Mexico’s Agriculture Secretariat (SAGARPA) has refused permission for transnational seed firm Monsanto to undertake larger-scale field trials of its GM corn in Sinaloa, and is opposing similar projects involving transgenic corn in Sonora and Tamaulipas. Monsanto is appealing SAGARPA’s initial decision. The other firms hoping to hold second-stage trials besides Monsanto are Dow Agrosciences (a unit of Dow Chemical Co.) and Pioneer Hi-Bred International (currently owned by DuPont).
As we noted in “The debate over GM corn in Mexico“, Mexico does not yet permit the commercialization of any genetically-modified corn, but Monsanto is betting on a relaxation of current rules as Mexico currently has to import large volumes of corn each year in order to satisfy domestic demand. Mexico’s corn imports are expected to rise from 10 to 15 million metric tons by 2020. Corn prices are also likely to rise since an increasing portion of the annual US corn crop is destined for biofuel production rather than human consumption.
Monsanto argues that Mexico cannot guarantee its future food security unless it embraces the new agro-technology, and is threatening to withdraw 200 million dollars in planned investments over the next five years. A dozen agricultural organizations in the northern Mexico states of Sinaloa, Sonora, Chihuahua and Tamaulipas, have come out in support of Monsanto’s efforts to introduce transgenic corn, arguing that it is the best way for them to increase productivity and therefore becomes more competitive. The growers’ organizations claim that introducing GM crops has given their commercial competitors a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
The Agriculture Secretariat’s position reflects the concerns of farmers in other regions and ecologists who fear that the introduction of GM corn will displace or eradicate some of Mexico’s existing (non-GM) varieties. Protecting existing varieties of corn is the major motive behind the declaration by the governments of the Federal District and the state of Tlaxcala that their jurisdictions are “GM-free zones”.