The biotech industry's success or failure in its strategy for planting GMO corn in Mexico could very well determine the future of the world's corn supply. We reported last year that a judge in Mexico had banned further planting of Monsanto and Pioneer GMO corn in Mexico, and earlier this year a Monsanto appeal to that ban was also struck down. Even if Mexico succeeds in eventually banning GMO corn completely, some wonder if it is already too late? The presence of GMO corn is already found in nearly half of Mexico's states, according to a new report written by Timothy A. Wise, Policy Research Director at Tufts University’s Global Development and Environment Institute. Still, if Mexico acts soon to completely ban GMO seeds, there is reason to hope it can stem the tide and preserve native seed varieties, and become a major player in the world market demanding GMO-free corn. It is estimated that 90% or more of the U.S. corn supply is already contaminated with GMO DNA, even in certified organic corn. Mexico could be positioned to become a major world leader in GMO-free corn. Some companies in the U.S. that emphasize GMO-free products, such as Tropical Traditions, have already stopped selling many organic corn products from the U.S. due to the presence of GMO DNA. They are beginning to look to Mexico and other countries outside the U.S. for their supplies of corn. Could the label "grown in Mexico" soon become a symbol of high-quality non-GMO products?
Health concerns aside, U.S. GMO policy is damaging the U.S. economy and costing jobs. China just announced they were rejecting U.S. GMO corn in favor of Brazilian corn, draining hundreds of millions of dollars out of the U.S. economy.
France's agriculture ministry has just banned the sale, use and cultivation of Monsanto's MON 810 genetically modified maize, the only variety currently authorised in the European Union. The French government, which maintains that GM crops present environmental risks, has been trying to institute a new ban on GM maize (corn) after its highest court has twice previously struck down similar measures. The decision is timed to avert any sowing of GM maize by farmers before a draft law is debated on April 10 aimed at banning planting of GMOs (genetically modified organisms).
Another court in Mexico has ruled against GMO crops. A ban against genetically modified soybeans in the Campeche region of Mexico was upheld last week by the Second District Court. This follows the decision by two other judges in Mexico last year (2013) to keep in place bans on GM corn. Could "Made in Mexico" become the new quality standard in organic agriculture for the future? Less than 1% of the population in the United States is involved in agriculture today, where it is dominated by biotech firms heading more and more to GMO seeds, supported by the U.S. government. Mexico, by contrast, still has over 13% of its population in agriculture, and much of that is still small-scale traditional farming. This is a smaller amount post NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), which opened the door for cheap subsidized crops from the U.S. to be imported to Mexico, putting many farmers out of work who could not compete with these cheap subsidized commodity crops from the U.S. If judges in Mexico continue ruling against biotech companies and their GMO products, Mexico could become a major exporter to the U.S. of high-quality non-GMO organic products. Almost all of the corn supply in the U.S., for example, has been contaminated by GM corn (even certified organic corn), while hundreds of heirloom varieties still exist in Mexico.
The Kauai County Council has overridden Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho’s veto of Bill 2491, freeing the way for the GMO-related bill. Bill 2491, which passed a County Council vote on Oct. 16, will force agricultural companies to disclose when and where they spray pesticides, restrict spraying to a certain distance away from public areas, and disclose what genetically engineered crops they grow on Kauai.
While recent research is looking at the health consequences of consuming genetically modified foods, equally concerning is the failure of glyphosate and other herbicides to control a new breed of "demon weeds" that have arisen as a byproduct of the GMO industry. Many older and more toxic classes of pesticides are also returning to the market place as pests become resistant to GMOs, and the government is allowing increased use of pesticides for food production. The Alliance for Natural Health has just released a new video highlighting the health concerns of these "demon weeds" as well as the toxic effects of glyphosate. A new study from ANH-USA finds that exposure to glyphosate, an ingredient in Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup is linked to very serious human health issues – including birth defects, miscarriages and cancer. With so many GMO-related initiatives around the country, your involvement can make a significant positive difference in this fight.
Tropical Traditions recently announced that they had established their own standards for non-GMO products. The new standard is "GMO-Tested." While other non-GMO claims might have as much as 1% presence of genetically modified DNA present, the Tropical Traditions GMO-Tested standard has a zero percent tolerance for the presence of genetically modified materials.
White sugar, in any form, is not very healthy. But at least one can choose sugar cane over sugar beets to be assured you are not consuming a GMO product. Sadly, that may not be true much longer, as Indonesia announced recently that they were developing a GMO variety of sugar cane.
For scientist Jack Newman, creating a new life-form has become as simple as this: He types out a DNA sequence on his laptop. Clicks “send.” And a few yards away in the laboratory, robotic arms mix together some compounds to produce the desired cells. Newman’s biotech company is creating new organisms, most forms of genetically modified yeast, at the dizzying rate of more than 1,500 a day. Some convert sugar into medicines. Others create moisturizers that can be used in cosmetics. “You can now build a cell the same way you might build an app for your iPhone,” said Newman, chief science officer of Amyris. The rush to biological means of production promises to revolutionize the chemical industry and transform the economy, but it also raises questions about environmental safety and biosecurity and revives ethical debates about “playing God.” Hundreds of products are in the pipeline. Laboratory-grown artemisinin, a key anti-malarial drug, went on sale in April with the potential to help stabilize supply issues. A vanilla flavoring that promises to be significantly cheaper than the costly extract made from beans grown in rain forests is scheduled to hit the markets in 2014. What if they are accidentally released and evolve to have harmful characteristics? “There is no regulatory structure or even protocols for assessing the safety of synthetic organisms in the environment.”
A federal judge has ordered Mexico’s SAGARPA (Secretaría de Agricultura, Ganadería, Desarrollo Rural, Pesca, y Alimentación), which is Mexico’s Secretary of Agriculture, and SEMARNAT (Secretaría de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales), which is equivalent of the EPA, to immediately “suspend all activities involving the planting of transgenic corn in the country and end the granting of permission for experimental and pilot commercial plantings.” The unprecedented ban was granted by the Twelfth Federal District Court for Civil Matters of Mexico City. Judge Jaime Eduardo Verdugo J. wrote the opinion and cited “the risk of imminent harm to the environment” as the basis for the decision. The judge’s ruling also ruled that multinationals like Monsanto and Pioneer are banned from the release of transgenic maize in the Mexican countryside” as long as collective action lawsuits initiated by citizens, farmers, scientists, and civil society organizations are working their way through the judicial system.