The outgoing president of Mexico, Felipe Calderon, announced a few weeks ago that he would delay approval of genetically modified corn. The decision will be left to President Enrique Peña Nieto, who took office on December 1.
Last year, Mexico allowed Monsanto to plant test fields of Roundup Ready corn. Monsanto isn’t the only international biotech firm trying to get a foothold on the market in Mexico, but it’s currently the one with a high-pressure campaign.
Critics of genetically modified corn point out that Mexico is the birthplace of corn. Many varieties of corn grown by small farmers in Mexico haven’t been studied or catalogued for their unique properties. GM corn grown on a commercial scale would share its genes with those native varieties, possibly wiping out useful traits.
Furthermore, Monsanto’s Roundup Ready corn doesn’t seem to be tolerant of drought, which can be a problem in much of the corn-growing regions of Mexico.
The new administration is reportedly in favor of approval, but there are details to be worked out. Jose Franco, president of the Mexican Academy of Sciences in Mexico City, says that research into genetically modified foods should be done in Mexico by Mexican scientists, rather than leaving it in the hands of international corporations. Mexico has done a great deal of research into plant genetics and many scientists hope that increased funding from Nieto’s new administration will strengthen that research.
From a farming standpoint, that makes a lot of sense. What works in Ohio won’t necessarily work in Oaxaca.
Since the time to sow corn is within the next few weeks, it’s unlikely that GM corn will be approved for commercial plantings this year.
Photo of dry corn via Shutterstock