In Mexico, information on transgenic seeds is hidden under the euphemism of "Genetically Modified Organisms" (GMO). But that does not prevent the communities affected by these crops from becoming aware of human rights violations, dispossession of indigenous lands, seed trafficking and an exorbitant growth in the last six-year period.
Despite the fact that transgenic contamination is considered the most frontal attack on food autonomy, territory and peasant life, the GMO cotton fields are the great forgotten by those who study transgenic seeds. And the multinational Monsanto, recently acquired by the pharmaceutical company Bayer, is its highest bidder.
The result of the excessive growth of this binational project for the field, is abruptly changing the lives of those who inhabit the plains and plains of the country's landscapes. The forgetfulness of people who work in the fields is so great that some of them spend decades in front of courts and judges trying to defend their rights to water, land, health and food, in many cases, the fight is so long that they do not live to narrate it.
The commercial acceptance and storage of biotechnology (transgenics) in the field took a course questioned by different sectors of civil society, since the early 70s of the last century. When the Ministry of Agriculture (Sagarpa) became responsible for biosafety and relied on a very small Interdisciplinary Group of scientists that formed the "National Committee for Agricultural Biosafety (CNBA)", resulting in the National Biosafety Law - also known as the Monsanto Law– (1). These authorities would focus on studying the environmental repercussions of betting on this new sowing system, which mainly lacked environmental impact studies.
When the expected results were not obtained in 1999, the Inter-ministerial Commission for Biosafety of Genetically Modified Organisms (CIBIOGEM) was created, which was made up of six state secretariats –that is, public officials–; and the problem continued.
Investigations and lawsuits
The trials and studies that were carried out under these two directions had a root failure, were applied on a minimum scale (never greater than one hectare) and without having taken strict control measures, as explained by the Center for Studies for Change in the Campo Mexicano (Ceccam) in its report made in August 2017 (2). And the result of this problem was reflected in the courts. Only in the hands of RindeCuentas.org there are four cases of amparos against the transnational Monsanto promoted by peasants from Yucatán, Quinta Roo, Campeche and Chihuahua.
On July 5, 2013 another legal conflict arises. A class action lawsuit of fifty-three people, farmers, beekeepers, researchers, academics, human rights defenders, environmentalists, artists, representatives of twenty civil organizations, all against various companies that produce Genetically Modified (GM) seeds, culminated in other 16 amparo lawsuits, two of them promoted by the federal government, through the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food, (Sagarpa) (3).
The case was not public knowledge in the country, until a group of indigenous Mayan community members managed to defeat the GMO Agri-food Giant, Monsanto.
Monsanto's first defeat
Monsanto has managed to traffic its transgenic seeds with the help of the government, "we have to work to free the State from corporate capture," says Raymundo Espinoza, one of the lawyers who worked and won the first lawsuit, along with the indigenous peasants who managed to defeat to the agri-food giant.
What worries Espinoza most is that transgenic non-food patients are not being investigated. He assures that GMO seeds continue to receive public resources to satisfy their business needs, in addition, according to his experience and that of his litigation team, these companies traffic in seeds through government social programs.
“Monsanto has three legal elements on top of it: The recommendation, the sentence and the revoked permit […] It turns out that with all that, that company continues to distribute the seeds in the places. In addition, we [His team of lawyers] identify that the government has aid programs for farmers that no longer include money, sometimes the aid is in kind and, your technology package is a sack with your chemicals and they sell it to you as seeds hybrid or improved, but they are not, the government is the one that is distributing transgenic seeds. Specifically, the Quintana Roo government made that move, I have been there, and in Campeche it also happened in aid programs for the countryside, they were given transgenics, "said the lawyer for RindeCuentas.
Despite all the evidence of the agrarian conflict, the authorities continued to promote GM seeds. And for 2015 - the year in which the SCJN had issued the first resolution against the transgenic company - (4), the Senate of the Republic ruled in favor of these crops. The assemblyman of the National Action Party (PAN) Francisco Salvador López Brito, used the platform of the Upper House to ask Sagarpa to “promote the social production of seeds”, but he was referring to transgenics. And the plenary supported him.
In the document they issued to the Executive, the legislators requested that a program to promote corn production be implemented and a report on the permits in their experimental or pilot release phases, for transgenic corn and beans that have been approved up to that date. . In the opinion with a point of agreement, the status of the six requests for permits for the commercial release of transgenic corn in Tamaulipas and Sinaloa was also requested (5). They called it the "Strategic Crops for Production."
According to Sagarpa estimates, for 2018 corn imports would reach 8.9 million tons, that is, an increase of 13 percent compared to 2010; In the case of beans, the volume of imports had increased from 1.8 thousand tons in 1998 to 95 thousand in 2010.
But the money was not there. The crop protection market was valued in 2010 at 10 billion pesos and that of GM seeds at 7 billion pesos; and in that same year, GM cotton seed already accounted for 70 percent of national production according to Bayer Crop (6) And Monsanto knew it.
In a larger study, it was explained that the total area of transgenic crops registered in Mexico by the Center for Studies for Change in the Mexican Countryside (Ceccam) between 1988 and 2004, totaled 667,510 hectares, and of these, almost 90 percent were for cotton in the experimental or pilot phase. Another relevant fact is that the main country with which Mexico does business with cotton fiber is the United States, specifically with the states of California and Atlanta (7).
Despite the high growth in the production of GM seeds, there is a registry issued by the Ministry of the Environment (Semarnat) where they recognize deficiencies in the requests to release transgenics into the environment. In official letter number CN / 087/2012, the general director of environmental risk impact of the agency, warned that he had found "inconsistencies" in the biosafety measures proposed by Monsanto during the collection process, which were classified as "Contradictory" to what is established in the law by not clarifying the level of responsibility assumed by the company in case of an environmental impact derived from the experimental release.
Despite the criticism, by the end of 2016 the Mexican State had granted Monsanto eight new permits for the planting of this input (8). No one realized then that it was not only corn that was being threatened by biotechnology.
The states where the new permits were granted for the cultivation of genetically modified materials according to the transparency request number 08210000003216, were: Chihuahua, Coahuila, Durango, Baja California, Sonora, Tamaulipas and Nuevo León.
One year after the arrival of these seeds, Mexico announces (without specifying expenses or geolocation of properties) the implementation, in a territorial extension of 200 thousand hectares, a binational plan with the United States of North America (USA) to combat "the two main plagues of the cotton tree ”, that of the pink worm and cotton weevil that coincidentally only affects producers in the vicinity of: Chihuahua, Coahuila, Durango, Baja California, Sonora, Tamaulipas and Nuevo León, just where Monsanto obtained the permits from Sagarpa 9).
Likewise, in the public statement, the National Service for Agrifood Health, Safety and Quality (SENASICA) promises for the states of Chihuahua, Coahuila and Durango, a declaration of a free zone (of pests that affect cotton) by the end of 2018.
As reported by the General Directorate of Food Safety, Aquaculture and Fisheries through its Link INAI MVZ: Only this company has active permits to work transgenic cotton in a territorial extension of almost half a million hectares in our country, a circuit five times bigger than in 2010.
History ofRicardo Balderas placeholder image, edited by Eduard Martín-Borregón.
1) CEECCAM report
2) Report on failure in studies
3) GMO class action lawsuit
4) SCJN grants amparo against Monsanto
5) Senate asks to support transgenics
6) Cotton represents 70% of national production
7) Cotton export
8) Map of the CECCAM
9) Newsletter on cotton plague