The Fight Over Mexico's GM Maize Contamination

Contaminated Corn and Tainted Tortillas: Genetic Pollution in Mexico's Centre of Maize Diversity

This week, Mexico's indigenous farmers and civil society organizations will meet in Mexico City (Jan. 23-24) to decide what to do about GM contamination in one of the world's mega-centres of agricultural biodiversity. Meanwhile, the scientific community is imploding with angst and accusations as the "Peers" of the Plant Realm squabble over the implications for global food security.

The ETC group (formerly RAFI) is releasing a new Communiqué today in an attempt to summarize the fractious scientific and political debate surrounding GM maize contamination in Mexico. The full text is available at www.etcgroup.org. The Communiqué is also a contribution to the Mexico City seminar of which ETC group is among the sponsoring organizations. For further background on the seminar, contact Silvia Ribeiro in Mexico City: silvia@etcgroup.org

After months of behind the scenes debate, both the Mexican Ministry of Environment and a peer-reviewed article in Nature confirmed last year that farmers' maize varieties in the states of Oaxaca and Puebla in Mexico, have been polluted with DNA from genetically modified (GM) maize. Mexico is the primary centre of maize genetic diversity. For years, scientists have warned that genes from GM plants could invade conventional varieties and their weedy relatives leading to superweeds and/or loss of biodiversity. The danger increases, scientists opined, if this takes place within the center of genetic diversity of a crop. However, now that GM contamination is a reality, some biotech scientists have undergone their own modification to become "spin doctors" for a frightened biotech industry. In the wake of the Nature revelation, GM apologists are implying that "if" contamination has taken place - and some challenge the peer-reviewed article on this point - then the menace is really a bonanza for local farmers. GM pollution means free technology transfer and increased biodiversity.

 

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