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GM Maize Splits Mexico

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

The Mexican scientific community has been torn apart by a legal battle over transgenic maize (corn). Almost a year after activists challenged scientists' right to plant experimental genetically modified (GM) varieties of the crop that is a staple and symbol of Mexico, maize research is still being stymied by a legal stalemate.

On 5 July 2013, a coalition of activist groups filed a class-action lawsuit to stop the Mexican government granting permits to plant GM maize. That September, a judge ordered a halt to experimental and commercial planting until a final verdict is reached - a resolution that could take months or years.

The lawsuit and ruling have thwarted the plans of multinational companies such as Monsanto, DuPont Pioneer and Dow AgroSciences, which have lobbied for more than a decade to sell their GM maize varieties to Mexican farmers. But they have also stalled public-sector biotechnology researchers who say they are close to producing GM maize strains tolerant to drought and frost, and other varieties with a reduced need for herbicides and fertilizers. These researchers complain that the lawsuit threatens to derail work that could boost maize yields, reduce imports and help to protect against threats such as climate change.

"We are very frustrated, and there is a general sense of despair," says Beatriz Xoconostle, a plant biotechnologist at the Center for Research and Advanced Studies (Cinvestav) in Mexico City who leads a project to develop drought-tolerant GM maize. "We have been unable to accomplish our objectives."    
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