Mexican senate ratifies Biosafety Protocol

But congress freezes biosafety law due to agro-chemical industry pressure

Feature story - 30 April, 2002
Today Mexico's senate ratified the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, a crucial instrument of the Convention on Biodiversity that aims to establish a system for the safe transfer, handling and use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Contamination of maize from Mexico, a world centre of diversity for this crop, demonstrates the urgent need for the Biosafety Protocol's implementation.

Meanwhile, enough congressmen were convinced by the agro-chemical industry to freeze the national biosafety law initiative. For this reason, greenpeace activists today went to the congress and opened a banner saying "Ley de Bioseguridad, Hoy Hoy Hoy" [Biosafety Law, Today Today Today] to remind congressmen that they are responsible for protecting the Mexican biodiversity, and maize in particular.

"We congratulate senators for recognising the importance of the Protocol. It will give Mexico the opportunity to protect its biodiversity from possible negative effects of GMOs such as those that contaminated maize varieties in Oaxaca and Puebla," said Liza Covantes of Greenpeace Mexico.

So far 18 countries around the world have ratified the Biosafety Protocol, far short of the 50 needed for it to enter into force.

The urgent need for a strong Biosafety Protocol is illustrated by the discovery six months ago of genetic contamination of maize in Mexico. This was the first case of genetic pollution in a centre of origin and diversity of a major food crop.

During the latest Biosafety Protocol meeting in April 2002, Indian communities from affected regions, Greenpeace, and other NGOs requested a NAFTA commission to analyse the impact of genetically engineered maize and determine the sources of contamination.

Greenpeace calls on governments to immediately ratify the Biosafety Protocol, thereby ensuring that the next meeting on the protocol will be a Conference of the Parties with true decision-making power.