By Devon G. Peña, Ph.D. – Environmental and Food Justice, 20 August 2015
Moderator’s Note: This update on the unfolding struggle over the suspension of GMO corn plantings in Mexico, in effect since September 2013, draws from a report by Mexican journalist Mathieu Tourliere that appeared in the on-line Proceso magazine on August 19, 2015. I have also drawn from reports by Sinembargo, and background briefings from the ETC Group.
Mexican judge overturns ruling on the suspension of the planting of transgenic corn in Mexico
RULING APPEALED BY CIVIL SOCIETY GROUPS
Devon G. Peña | Viejo San Acacio, CO | August 20, 2015
Yesterday (August 19), reports came out of Mexico regarding the continuing legal battle over the cultivation of genetically engineered (GE) maize in the country that is the principal center of origin for this globally vital food staple. According to Mathieu Tourliere, writing in the on-line magazine, Proceso, a judge with the 12th District for Civil Matters of the First Circuit Court ruled to cancel the precautionary measure that since September 2013 has blocked transnational corporations, including Monsanto and Syngenta, from planting genetically modified maize in Mexico. The judge issuing the ruling is Francisco Peñaloza Heras.
René Sánchez Galindo, the lawyer representing Acción Colectiva del Maíz, A.C., the principal civil society organization working toward a more permanent ban, announced the decision to Agencia Proceso (Apro) and confirmed that an appeal has been filed. Sánchez Galindo further explains that the “delivery of permits remains suspended until the other justices confirm or discard their decision to ‘topple’ the precautionary measure.”
Reviewing the background to the latest news: In September, 2013 the 12th District in Civil Law Matters of the Federal District Court ruled that the granting of permits for the cultivation of transgenic corn placed at risk the dozens of native species of maize since Mexico is regarded as the principal center of origin of the grain.
The 2013 ruling thus applied the Precautionary Principle and suspended the further issuing of planting permits until resolution of the legal contest by trial, whereby Acción Colectiva might persuade the courts to issue a permanent ban on the planting of transgenic corn.
Acción Colectiva has, since 2013, managed to successfully defend the precautionary measure over the course 93 appeals and 22 amparos (due process protections) brought forth by transnational corporations and Mexican federal agencies.
There is currently fierce disagreement about the implications posed by this most recent ruling. According to Tourliere’s report, AgroBIO, an association representing groups, companies, and research sectors defending and promoting the cultivation of GMO crops in Mexico, asserts that the decision means that the Secretaries of Agriculture (Sagarpa) and Environment (Semarnat) may resume the issuance of permits for the planting of GMO maize. Speaking for the plaintiffs, Sánchez Galindo insisted that just filed appeal means that the delivery of permits remains suspended until resolution of the appeal.
Tourliere notes that the Chair of the Board of Directors of AgroBIO Mexico – who happens to also be President of the Mexican subsidiary of the multinational Dow AgroSciences, Ricardo Guimarães, argued that new ruling means the court “has privileged the rule of law to lift this measure”. The biotech promoter also claimed, without evidence or sources, that GMOs provide “economic and environmental benefits”.
In a bulletin issued last night, Acción Colectiva criticized “the Court’s decision [because it] failed to resolve all our arguments and evidence”. Crucial to the opposition’s arguments is solid scientific evidence demonstrating that, “once released into the environment, GMOs become ‘uncontrollable’ through pollination, but above all by the system of exchange of seeds of peasants, and [this] endanger[s] the biodiversity of maize in the country.”
In a report yesterday in Sinembargo, Mr. Galindo explained why the suspension of GMO maize remains in effect until appeals are exhausted:
Article 396 of the code of civil procedure [establishes] … in these cases, [that] the appeal suspends the execution [of the ruling] … [Thus] … “the appeal suspends the planting of transgenic [maize], because the law provides that it must be processed with suspensive and devolutive effects, and [our appeal was filed] at 9 in the morning … Wednesday August 19. (Moderator’s translation).
Further elaborating on errors made by the judge, Francia Gutiérrez, communications director for Acción Colectiva, noted that the planting of GMO corn presents “other risks [that] were omitted from the formal judgment [and] are health-related”. She asserted that:
Since the branch secretariat and Cofepris (Comisión Federal para la Protección Contra Riesgos Sanitarios) told the judge that these health authorities only monitor consumption but do not study the health impacts of [the] planting [of transgenic corn], while nearly 50 percent of the proteins and calories from food consumed by Mexicans comes from eating corn products planted in our country that are so far free of GMOs.
Obviously, one cannot determine the heath impacts of consumption until GMO corn is widely consumed, but we can ascertain environmental and human health impacts associated with the cultivation of the transgenic versions of the grain, and significant scientific studies indicating serious impacts have been presented as evidence. The judge failed to consider this evidence. We will report on the appeal ruling as soon as it is issued.