Mexican Corn Defender Wins Environmental Award – Food Tank



When I came to Mexico City nine years ago to investigate a civil society effort to prevent a multinational seed company from planting genetically modified corn in Mexico, the group had just won an injunction to block planting permits. Ta. Monsanto and other companies filed an appeal with the support of the Mexican government at the time, and farmers, consumers and environmental groups awaited the judicial decision.

I asked their lead lawyer, Rene Sánchez Galindo, how he thinks they can overcome the enormous economic and legal power of corporations and governments. “I’m sure the judge will eat tacos,” he said with a smile. Everyone here eats tacos. They know corn is different. ”

He was right. The next day, a judge upheld the preventive injunction. And he’s still right. Ten years after Demanda Colectiva, a group of 53 people from 22 organizations, filed a class action lawsuit to block genetically engineered corn, preventive measures remain in place, despite appeals from some 130 companies. The restraining order remains in effect.

Today, in Mexico City, the Pax Natura Foundation, founded in 1996 with the aim of “creating peace with nature at all levels in order to protect life on this beautiful planet,” hosts its annual environmental We are giving awards.

Previous winners include biologist Jane Goodall and former Costa Rican president Oscar Arias. President and founder Randall Trupinrud said the foundation recognizes Demanda Colectiva as “the courage and wisdom to resist the scourge of industrial agriculture that degrades land, destroys biodiversity, and fuels increased carbon emissions.” He said he was chosen to join such a respected company because of the company’s reputation for excellence.

The ceremony will be held at the Franz Meyer Museum in Mexico City on October 16th at 11:30 a.m. local time. You can live stream.

As I learned over several years of research for the chapter on the campaign in my book Eat Tomorrow, Demanda Colectiva certainly deserves such recognition. (Chapters from this book are available here.) Not only did they block the cultivation of GM corn during five years of hostility from their own government, but they also had a new government that took native corn and its protection seriously. He also helped open the door to

Since the election of Andrés Manuel López Obrador in 2018 and his Moreno movement, there have been major changes in government policy toward rural Mexico. As I outlined in a wide-ranging interview with Agriculture Undersecretary Victor Suárez, who has taken up the new post of food self-sufficiency, government programs currently favor small and medium-sized producers and promote agroecology and agroforestry. and provide support prices for major food crops and provide for such policies. The Right to Food Law is nearing approval in Mexico’s Congress.

López Obrador also supported Demanda Colectiva, withdrawing government support from companies involved in legal disputes. Some of the 53 plaintiffs, including Mr. Suarez, currently work in major government departments. Most dramatically, the president issued an executive order banning not only the cultivation of GM corn but also the consumption of tortillas and other basic processed corn products.

This is a dramatic change after three decades of neoliberal, pro-free trade government in Mexico. And this has sparked strong opposition from the US government, which is suing Mexico to an arbitration panel to block the GM corn ordinance under the renegotiated US-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement. .

The legal process will unfold over the next six months and will allow Mexico to raise public health concerns regarding the ingestion of GM corn and the associated herbicide glyphosate in tortillas and other preparations made from minimally processed corn. has made it clear that it will provide evidence regarding its concerns. They will show that there are no studies proving the long-term safety of GM corn in the way Mexicans consume it. Therefore, precautions are necessary.

They will also argue that precautions are needed to protect the country’s rich native maize diversity, which is threatened by uncontrolled GM cross-pollination. This is the central argument of Demanda Colectiva’s lawsuit, which intentionally chose to focus on environmental threats to corn diversity rather than health risks. The plaintiffs cite a series of studies, including a large trilateral study of contamination of conventional corn by GM corn pollen, that the Mexican Constitution guarantees the right to a clean environment, and that in Mexico He argued that the integrity of native species must be included. corn.

Judge Walter Arellano Hobelsberger’s January 2014 ruling was an eloquent ruling upholding the injunction: “The use and enjoyment of biodiversity is a right of present and future generations.”

The fight is not over for the companies, nor for the U.S. government, which has worked hard to support their interests. Monsanto was later acquired by Bayer, but its Mexico office still uses the Monsanto name. They are filing a lawsuit in Mexico seeking to block the executive order.

And a Mexican judge recently gave the companies a temporary victory by dismissing Demanda Colectiva’s original lawsuit in its first full hearing, a full 10 years after it was filed. He did so despite new evidence of uncontrolled genetically modified contamination of native corn in most Mexican states.

The irony that the sentence was handed down on September 29, Mexico’s official National Corn Day, was lost on no one in Mexico. Demanda’s lawyers immediately appealed, citing previous Supreme Court decisions upholding the injunction and arguing that the precautionary ban on GM corn planting remains in place.

Maybe the judge didn’t eat tacos. Elena Álvarez Buira, one of the original plaintiffs and now head of Mexico’s National Science Agency, told me in May that when Demanda Colectiva goes to court to defend its injunction against planting genetically modified corn, He said he would definitely invite a judge. 2 plates of tortillas. One is purchased at the supermarket and the other is made from corn, which is native to Mexico. She wanted them to taste the difference.

I hope that this will continue to be the case.

No matter what the courts decide, no matter what the trade courts decide, Mexicans will continue to resist the imposition of GM corn. Adelita San Vicente, a former spokesperson for Demanda Colectiva who now works for the Ministry of the Environment, told me: We will defend our seeds and our sovereignty, not only in the courts, but also in the fields and streets, and in our collective demands for government policies that respect our rights. ”

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Photo by Sunila Moses

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One response to “Mexican Corn Defender Wins Environmental Award – Food Tank”
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