SEMARNAT Goes After SADER Over GlyphosateBy Jan Hogewoning | Thu, 08/13/2020 - 10:14
The audio file leaked on Aug. 5 where Minister of Environment and Natural Resources Víctor Toledo criticized the government’s actions, also had him criticizing the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Victor Villalobos over his supposed support for the controversial herbicide glyphosate. Toledo lamented that the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (SADER) has the intention of withdrawing a proposed investigation into the effects of glyphosate. This investigation was announced by President López Obrador earlier in his administration. The text that SADER sent to justify its decision reportedly contains the signature of Víctor Toledo, without his consent. He stated that SADER’s actions go against the government’s agenda. The leaked audio and the ensuing cabal led Toledo to present his letter of resignation as head of SEMARNAT.
During this administration, SEMARNAT has repeatedly denied glyphosate imports, citing World Health Organization’s warnings of it being a potential carcinogen. Glyphosate is manufactured by Bayer, the new owner of Monsanto, under the name Roundup. Roundup has been the subject of several lawsuits in the US with claimants stating they suffered serious impacts on their health after using the product. La Jornada writes that in 2019 SEMARNAT suspended imports of 67,000 tons of the herbicide.
SEMARNAT is reportedly fighting to prohibit fully its use by 2024. Currently, around 20 million liters of glyphosate are used every year in Mexico, primarily for corn cultivation. The ban is supported by the National Campaign ‘Sin Maize, Sin País’ and the Social Movement for Land (MST), amongst other environmental advocacy groups. MST claims that glyphosate and other pesticides have a considerable impact on society due to ‘disastrous consequences’ on the environment and human health, La Jornada writes. This, the association says, breaks the fundamental promise of guaranteeing the health of the population. MST claims that in the Office of the Presidency and SADER there is strong pro-business lobbying led by Alfonso Romo and Víctor Villalobos, known, it states, for their ties to Monsanto. One of the potentially relevant details is that Víctor Villalobos was Vice Minister of Agriculture under the Fox administration, when the TLC Transgenico (Free Trade Agreement for Transgenics) was signed between Mexico, the US and Canada.
Now, the National Agriculture Council (CNA) is calling on the government to renew imports of the herbicide glyphosate. It has warned that if imports are not renewed, production of several crops could drop by 30 to 50 percent. CNA even went as far as warning that Mexico would need to import up to 12 million tons of produce should agricultural producers in Mexico lose access to herbicide. For now, producers still have access to enough product. In an interview with La Jornada, President of CNA Bosco de la Vega stressed that this herbicide is very effective in killing unwanted weeds and increasing production. At the same time, he stated it is ‘friendly’ to the environment and has low toxicity, among other benefits.