Ban Transgenic Maize and Glyphosate Faces Fierce CriticismBy Jan Hogewoning | Wed, 01/06/2021 - 13:02
On Dec. 31, 2020, the Mexican government issued a presidential decree that aims to end the existence of transgenic maize and the herbicide glyphosate in the country by Jan. 31, 2024. Now, Milenio writes, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (SADER), the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) and Ministry of Health, along with the National Council of Science and Technology (CONACYT) are set to implement reforms in applicable legal mechanisms by the first half of 2023.
The reasoning behind this ban, the decree states, is to contribute to the ‘food security and sovereignty’ of the country. The decree, published in the Federation’s Official Gazette, specifically mentions that it is a special measure to protect “...native corn, the milpa, the biocultural wealth, rural communities, the gastronomic heritage and the health of Mexicans.” Biosafety authorities, considering the criteria of sufficiency in the supply of corn grain without glyphosate, will revoke and refrain from granting authorizations for the use of genetically modified corn grain, aiming for a gradual implementation of the bans.
The decree has been met with fierce criticism from different parties. The National Agriculture Council (CNA) has warned that the gradual reduction of transgenic maize production, as well as its import, would put Mexico at a competitive disadvantage compared to other markets like the US. The Protection of Crops, Science and Technology agency (PROCCYT) has characterized the glyphosate ban as a ‘betrayal’ against Mexican farmers. The executive director of this agency, Cristian García de Paz, stated that this ban would end the hopes of producers for better and bigger harvests. It warns of a food crisis, in which the production of maize, tomato, coffee, beans, citric fruits and others, could drop as much as 40 percent. It has also stated that glyphosate is the most extensively studied herbicide and that there is no proof of harm against human health that warrants this ban. García de Paz says that it is not a ‘coincidence’ that the decree was published on a late afternoon on Dec. 31, 2020, calling it a “dogmatic and political” move.
Other groups have been more positive. The president of the Mexican Society for Organic Production (SOMEXPRO), Homero Blas, stated that the ban on transgenic maize is “a major achievement.” It is not clear, Milenio writes, whether the ban on transgenic maize will apply to just maize meant for human consumption or also maize used as livestock feed. While Mexico is self-sufficient in the production of white maize, it is dependent on imports from the US for yellow maize, a primarily transgenic product. While CNA is very critical of the gradual reduction in transgenic maize, it was central to the agreement to ban glyphosate over five years back in June 2020, along with SEMARNAT.
In an MBN interview published this December, the former Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Miguel García Winder stated that the glyphosate issue had become a “a very politicized conversation.” Some people, he said, had developed very extreme views. "By definition, any herbicide, pesticide or insecticide is toxic...if you look closely at the evidence for glyphosate, you will probably come to the conclusion, one way or another, that there are indications that a higher, mismanaged dose could be dangerous for human health and the environment.", he said. He stressed the importance of focusing on investment on innovation so new pesticide and herbicide alternatives could be developed. “In 10 to 15 years, a new generation will have other sets of pesticides and glyphosate will probably not be one of them,” he said. He also emphasized that current agriculture is quasi-dependent on chemical products. “If we take that away immediately, with no logical process of substitution, we can have five to 10 years of declining production, which would affect our self-sufficiency,” he stated.