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Greenpeace Denounces UN Support for GM Crops in Mexico

The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization is supporting the introduction of transgenic, or genetically modified, crops in Mexico and other developing nations, the Greenpeace chapter in that country denounced.

"The only thing these types of tools do is ensure that the biotechnology industry has a monopoly on the seeds that feed the world," Greenpeace Mexico and dozens of national and international non-governmental organizations said in a letter sent Wednesday to organizers of an FAO conference on agricultural biotechnologies in developing countries, which will be held from March 1-4 in Guadalajara, Mexico.

The missive expressed concern about the gathering and said it is regrettable that more than $900,000 will be spent on a conference "to whitewash the image" of a technology that "contaminates (native crop varieties), increases the use of pesticides and, through patents, eliminates traditional agriculture."

Greenpeace Mexico also said that various national and international organizations will hold a parallel forum with renowned experts in the field to demonstrate the negative effects GM crops would have in Mexico.

Last October, the Mexican government - backed by domestic farm producers eager for higher yields - issued the first permits for experimental cultivation of transgenic corn "on plots isolated" from other fields, saying the measure was necessary to ensure food security.

Corn has been the staple of the Mexican diet for centuries, especially among low-income segments of the population.

The letter to the conference organizers was signed by more than than 80 Mexican and international organizations, which said they were "dismayed" over the FAO's support for genetically modified strains of corn, describing the diversity of that crop in Mexico as "a resource of unprecedented importance for humanity."

One of the organizations co-signing the letter was Semilla de Vida (Seed of Life), whose spokeswoman, Adelita San Vicente, told Efe that the richness of Mexican agriculture "is not compatible with the transgenic plants."

"Irreversible transgenic contamination," San Vicente said, "would mean the end and the death" of agricultural diversity in Mexico, considered one of the birthplaces of corn.

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