The first chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN) unanimously denied last October the review protection promoted in 2016 by the companies Bayer-Monsanto, Syngenta, PHI México and others, to lift the Precautionary Measure that definitively prohibits commercial planting of genetically modified corn in Mexico.
The draft resolution establishes that at no time did the 2016 judgment contradict the principles of legal certainty and discretion, arguments that the companies invoked to lift the Precautionary Measure.
The members of the Claimant Collectivity in Defense of Corn highlighted in a statement that the resolution enables judges to dictate the pertinent measures to protect the rights and interests of a Collectivity and stressed that the Court rejected 130 arguments classified as “hollow and fallacious”. "This decision is transcendental for the preservation of native corn and milpa, but also for the beekeeping sector and for the bees themselves, as part of the biodiversity, which have been severely affected by the entry of transgenics such as soybeans and corn, as well as the use of agro-toxins such as glyphosate”.
This ruling by the country's highest court means that commercial cultivation of transgenic corn will continue to be prohibited in Mexico, while experimental cultivation is allowed under certain conditions, such as prior notification to a judge.
A long unfinished fight
In 1988, the Mexican government authorized, for the first time, the realization of the first tests of genetically modified or transgenic tomato fields. This fact began to open the door for this type of test to be applied to other crops such as corn, soybeans and cotton.
The effects on the contamination of the plantations were evident, particularly in those of corn, where the accelerated introduction of transgenics since the signing in 1994 of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) affected native corn varieties, as well as the soils and other crops associated with the cornfield such as squash.
As a result, in 1998, the National Agricultural Biosafety Commission (CNBA) established a moratorium on the planting of genetically modified corn throughout the country, because as for other regions of Mesoamerica, Mexico is considered a country of the crop origin.
Despite this, the commercial relations derived from NAFTA were introducing transgenic corn seeds to the national field, leading to the fact that by 2004, according to the Revista Biodiversidad, Sustento y Cultura (Biodiversity, Sustenance and Culture Magazine), the country would import a third of the corn it consumes from the United States.
Likewise, the disappearance of CONASUPO, a distribution and purchasing system that encouraged national production and regulated prices within the country, meant that, by the beginning of the 21st century, the presence of transgenics endangered hundreds of thousands of peasant and indigenous families that for centuries have lived off the cultivation of corn. The beneficiaries of this new commercial modality were the transnational companies that, since 2008, control more than 80% of the commercial seed market through patents.
These companies include the global biotech giants Bayer-Monsanto, Syngenta, DuPont; all with businesses in Mexican fields and are currently members of the board of directors of the Mexican Association of Seedbeds.
A study carried out in 2001 by Ignacio Chapela and David Quist, published in the Nature magazine, revealed the high levels of contamination in the native corn regions of Oaxaca and Puebla because of the introduction of transgenic crops. This caused in 2002, hundreds of peasant and indigenous communities, and environmental organizations with civil society, to form the Red en Defensa del Maíz (Network in Defense of Maize), who devoted themselves to the promotion of legal, political and social actions for the defense of native maize.
The forums and meetings that this Network has held since 2002 have emphasized the importance of corn as a guiding pivot for the common life of thousands of peasant and indigenous peoples, and communities in Mexico. This crop not only ensures food, but also implies, as a whole, cultural, organic and political relationship of the territories.
The Mexican State, however, did not listen either to the demands or its international echoes, nor the Network in Defense of Maize protests and in 2004, under the mandate of Vicente Fox, the Biosafety and Genetically Modified Organisms Law, better known as "Monsanto Law" was approved.
By 2009, during Felipe Calderón’s period, the moratorium established since 1998 stopping the planting of transgenic corn in Mexican territory was eliminated and the experimental planting of transgenic corn operated by the companies Bayer-Monsanto, Syngenta, PH México (a merger between DuPont and Pioneer) and Dow was approved.
Starting from this, after a series of international actions and injunctions against other GMO crops such as transgenic soybeans, in 2013, the Fundación Semillas de Vida, together with the Claimant Collectivity in defense of Native Corn, won a lawsuit that prohibited the commercial planting of transgenic corn in Mexico and the experimental cultivation was regulated. SCJN has ratified this sentence.
However, the modification of the legal system to guarantee the protection of native corn from transgenic crops is still pending, and in that case, the access to a reparation for the damage caused by the companies that since the eighties have attempted against life in the Mexican countryside.
See The Court ratifies it: commercial planting of transgenic corn is prohibited in Mexico and
Mexico. The Supreme Court upholds the ban on growing transgenic corn