Maize Under Threat As Mexico Fails To Ban US Imports
Brussels/London/Rome, 16th October, 2001 – Greenpeace today marked the World Food Day by renewing its demands for an emergency ban on all US maize imports to Mexico until their purity from genetically engineered (GE) compounds can be guaranteed. The Mexican embassies in the United States, at the European Union and at the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) were told by Greenpeace that the US imports were the most likely source of genetic pollution currently contaminating one of the world’s most important food crops, maize, in a vital area of diversity in Mexico. (1).
On Sunday in Mexico, Greenpeace occupied a maize field near Mexico City highlighting it as an example of one of the 300 local varieties at risk of being genetically contaminated. Greenpeace, supported by the National Farmer Trade Association (ANEC), stressed that there is no need to continue with the US maize imports to Mexico as the country already has a 630 thousand tonnes of home-grown GE free maize stored in warehouses. About the same amount of maize is still due to be imported from the United States by the end of the year. The Mexican government has prevented the sale of the domestic maize in order to maintain the market price, which is threatened by cheap US imports.
“The Mexican government’s policy is insane both environmentally and economically. We already have large amounts of maize rotting away in storage but 783 thousand tonnes are still scheduled to come in from the US by the end of this year without any guarantees that it is GE free. These imports risk further polluting 300 cultivated and indigenous maize varieties existing in Mexico. This would not only be a loss for Mexican environment and culture but this area is essential to maintain food security globally. We simply cannot afford any more delays in taking emergency action against this genetic contamination,” said Raul Benet, Executive Director of Greenpeace Mexico.
The Mexican government has so far failed to take measures to protect the maize in the affected areas located in at least 15 communities in the states of Oaxaca, Puebla and Guanajuato. The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in Mexico recently described the contamination as a serious development and offered its expertise to the appropriate Mexican institutions. (2).
Since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) came into force in 1994, the maize imports from the United States to Mexico have doubled from 3 million tonnes to 6 million tonnes. One fourth of the maize produced in the United States is genetically engineered. The GE grains are imported from the US without labelling which increases the risk of contaminating both the environment and the food chain.
More information on http://www.greenpeace.org
Notes to the editors:
(1) Testing of maize varieties from 22 communities in the state of Oaxaca, Puebla and Guanajuato, Mexico, revealed genetic contamination in 15 of them. 13 samples showed up to 10% levels of contamination, in two others the contamination level is known to be even higher, but no details have been published yet.
(2) The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), headquartered in Texcoco, Mexico, has regarded the contamination as a serious development and offered its expertise to the appropriate Mexican institutions. http://www.cimmyt.org/whatiscimmyt/transgenic.htm