Legal Setback for Monsanto
La Jornada: Editorial
Yesterday, a judge in the Yucatán District Court overturned a permit issued to the multinational company Monsanto that allowed the commercial planting of GM soybean in that state. According to the judicial body, such activity puts at risk the production of Mexican honey in states like Campeche, Quintana Roo and Yucatán.
To put the event in context, it should be noted that the permit revoked by yesterday’s court order was issued by the Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food [SEGARPA] on June 6, 2012, counter to the express views of environmental institutions within the Mexican State itself (National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity; National Commission of Natural Protected Areas; National Institute of Ecology), and despite repudiation by hundreds of researchers articulated in the Union of Concerned Scientists Committed to Society.
According to opposing arguments, the necessary and sufficient conditions for ensuring coexistence of honey production and cultivation of Monsanto GM soybean do not exist in the country. To the scientific reasons are added economic ones: the aforementioned permit puts at severe risk the sale of honey produced in the identified states to the European market (where 85 percent of Mexican honey is exported), given that a decision issued in 2011 by the Court of Justice of the European Union prohibits the sale of honey containing pollen from GM crops.
Taken together, these elements might seem to lend particular significance to the judicial determination: This is a setback for the largest transnational producer of modified foods, whose presence has grown in our country in recent years; moreover, it constitutes an extremely valuable victory for the peasant and indigenous, environmental, scientific and civic organizations opposed to these crops for constituting a risk factor for the health and nutrition of both populations and for biodiversity.
To the contrary, the fact remains that they [activist organizations] had to resort to a court of law to reverse a permit that obviously revealed an improper and irregular attitude by the country’s agricultural and food authorities. Indeed, counter to what is happening in Europe, where the majority of national governments take a cautious approach when faced with scientific evidence of the risks to health and biodiversity posed by genetically modified organisms, their Mexican counterparts have chosen to open the national agriculture to these crops. To top it off, they have done so while by-passing the guarantees of native communities–such as the right to be consulted regarding operations of individuals that affect their territories–and abandoning them to their fate in legal battles against the powerful multinationals.
Despite its importance, the judicial setback dealt to Monsanto on this occasion is clearly insufficient to reverse the damage caused by opening [the country to] the free production of genetically modified crops. In any event, it would be preferable that yesterday’s ruling might lead to a review by agricultural and food authorities of their current conduct; that is, in favor of the large transnationals of modified foods and against the country’s traditional farmers and food sovereignty.
If it is true that the eradication of hunger is a priority of the current federal government, then the starting point must be recognition of the relationship between this scourge [genetically modified crops] and the model of food policy that has been imposed on the entire population: a model based on the conversion of the right to food into the private business of a few companies.
Translated by Jane Brundage