A Bridge Too Far: Mexican Government under pressure to resist US GMO dumping

Press release - 18 August, 2003
Greenpeace caught a trainload of US maize as it tried to enter Mexico today in response to fresh evidence that the US was dumping genetically engineered crops across the border contravening international agreements, and undermining the diversity and health of Mexican maize and the people who rely on it.

Greenpeace intercepts a trainload of USA maize as it tries to enter Mexico.

Activists suspended themselves from the train's axles to hang below the railway bridge over the Rio Grande - the Mexican-US border - while Greenpeace representatives negotiated with the Mexican Government for a ban on the US dumping of genetically engineered maize into Mexico.

Scientific analysis, released today, from an independent US laboratory of US maize samples entering Mexico showed that almost a third of the maize contained varieties from biotechnology giant, Monsanto. The international agreement, the Cartagena 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.

"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," said Liza Covantes, campaigner from Greenpeace Mexico.

"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," she said.

Double standards: In the US Monsanto is not allowed to grow its GE cotton in the South of Florida, because of concerns about contamination of related species, but the US and Monsanto, without hesitation, keep dumping their GE maize into Mexico which is the center of diversity of maize, one of the three most important food crops of the world.

Recent scientific research from the US found that genes from GE crops could rapidly take over those in wild relatives, such as teosinte, the wild relative of maize. Most of the wild populations of teosinte are already under threat. Contamination from escaped GE maize could push them over the edge.

Governments around the world are allowing big business to use trade rules under the World Trade Organisation, to force crops like GE maize on smaller countries unable to protect the health of their people and the environment except through international agreements like the

Cartagena Protocol.

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 product.

The Mexican and other Governments must standby the agreements already in place to ensure that the Biosafety Protocol prevails over corporate interest and at the upcoming 5th WTO

Ministerial taking place in Mexico in September.