Mexico Places Temporary Injunction Against Planting Of GMO Corn

By Lorne Matalon
October 24, 2013
Lorne Matalon
Juan Antonio Valverde cuts corn stalks in Xochimilco, Mexico. Valverde says he doesn't understand the implications of GMO seeds but nonetheless says he wants to raise corn as his ancestors have done year for centuries without herbicides or genetic modification.

Mexico has temporarily banned the planting of genetically modified corn citing a "risk of imminent harm to the environment." Opponents believe the decision may represent a critical first step to the outright banning of GMO crops in Mexico.

This means that GMO-producing companies such as Monsanto and DuPont/Pioneer are banned from selling or planting transgenic seeds or running experimental GMO plots within Mexico, until lawsuits work their way through the Mexican judicial system.

This is just the latest development in a long-standing battle over the introduction of genetically modified corn into Mexico. Agri-business giants like Monsanto have applied for permission to plant huge test plots of GMO corn, but those applications have been put on hold, pending regulatory approval by the Mexican government.  

There are reports that claim Mexico has made an outright ban on GMO corn, but the ruling, significant as it is in a country with 20,000 varieties of corn, is only a temporary injunction.

New York Times article from 2010 tracks the origins of corn to a Mexican grass called teosinte.

Some people in Mexico say the GMO corn debate is not simply about health and the environment but about history. 

Corn is so central to the Mexican identity that there is a saying, "sin maíz no hay pais" meaning "without corn there's no country."

The decision was made by Judge Jaime Eduardo Verdugo of the Twelfth Federal District Court in Mexico City. The ruling effectively suspends the planting of transgenic corn in the country and ends permission for experimental and pilot commercial plantings.

The decision in the Mexican court is just one recent development in the debate about transgenic produce.

In Washington State, Initiative 522 goes before voters Nov 5. It would require that foods containing ingredients from genetically engineered plants be clearly labelled.

Opponents contend these foods are dangerous to humans though there is little scientific evidence to support that claim.

Washington state Attorney General Bob Feguson filed a lawsuit against the Grocery Manufacturers Association. The GMA is a pro-GMO lobby. The state's lawsuit alleges the GMA illegally collected and spent more than $7 million while obscuring the identity of its contributors.

In a separate but related development, the United States is investigating the source of unapproved genetically modified wheat found growing wild on in Oregon.