NAFTA agrees: US genetically engineered maize is threat to Mexican crops.
The report, written by the Commission for Environmental
Cooperation (CEC) of the North American Free Trade Agreement (US,
Canada and Mexico) recommends that all genetically engineered (GE)
maize imports be labelled as such and that all US maize entering
Mexico should be milled upon entry, to prevent living seeds from
being planted intentionally or accidentally.
The Bush Administration has intervened several times to delay
the publication of the report -- completed three months ago -- and
there is still no official date for its publication.
The scandal began in September 2001 when the Mexican government
announced that scientists had discovered contamination of
indigenous varieties of maize with genetically engineered (GE)
varieties. The likely source of the contamination is imported maize
from the USA.
Indigenous and local communities in Oaxaca were horrified, and
non-governmental environmental organizations in Mexico started a
campaign to bring the contamination to the attention of the
As the genetic home of maize, Mexico is on the forefront of
natural diversity in the crop. There are hundreds of local and wild
varieties of Mexican maize, all of which could be marginalised and
overtaken by aggressive GE strains. Loss of these varieties would
put the world's food security at risk since farmers rely on these
genetic resources to create new varieties, especially ones adapted
to changing environmental conditions.
One of the first things Mexico did was to request the CEC to
look into the matter. The CEC began a process to investigate the
contamination; possible impacts on human health, communities, and
the environment; and eventually to provide recommendations to the
three NAFTA governments on how to address the contamination. The
CEC finished the long-awaited report on the contamination of
Mexican maize by US GE maize way back in June.
recognition of real environmental risks of GE maize and the
consequent recommendation to mill US maize upon entry into Mexico
will clearly damage the US position in its WTO case against Europe.
It is no wonder they worked so hard to try to prevent its release,"
said Doreen Stabinsky, genetic engineering campaigner for
There are at least two reasons why the US might want to delay
publication of a report that highlights the environmental, human
health and socio-cultural risks of GE maize. First, inside sources
have alluded to the potential implications of the report on the WTO
case being brought by the US and Canada against the European
In 2003, the U.S., Canada and Argentina launched a case against
the European Union for a de facto moratorium on new approvals on GE
varieties in place in Europe since 1998. The CEC report is likely
to provide strong support for Europe's scientific arguments. It
calls attention to the huge gaps in knowledge that exist regarding
the impacts of GE maize in Mexico, stating explicitly that risk
assessments carried out in the United States are not adequate to
determine potential impacts in Mexico.
"The WTO suit was clearly a politically motivated attack on the
environment and on European consumers. It is highly significant
that another trade body has now confirmed that there are unique
risks to genetically engineered organisms and that there is
scientific backing for a precautionary approach on genetic
engineering," said Stabinsky. "The only appropriate next step for
the US government is to follow the CEC's recommendations and mill
their maize exports."
The report will also clearly have an effect on the current US
efforts to send GE maize as food aid. A number of African countries
have rejected whole US maize as a potential threat to their
environment, and requested only milled maize. The report backs up
these demands as it concludes that there is insufficient data on
which to conclude safety of transgenic maize for the Mexican
environment and recommends milling of maize to reduce these
What Bush doesn't want you to see:
Conclusions from the CEC Mexican Maize report (unoffical English
The CEC report on GE maize contamination in Mexico
Confidential comments from
Canadian governments on the CEC report.
The CEC advisory group - who are they?
History of the CEC report on Mexican maize
Maize: the Truth
The CEC's scientific findings on Maize contamination in
Maize Under Threat - GE Maize Contamination in