A bridge too far

Feature story - 18 August, 2003
Mexicans are being forced to swallow Monsanto's seeds of destruction, while back in the US, Monsanto is not allowed to grow its genetically engineered (GE) cotton for fear of GE contamination. To expose this double standard our activists blocked a trainload of GE contaminated maize as it crossed the Rio Grande into Mexico.

Activists intercept a trainload of US maize as it tries to enter Mexico.

It's not just a case of double standards - the US administration continues to ride roughshod over the rights of people around the world to say no to genetically modified organisms.

The latest scientific analysis shows that one third of US maize entering Mexico is contaminated with GE varieties from Monsanto. Mexico is the centre of diversity of maize, one of the world's three most important food crops and it's at serious risk from GE contamination.

Teosinte, for example, is the wild relative of maize. Recent scientific research from the US found that genes from GE crops could rapidly take over those in wild relatives like teosinte. When most of the wild populations of teosinte are already under threat, contamination from escaped GE maize could push them over the edge.

Yet the US and Monsanto have no scruples in dumping their GE maize into Mexico, even though, back in the US, Monsanto is not allowed to grow its GE cotton in the South of Florida, because of concerns about contamination of related cotton species.

The international agreement, the Cartagena, or Biosafety Protocol agreed in January 2000, clearly states that countries must take action to prevent adverse effects of GE crops on the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.

Liza Covantes, our campaigner in Mexico said, "Mexicans are being forced to swallow the destruction of our number one food source, and the health and environment of the people who depend on it, because governments around the world stand back and allow the US to force their trade and biotechnology corporations' interests on other countries."

Governments around the world are allowing big business to use trade rules under the World Trade Organisation (WTO), to force crops like GE maize on smaller countries. The US government has already used WTO rules to force countries such as Sri Lanka and Bolivia to accept GE food and is currently aiming to force Europe into accepting their GE giant's products.

"We wouldn't need an international agreement if the likes of Monsanto and the Bush administration had the best interests of the Mexican people at heart. But that doesn't mean the US can ride roughshod over people and environments across the globe just because they think that governments will let them get away with it," Covantes added.

It is only through international agreements like the Biosaftey Protocol that countries can protect the health of their people and the environment, and, for example, say no to GE food.

The Mexican and other Governments must stand by the agreements already in place to ensure that the environmental protection prevails over corporate interest and at the upcoming WTO meeting in Mexico in September.


Briefing - Maize Under Threat - GE Maize Contamination in Mexico.