New Report on Genetic
Pollution of Mexican Corn

June 26, 2002

Contact: Nick Parker
(510) 654-4400, ext. 229

Food Policy Think Tank Releases a Report on the Genetic
Contamination of Mexican Maize

Genetic Pollution in Mexico's Center of Maize Diversity

(Oakland, CA)óAccording to a new report, Genetic Pollution in
Mexico's Center of Maize Diversity, released by Food First/Institute
for Food and Development Policy, the Mexican government has
verified the contamination of Mexico's traditional maize varieties
in the states of Oaxaca and Puebla, with transgenic material
coming from outlawed genetically modified (GM) varieties.

"Maize is one of the world's four major food crops," said Dr. Peter
Rosset, co-director of Food First/Institute for Food and
Development Policy, and an expert on this issue. "Farmers and
crop breeders worldwide depend on the genetic diversity stored
for all of humanity in the local maize races developed over 9,000
years by indigenous people and peasant farmers in
Mesoamerica," he said. "The threat that this contamination poses
to those local varieties is a threat to the future food security of
all humankind."

According to the Action Group on Erosion, Technology, and
Concentration (ETC group,, which
produced the report for Food First, the verification on genetic
pollution confirms the peer-reviewed findings of University of
California researchers David Quist and Ignacio Chapela, which
were first published in the scientific journal Nature last year. The
researchers faced a barrage of criticism from biotechnology
proponents, who pressured Nature to disavow the article contrary
to the recommendations of the journals' own scientific advisors.

"This is by far the world's worst case of contamination by
genetically modified material because it happened in the place of
origin of a major crop," said Dr. Jorge SoberÛn, Secretary of
Mexico's National Biodiversity Commission, who is quoted in the
report. "It is confirmed, there is no doubt about it." This comes
despite Mexico having outlawed genetically modified (GM) maize
in 1998 to protect the Mexican center of origin and center of
present-day diversity of this crucial food crop.

According the authors of the report, "the location of the
contamination is one of the world's most valuable reservoirs of
genetic material for plant breeding and a foundation for global
food security." The genetic pollution is believed to have come from
the six million tons of unlabeled United States maize imported
into Mexico every year.

The report demonstrates the inability of regulatory bodies or
industry to manage and contain genetically modified organisms.
This reflects a broader conflict over control of genetic resources
and security of the food supply in a time when biotechnology is
increasingly dominated by corporate interests.

The authors state that this genetic pollution poses "significant
potential risks" that have not been fully and independently studied,
such as genetic effects on local maize varieties as a result of
cross-pollination by genetically modified plants, the largely
unexplored health risks of eating GM foods, and potential
ecological and crop management problems which may arise as
modified traits pass from the GM crops to wild relatives.

The contamination could also potentially expose Mexican farmers
to the risk of lawsuits for infringement of monopoly patents, and
could threaten future opportunities to export untainted maize to
GM-free markets in Europe and elsewhere.

In response to these threats, more than 144 farmer and civil
society organizations from 40 countries recently signed a joint
statement demanding that action be taken on a local, national,
and international level to prevent GM contamination of centers of
diversity; to help farmers restore their fields, and to ensure the
costs for restoration and compensation are paid by the
manufacturers of the offending GM products.

To read the full report please visit:

For more information, please call Nick Parker, media coordinator,
at (510) 654-4400, ext. 229.

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