Open letter from international civil society organizations on transgenic contamination in the centers of origin and diversity

To the Mexican government and the international community:

On October 9, 2003, peasant farmers and indigenous communities, along with civil society organizations in Mexico, publicly released the initial results of their own testing that found GM contamination of native maize in at least nine Mexican states, even though the planting of transgenic maize is prohibited in Mexico. These results , which are part of ongoing studies, show far more serious and widespread contamination than previously assumed by earlier studies (e. g., the study by Berkeley scientists Chapela and Quist and one by the official Institute of Ecology in Mexico.

One alarming fact is that the communities found widespread contamination with Starlink maize (not approved for human consumption in the US and finally taken off the market) and contamination of single plants with up to three different transgenes, which may indicate that contamination has been occurring over several generations. All identified sequences are patented by one of the five multinationals that control the agricultural biotechnology industry.

Mexican indigenous peoples and peasant farmers, the creators and developers of maize, consider this contamination to be one of the greatest attacks on their cultures, economies and livelihoods. Maize is a fundamental part of the diet and culture of every Mexican. We are deeply concerned that despite the risks the contamination poses, two years have passed since its original discovery with no effective action by the Mexican government to stem the contamination. The government is now considering lifting the moratorium on the planting of transgenic maize, and the Mexican Congress is considering the approval of a biosafety bill that has been sharply criticized by Mexican indigenous and farmers' organizations as well as by civil society organizations. The bill could facilitate further contamination.