Despite legal threats from the U.S. government, Mexico’s government plans to go forward with a partial ban on imports of genetically modified corn.
On Wednesday Mexico’s National Council for Science and Technology (CONACYT) hosted an online webinar laying out the science behind the nation’s decision to ban imports of genetically modified corn. The webinar itself is a response to repeated claims by the U.S. government that Mexico’s GM corn ban is not based on science.
The webinar was first reported on by Food Tank.
CONACYT, the Mexican government’s senior science department, organized several presentations from Mexican scientists detailing the health concerns surrounding GM food and the herbicide glyphosate which is typically sprayed on GM corn produced by Bayer, formerly Monsanto.
For the Mexican farmers who have been cultivating corn for an estimated 8,000 years, GM corn represents a significant threat. GM corn can spread via the birds, bees, and wind, resulting in cross-pollination between traditional crops and GM versions.
During his presentation, Alejandro Espinoza Calderón, director of Mexico’s biosecurity agency Intersecretarial Commission for Biosafety and Genetically Modified Organisms (Cibiogem), noted that,
“Mexico has a rich store of exceptionally healthy varieties of corn. It is alarming to find that 90 percent of tortillas were shown to have traces of both glyphosate and transgenics. The biosecurity of Mexico is of utmost importance.”
National University biologist Ana Laura Wegier Briuolo, a biologist at Mexico’s National University made it clear that “without healthy corn we cannot have healthy people.”
The webinar also focused on the dangers associated with glyphosate. In recent years Monsanto (and now Bayer) have faced dozens of lawsuits related to individuals developing cancer after heavy use of glyphosate.
In August 2018, a California jury found that Monsanto failed to notify consumers of the dangers of the company’s chemical concoctions. The jury handed down a $289 million award to Dewayne Johnson, a former school groundskeeper who claimed Monsanto’s glyphosate-based weed-killers gave him cancer. Johnson told the jury he had been involved in two accidents during his work in which he was doused with the Monsanto’s RoundUp, the first of which happened in 2012. By 2014 Johnson had been diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma.
During the webinar Dr. Omar Arellano, from the National University’s Ecology and Natural Resources Department, shared data from Mexico, Argentina, and the United States, detailing how glyphosate impacts human health. “The science is much clearer now than it was twenty years ago,” Arellano stated.
Additionally, Dr. Felipe Lozano Kasten, a public health professor in the state of Jalisco, reported a long-term study of 677 children that found 98 percent with glyphosate in their urine. Lozano Kasten said the research showed an association with health problems, including impaired kidney function.
In April 2018, I reported on a study published in the journal Environmental Health which found an association between higher concentrations of glyphosate in the urine of pregnant women and early pregnancies. The study found that 93 percent of the women had glyphosate in their urine, with the women living in rural areas having higher levels than those in the suburbs.
“Glyphosate is often used on major crops on a day-to-day basis . . . but we hardly know anything about how humans are exposed,” lead author Shahid Parvez, a researcher at the Indiana University Fairbanks School of Public Health in Indianapolis, told Reuters at the time. “We don’t want to cause unnecessary panic, but we do want to understand how it affects pregnancy and human health.”
In September 2018, yet another study on glyphosate pointed to potential dangers of the chemical. The study from researchers at the University of Texas at Austin pointed to glyphosate as a culprit for harming special gut bacteria in honey bees. The study, “Glyphosate perturbs the gut microbiota of honey bees”, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that exposure to glyphosate was disrupting the gut bacteria and making bees more susceptible to illness.
While the U.S. government is threatening to take legal action against Mexico under the U.S.-Mexican-Canada Trade Agreement (USMCA), the language of the document actually recognizes Mexico’s right to regulate its own food supply. According to a report from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, the USMCA’s updated section on agricultural biotechnology, under Article 3.14.2, states, “This Section does not require a Party to mandate an authorization for a product of agricultural biotechnology to be on the market.”
Moreover, Mexico’s plan for banning GM corn only applies to GM corn used in tortillas and corn-dough. Rather than a full ban of GM corn or GM food in general, the restriction only applies to the use of GM corn in a specific category of food. Food Tank reports that only 4% of U.S. corn exports are white corn, most of which does not go into tortillas — a fact which flies in the face of the U.S. governments claims that Mexico’s GM corn policy will hurt farmers.
Mexican officials have previously stated they are prepared to strike direct agreements with farmers in the U.S., Argentina, and Brazil to ensure it can keep up with domestic demand for corn.
Mexico’s Fight Against “Mr. Monsanto”
One of the main proponents of the U.S. policy on GM food, is current Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, former Governor of Iowa and former president and CEO of the US Dairy Export Council. Secretary Vilsack was appointed by the Biden administration after previously serving as Secretary of Agriculture during the Obama administration.
Vilsack is notable for being given the nickname “Mr. Monsanto” in reference to his work helping the biotech giant Monsanto Inc, now owned by Bayer. In fact, in 2001 the Biotechnology Innovation Organization named Vilsack “BIO Governor of the Year” for “his support of the industry’s economic growth and agricultural biotechnology research” while serving as Iowa’s Governor.
In 2016, Politico reported,
“Progressives say they are also disappointed that during Vilsack’s seven-and-a-half-year tenure, the Agriculture Department sped up approval of controversial GMO crops, backed trade deals they say cost Americans’ jobs and cleared changes to let poultry slaughter facilities police themselves, among a slew of initiatives favoring big producers.”
The Organic Consumer Association also reported on the various GM food products approved during Vilsack’s tenure. According to the OCA, while Vilsack was USDA Secretary from 2009 to 2017 he approved more new genetically modified organisms (GMOs) than any Secretary before him or since. Here are just a couple examples:
- Monsanto’s Roundup Ready sugar beets: A judge ruled that inevitable contamination would cause the “potential elimination of farmer’s choice to grow non-genetically engineered crops, or a consumer’s choice to eat non-genetically engineered food.”
- Monsanto’s Roundup Ready alfalfa: The first genetically modified perennial crop. By the end of the Obama administration, it had gone wild, costing American alfalfa growers and exporters millions of dollars in lost revenue. Vilsack’s long-term relationships with the biotech industry should be a warning sign for the Mexican government, and a clear sign of where his allegiances remain.
History of Attacks on Food Sovereignty
The current attempts to force GM foods on the “developing world” are simply a continuation of attacks on indigenous food systems that have been taking place for over 100 years.
The current mainstream food paradigm — with its toxic, violent, and monopolized business model — was born out of the “Green Revolution” of the 1950’s and 60’s. At that time Mexican President Manuel Ávila Camacho invited the Rockefeller Foundation into the country to help study and modernize Mexico’s farming.
In 1943, Norman Borlaug, a plant geneticist, and his team of researchers traveled to Mexico and jump started the so-called Green Revolution. Borlaug was funded by the Rockefeller Foundation and the Ford Foundation, with both organizations having an interest in establishing international farming standards which benefited their bank accounts.
While the Green Revolution is often touted as a success due to increases in crop yields and an apparent drop in infant mortality, there is also a growing body of evidence indicating that the abundant use of pesticides has caused a rise in adverse health effects, including cancer.
It’s important to note that the same mega-corporations who are tied to Big Oil and Big Pharma are also the same driving forces behind the Green Revolution. The Rockefeller Standard Oil network and their partners within the fertilizer industry — specifically DuPont, Dow Chemical, and Hercules Powder — benefited handsomely from the apparent revolution in farming. However, when a struggling “third world” nation could not afford the new technologies needed to participate in the programs, the Rockefeller-controlled Chase Manhattan Bank partnered with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to offer loans, which in turn granted the banks ownership over resources and financial assets should the nations fail to settle the debt.
We are seeing similar attacks in 2023 with the U.S. government’s attempts to coerce Mexico into accepting GM corn or “farmers will suffer.” For the moment, the Mexican government is holding strong and pushing back against the Biotech industry and their partners in the U.S. government.
**By Derrick Broze