 2008 elimination of corn tariffs under the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Mexican farm and environmental groups have filed a complaint with the environmental side commission of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) over the importing and planting of genetically-modified corn seeds in the northern state of Chihuahua. The groups pursuing the complaint with the Montreal-based Commission for Environmental Cooperation of North America (CEC) include Greenpeace Mexico, Frente Democratico Campesino, Centro de Derechos Humanos de las Mujeres, and El Barzon Chihuahua. Currently, the planting of transgenic corn is illegal in Mexico.
Aleisa Lara, spokesperson for Greenpeace Mexico, said the coalition took its grievance to the CEC alter exhausting all legal avenues in Mexico.
“That’s why we ask the CEC to gather a record of facts, because of the lack of an effective application of Mexican environmental law and the existence of a systematic pattern of illegal plantings of genetically-modified corn seeds in Chihuahua,” Lara said.
In 2008, Mexico’s federal agricultural department confirmed the discovery of 180 acres of transgenic corn growing near Cuauhtemoc, Chihuahua. Calling the find a “grave crime,” federal authorities said they turned the matter over to the Chihuahua state attorney general’s office for prosecution.
But native corn advocate Maria Teresa Guerrero, director of the Chihuahua City-based non-governmental organization Community Technical Consultants, later said more than 250,000 acres in Chihuahua might have been unwittingly contaminated with transgenic corn seeds and the harvest shipped throughout the country, thus jeopardizing the integrity of a crop that’s provided Mexicans with culinary and cultural sustenance for thousands of years.
Chihuahua state legislator Victor Quintana, who also serves as advisor to the Frente Democratico Campesino, accused authorities of actively
colluding with U.S. transgenic corn seed planters and exporters to introduce an illegal crop into Mexico. Quintana said the transactions violated Mexican federal law as well as the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety.
In 2002, the CEC released findings from an investigation into the contamination of native corn in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca. Under its current set-up, however, the CEC does not have the power to issue obligatory rulings to the governments of the three NAFTA member states.
Instead, the CEC conducts detailed investigations and writes reports assessing whether a given nation’s environmental laws have been duly followed. Though the CEC lacks authority to enforce its findings or levy
sanctions, the parties pursuing the Chihuahua transgenic corn case said they sought the environmental commission’s involvement in the controversy as a way of sending a message to Mexican authorities.
The CEC can either reject the coalition’s complaint or decide to compile a record of findings for delivery to Mexico’s federal government. Frontera NorteSur