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Monsanto Plans to Plant GMO Corn in Mexico

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Genetic Engineering page and our Millions Against Monsanto page.

On September 3, Eduardo Camacho published an interview in El Universal with Mr. Jose Manuel Madero, director of Monsanto in Mexico, recently held in Boone, Iowa, United States.

The director of Monsanto-Mexico describes the corporation's plans "to save Mexico" from its corn and cotton deficit and transform it into a net exporter using GMO technology. For space limitations, I will refer only to the case of corn. He argues that Monsanto's plan is based on the results of experimental and pilot phases, as developed in the states of Sinaloa, Sonora, Coahuila, and Tamaulipas. The plan's pillars are: 1) planting one million hectares of GM corn in the short term in the north, where "they are not currently planting due to pest problems and lack of water;" the new area is in addition to 2 million acres planted in corn hybrids, 2) planting GMO corn resistant to soil pests and with herbicide tolerant genes, subsequently adding corn resistant drought, 3) long-term infrastructure for irrigation water management and infrastructure related to transportation in preparation for grain exports; 4) protecting corn centers of origins, although not nationwide, only in those "places" which were centers of origin and diversity.

The Mexican government has allowed the technical information from the experimental and pilot phases referred to by the director of Monsanto Mexico be managed as corporate secrets. The pilot and experimental results have not been exposed to independent scientific comparison, while access to the experimental plots and pilot was largely restricted. The independent scientific community had no opportunity to comment on the results' adequacy that would justify the express approval from the experimental phase to the pilot project and now to the commercial phase. The question for the Mexican government is if it was necessary to conceal information for the country's interests or for whom?

The offer of GM maize referred to by the director of Monsanto-Mexico is limited to higher quality land. It is true that in the north there are a million hectares unplanted due to lack of water (not due to pests). In reality there is much more (Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, Sonora, Sinaloa), but they are limited to fields only planted with the rains where only native varieties dominate. Monsanto has no technology for those lands. Under these terms, the first pillar of Monsanto's plans is false. As for the 2 million technologically advanced hectares, Sinaloa is an example for irrigation (480,000 hectares out of 1.5 million), which already produce an average of 12 tons of corn per hectare with non-GMO corn hybrids. It is highly unlikely that these yields would be surpassed with the use of genetically modified corn. The U.S. experience shows that promise is false. Consult the www.biotech-info.net/Bt_corn_FF_final.pdf. The second pillar of the plan is to change to GMO corn resistant to soil pests (with the promise of reducing the use of insecticides) and adapted to the use of herbicides (glyphosate- a Monsanto patented herbicide which replaces other herbicides). There is increasing evidence that the near future (10-15 years) presents conflicting information. Pest populations resistant to Bt toxins have appeared in South Africa and in the state of Iowa; and glyphosate-resistant weed populations of Johnson grass have emerged in Argentina and the United States. See the link: www.ucsusa.org/food_and_agriculture/science_and_impacts/impacts_genetic_engineering/eight-ways-monsanto-fails.html

Monsanto's promise of a gene resistant to drought has so far failed, as you can see if you visit: www.ucsusa.org/assets/documents/food_and_agriculture/high-and-dry-report.pdf for information about the United States.

The characteristic of drought resistance is a quantitative inheritance involving hundreds of genes. It is unlikely that Monsanto's transgene could replace all of those. The question is how did the hybrid corn Drought Guard behave in the current U.S. major drought? What area was planted with this supposed wonder? Monsanto has no place at the table about irrigation development planning which is a matter for the state. Finally, it would good for the director of Monsanto Mexico to learn from Conabio's conclusion that all of Mexico is corn's center of origin and diversity (www.biodiversidad.gob.mx/gene/proyectoMaices.html)

The problem faced by the Mexican government is to weigh Monsanto's promises against the nation's interests. The government knows that Monsanto seeks to replicate a capital here in Mexico, not so much to save it from food shortages, and that while the risks assumed by the nation are substantial, and that there is no turning back, no guarantee or guarantor against the possibility or probability of Monsanto not complying to its promises.

* National Researcher Emeritus, President of the Union of Scientists Committed to Society, aturrent37@yahoo.com.mx


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