The global resistance against genetically modified (GM) crops is growing at an exponential rate, with as many as 35 nations now completely banning GM food and the pesticides that go with them, or have severely restricting their use. Now Mexico joins the anti-GM movement, after a group of beekeepers succeeded in stopping the agricultural biotech giant from planting soybeans that are genetically modified to resist their Round-up herbicide.
Monsanto had received a permit to plant its seeds on more than 620,000 acres of land, despite vocal protests by Greenpeace, The National Institute of Ecology, other major environmental groups, and thousands of citizens, beekeepers, and Mayan traditional farmers.
The company confirmed last Thursday that Mexico’s agriculture sanitation authority had revoked its permit to plant genetically modified soy in seven states, criticizing the decision as unjustified. The revocation applies to the states of Tamaulipas, San Luis Potosi, Veracruz, Chiapas, Campeche, Yucatan and Quintana Roo and follows a 2016 legal suspension of the permit.
According to a report in The Guardian, “A district judge in the state of Yucatán last month overturned a permit issued to Monsanto by Mexico’s agriculture ministry, Sagarpa, and environmental protection agency, Semarnat, in June 2012 that allowed commercial planting of Round-up ready Soybeans. In withdrawing the permit, the judge was convinced by the scientific evidence presented about the threats posed by GM soy crops to honey production in the Yucatán peninsula, which includes Campeche, Quintana Roo and Yucatán states. Co-existence between honey production and GM soybeans is not possible, the judge ruled.”
Mexico is the fourth largest honey producer and fifth largest honey exporter in the world, but bee colonies are rapidly declining, threatening food security all over the world. The Guardian story stated, “GM crops could devastate the important European export market for Mexican beekeepers, where the sale of honey containing pollen derived from GM crops has been restricted since a landmark decision in 2001 by the European Court of Justice.”
David Roubik, senior staff scientist at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, and his colleagues developed a method to identify pollen grains in honey in Panama and in Mexico during the 1980s and 1990s as part of their study on the effects of Africanized bees on native bees. They found that six honey samples from nine hives in the Campeche region of Mexico contained soy pollen in addition to pollen from many wild plant species. The pollen came from crops near the bee colonies in several small apiaries. Due to strict European regulations, rural farmers in the Mexican Yucatan face significant price cuts or outright rejection of their honey when their product contains pollen from GMO crops that are not for human consumption. Regional agricultural authorities seemed unaware that bees visited flowering soybeans to collect nectar and pollen.
A study published in the US National Library of Medicine and in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology shows how Monsanto’s best-selling weedkiller glyphosate holds potential to be an endocrine disruptor. Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that can interfere with the hormone system in mammals, causing developmental disorders, birth defects and cancer. They are also linked to Alzheimers, Parkinsons Disease, and autism.
European regulators have known that Monsanto’s glyphosate causes a number of birth malformations since at least 2002. Regulators misled the public about glyphosate’s safety, and in Germany the Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety told the European Commission that there was no evidence to suggest that glyphosate causes birth defects.
Monsanto disagrees, and said in a statement that the permit had been withdrawn on unwarranted legal and technical grounds. The company said it would take the necessary steps to safeguard its rights and those of farmers using the technology, but did not elaborate.
SENASICA officials could not immediately be reached for comment. Mexican newspaper Reforma cited a document saying the permit had been withdrawn due to the detection of transgenic Monsanto soya in areas where it was not authorized. Monsanto rejected that argument, saying in its statement that authorities had not done an analysis of how the soy on which their decision was based was sown.
The world is one step closer towards a completely GMO/Pesticide free environment.