Mexico to Lift Moratorium on
Genetically Engineered Crops

El Financiero (The Economist) Mexico
August 13, 2002

In a Month and a Half Mexico Will Renew Importation of Genetically
Engineered Seeds
By Alma Lopez (translated by Ronnie Cummins)

New regulations will allow the introduction of GMOs (genetically modified
organisms). Dupont, Monsanto, and Savia (a Mexican biotech co.) will
develop their projects.

Investments of up to 10 million dollars for each modified organism.

By legislative decree the Mexico Moratorium against the testing, selling,
and commercialization of genetically engineered organisms that the
government has maintained since 1998 will end in a month and a half.

In the face of this decision, the principle biotech companies such as
Monsanto, Dupont, Cargill, Aventis, Syngenta y Savia, and also research
centers such Cinvestav Irapuato, UNAM (National Autonomous University of
Mexico), College of Postgraduates, Cimit, and the Yucatán Center of
Scientific Investigations, already are preparing for participation in the

The world market for transgenic crops is currently three billion dollars a
year, according to estimates of the World Chamber of Commerce as well as the
Rural Advancement Foundation International (RAFI, now known as ETC), with
projections for 2010 of $25 billion.

According to José Luis Solleiro Rebolledo, director of Agrobio México (a
trade association for agbiotech), the end of Mexico's de facto moratorium,
that limited research, will make it possible to complete dozens of projects
that until now were still in the laboratory stage.

"Lab work represents !5% of a product; the much larger investments come in
the field-testing stage, because, although these field tests are conducted
on limited acreage, they require controls and precautions that meet Mexican
regulations," according to Solleiro.

He added that each GMO will require an investment of between five and ten
million dollars. After field testing will come authorization for each crop,
including a pilot program and the possibility of commercialization--all of
these stages will probably take five to six years.

Solleiro Rebolledo affirmed that the Mexican moratorium on field-testing
GMOs arose out of an "incorrect" interpretation or assessment of
biotechnology, because one needs major investigation and research before
approving for commercialization genetically engineered varieties of corn.

Without offering specific examples, a specialist from the Mexico Institute
of Industrial Property (the Mexico Patent Office), Jesús Vega, admitted that
patent applications for GMOs are pending.

The Future

Swirling in controversy the theme of genetically engineered foods and crops
will be included in the next round of discussions at the Ministerial meeting
of the World Trade Organization (WTO) to be held in Mexico next year (March

The future of rural agriculture in underdeveloped countries lies in
irrigation, fertilizers, and seeds, according to Luis de la Calle
president of Public Strategies of México (a PR firm working for the biotech
industry). At the same time as the financial and technological strength of
the transnational corporations permits them to manipulate and commercialize
GMOs, it is necessary to protect the traditional knowledge of communities of
seed varieties.

Thus arises the necessity of having legislative laws capable of providing
security to communities regarding their traditional knowledge of genetic
transformation. Since 1998 there have been no authorizations whatsoever for
experimental field testing, even though this could have provided answers to
many questions that still persist, according to de la Calle.

Mexico already has a law (Norm 056 regarding experimentation with GMOs) in
place to regulate GMOs, which needs no further modification.

Before the Mexico government decision on a moratorium in 1998, field tests
were already going on, including work at the Cinevestav research center in
Irapuato, where aluminum-resistant GM corn was being grown, a variety well
adapted to the acidic soil of the tropics.

In contrast to those countries intensively promoting agricultural
biotechnology (the US, Canada, Argentina, and China--who produce 99% of all
GMOs) there are another group of nations--representing 1% of GMO
production--that have barely begun to analyze and experiment and consider
the commercialization of GMOs, among them, Mexico.

Monsanto, the most influential agricultural biotechnology corporation in the
Mexican market, has carried out for 10 years its principle lab research in
St. Louis, Missouri, with over $300 million in research investments.

Until now, stated Juan Manuel de la Fuente Martínez, regulatory specialist
for Monsanto, México's vague norms have limited research work on transgenic
crops, which is why research in Mexico has been limited in comparison to
other countries in Latin America.

In Argentina, for example, GMOs are being promoted through production,
growing, and consumption of these products. In the world 60 different
varieties of genetically engineered crops are being grown and
commercialized, including soy, corn, canola, tomatoes, and potatoes.

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