Mexico: Environmentalists urge halt to decree that would allow herbicide, GM corn
−− They say it would violate president's campaign promises
Nov. 3, 2020
More than 200 activists and environmental and sustainable agriculture organizations have written to President López Obrador to urge him to cancel a plan that they say will open the door to the cultivation of genetically modified corn and allow the ongoing use of glyphosate, a controversial herbicide.
In an open letter, the activists and organizations including Greenpeace, Sin Maíz No Hay País (Without Corn There Is No Country) and Alianza por la Salud Alimentaria (Alliance for Food Health) say that an Agriculture Ministry (Sader) proposal that is intended to serve as the basis for a presidential decree violates campaign promises made by López Obrador.
The president pledged to ban genetically modified corn and phase out the use of glyphosate – the active ingredient in the Monsanto herbicide Roundup, whose effect on human health is hotly contested.
According to the letter, Agriculture Minister Víctor Villalobos and presidential legal adviser Julio Scherer sent the Sader proposal to the Commission for Regulatory Improvement (Conamer) last Friday.
The critics say that the proposal instructs the relevant authorities to continue analyzing the possibility of granting permits for the cultivation of genetically modified corn.
They urge López Obrador to withdraw the Scherer-Villalobos proposal from Conamer and to have a new one drawn up in accordance with his promises.
The activists and organizations reminded the president that he said he would take a close interest in the Agriculture Ministry’s views on genetically modified organisms to ensure they align with his own. They urged López Obrador to seek an explanation from Villalobos and Scherer, who they charge are betraying him.
“They’re seeking to … betray your trust, preventing you from keeping your word in the sense that [you said] there won’t be genetically modified corn during your government and that the use of glyphosate will be progressively outlawed until its total elimination in 2024,” they said.
The letter says this is the third attempt by Sader to have a presidential decree published that opens the door to the cultivation of genetically modified corn. The ministry also sought approval of proposals in June and August but was unsuccessful due to opposition from the Environment Ministry, among other reasons.
Former environment minister Víctor Toledo resigned at the end of August a few weeks after audio was leaked in which he is heard railing against Sader’s opposition to banning glyphosate and declaring that the federal government is full of “brutal contradictions.”
López Obrador said in early September that Toledo stepped down for health reasons but officials close to the president told the newspaper El Universal that his resignation was linked to his criticisms of the government in the leaked recording.
The Environment Ministry under Toledo had been pushing for a presidential decree prohibiting glyphosate and began banning its importation last year.
In his final act as minister, Toledo announced that López Obrador would publish a decree to establish the gradual prohibition of glyphosate and 80 other chemical agents as well as the banning of genetically modified corn.
“I believe this will mark a watershed in the environmental history of the country,” he said.
However, it remains to be seen which way the president will lean.
His commitment to disallow the use of genetically-modified organisms has been questioned since the beginning of his presidency, especially because of his appointment of Villalobos as agriculture minister and Alfonso Romo as his chief of staff.
Both men have been involved in organizations that support the genetically modified food industry.
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