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Organic Consumers Association

Mexico Starts Planting GM Corn, Activists Appeal

Capping a decade-long battle, private companies in Mexico have begun the first legal plantings of genetically modified corn, the Agriculture Department said Wednesday.

Environmentalists and farm groups announced they have filed an appeal with the Inter-American Human Rights Commission, arguing the government has been unwilling or unable to halt the illicit spread of GM crops in Mexico, the birthplace of corn.

They say the government shouldn't authorize legal plantings until it investigates contamination from past, illicit biotech planting.

In a written response to The Associated Press, the Agriculture Department said planting has begun on some of the two dozen experimental plots granted approval late last year. They are mostly in Sinaloa and Sonora, northern states that government studies say are likely outside corn's "birthplace" region in central Mexico.

Opponents say modified genes could spread and contaminate genetically valuable native varieties, from which modern corn was first hybridized between 6,000 and 8,000 years ago. The native genes could be needed someday to help strengthen hybrids.

GM supporters say the genetic contamination theory has been overblown and that such crops can safely be planted in areas where corn is not native. Current law allows only carefully controlled planting in areas far from the central highlands, until the risk can be assessed.

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