NGO wins battle against Monsanto in Mexico: planting of transgenic maize partially suspended

By: Sergio Rincón

The NGO Corn Community won a battle against Monsanto and other agribusinesses, when the Second Civil and Administrative Unitary Court ruled that the release or planting of transgenic corn should be suspended until the final judgment is resolved. In addition to that, the resolution requires companies that use products that need glyphosate herbicide to be controlled by justice and by the plaintiffs scientists.

The Second Civil and Administrative Unitary Court issued the appeal, which orders the Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (SAGARPA) to refrain from issuing permits to release or plant genetically modified corn until after the resolution of the collective judgment promoted by scientists, experts, farmers and organizations that are members of the Colectividad del Maiz [Corn Community] NGO.

The first ruling denied the definitive and provisional suspension. However, afterwards, the prosecutors managed to prove “the illegal presence of GMOs in crops of native corn” the Colectividad del Maiz said, adding that the plaintiffs [scientists, specialists and farmers] found that Mexican law and international had been violated”.

René Sánchez Galindo, one of the attorneys in the case, said that the movement to stop agribusiness has been working for seven years and it is the first time they see a resolution of this type. Thereby,  Colectividad del Maiz wins a battle against Monsanto, Syngenta, Pioneer-Dupont and Dow, companies that, along with SAGARPA and the Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (Semarnat), have been denounced since 2013.

“It has been a long process but we have gone through it, step by step. It has not been easy but we have built the path. Right now we are waiting for the actions of the counterparty, see they fight it. On the other hand, in the trial, we will attend the evidence phase of the main file; ie the main phase of the trial. Because we are now in an stage of suspension, this is not the final resolution, so what’s important is to win the final judgment” said Sanchez Galindo.

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Colectividad del Maíz reported that in 2009 there was an experimental release of transgenic organisms, and after these events, the scientific community had asked for a public scrutiny of those actions, but nothing was accomplished. However, with the decision of the Second Civil and Administrative Unitary Court, if a company wants to release GMOs, it will be subjected to monthly assessments by the judiciary, and with the assessment of the scientists that presented the demand, thus the authority may revoke permissions. Moreover, all GMOs that require glyphosate herbicides will be subject to court and the plaintiffs scientific control.

Rene Sanchez reported that the GM industry could promote protective measures in courts of highest instance, but given the experience with the provisional suspension, it is possible that those measures make no progress.

“In the past, when the suspension was temporary, we won all the protection requests. It is very important that in the the Court of Appeal resolution sees that the illegal presence of GMOs in crops has already been highly proven at this stage; so, if they have not been able to fight the resolution, how will they fight the next battle? That is our main argument. That point has been demonstrated and gives us protection, that is, the suspension will continue and no protection can revoke it”, he said.

Scientists and specialists who signed and lead the class action are: Antonio Turrent Fernández, in agronomy; Victor Manuel Toledo, in the socio-environmental area; in the fields of anthropology, history and culture, Julio Glockner and Narciso Barrera Bassols; in ethics and gastronomic heritage, Raul Hernandez Garciadiego; in the area of human rights, Miguel Concha Malo, director of the Fray Vitoria Center; and in the field of food heritage, Luciano Concheiro and Patricia Moguel.