Bayer Loses Plot As Mexican Government Enforces Ban on GMO Imports

Mexico, the birthplace of modern corn, is no longer a welcome place for GMO corn. That is thanks to a presidential decree issued on December 31 that phases out the use of the “probably” carcinogenic herbicide glyphosate and bans the cultivation and importation of genetically modified (GM) corn. As NC reported in May, the German GMO giant Bayer at first was able to win a temporary reprieve from the government’s planned three-year phase out of the herbicide. But that decision was then overturned by Mexico’s Collegiate Court.

Reality Dawns

Now, reality is dawning for Bayer and other GMO manufacturers as Mexican health regulators begin putting the new rules into practice. Last week, for the first time ever, those regulators rejected a GMO corn permit for future importation solicited by the German pharmaceutical and crop science giant. As Reuters reports, Bayer was furious, branding the decision as “unscientific”, a popular term of insult these days:

“We are disappointed with the unscientific reasons that Cofepris used to deny the authorization,” the statement said, identifying the rejected corn variety as using its proprietary HT3 x SmartStax Pro technology…

Bayer […] criticized what it described as continuous regulatory delays with Cofepris as well as the possibility of additional permit denials that could have a “devastating impact” on Mexican supply chains.

The company said genetically modified crops including corn have undergone more safety tests than “any other crop in the history of agriculture” and have been judged safe for humans, animals and the environment.

This is a curious statement coming from a company that faces thousands of lawsuits in multiple jurisdictions over allegations that Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer — now Bayer’s Roundup week killer — causes non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Bayer, now worth $46 billion — $20 billion less than what it paid for Monsanto in 2018 in a deal that ranks as one of the worst, if not the worst, corporate acquisition in history — continues to reject claims that Roundup causes cancer even as new lawsuits pile up against it. As Yves noted in May, the company “has not only not taken the product off the market or attempted to reformulate it, it hasn’t even toughened up the warnings on its labels, apparently believing that doing so would be an admission of guilt.”

And now it’s hurling abuse at the Mexican government over its decision, guided primarily by the precautionary principle, to halt GMO imports. Industry lobby groups in Mexico have also blasted the ban, warning that if it is interpreted to include animal feed or other industrial uses, it could fuel food inflation in the country.

This is no idle warning. Food prices in the country are already surging, after seven straight months of rising year-on-year food inflation. For the policy to pay off, the government’s support of Mexican producers, in particular small-scale farmers, will need to translate into swift, significant, sustainable production increases. Greenpeace insists it is possible and has published a report to help governmental agencies “gradually replace the use, acquisition, distribution, promotion and import of [glyphosate].”

A Brave Judge

Business associations have repeatedly tried to persuade Mexican judges to overturn the government’s ban. But so far the judges are standing firm — something they’ve been doing since 2013, when a brave judge by the name of Manuel Zaleta ruled in favor of a motion brought by a grassroots coalition seeking to safeguard Mexico’s diversity and common ownership of corn. Since then the cultivation of GM corn in Mexico, even in field trials, has been banned. In his ruling Zaleta cited the potential risks GMOs posed to more than 7000 years of indigenous maize cultivation in Mexico.

Over the years Mexico’s GMO lobbies have filed over a hundred appeals against the judicial rulings, but they have all led nowhere…

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