E-mail this article to
yourself or a friend.
Enter address:


Mexico adopts U.S. biotech labeling standards

(Friday, Feb. 13, 2004 -- CropChoice news) -- Associated Press, 02/12/04: MEXICO CITY- Mexico has become the first country to agree to loose U.S.-backed standards for labeling genetically modified grains, Mexican activists said Wednesday, a move they say endangers native corn varieties and violates Mexican law.

Mexico signed a tripartite agreement with the United States and Canada in late October which allows corn shipments with as much as five percent genetically-modified organisms into this country with a label that say only it "may contain" GMOs.

By contrast, the latest European Union proposal would set a maximum of .3 to .7 percent of genetically-modified content for foods.

Moreover, under Mexico's agreement, GMO contamination of corn shipments that occurred "accidentally" would not trigger any labeling requirement. Any labeling required would only be seen by distributors, with no requirement that consumers be told about any GMO content.

"Many countries around the world have rejected this labeling standard," said Alejandro Calvillo, of Greenpeace Mexico. "Why has Mexico, the country where corn originated and therefore one that should be especially cautious, accepted it?"

"This is precisely the kind of weak standards that the big biotech companies have been pushing for," Calvillo told reporters.

Mexico's Agriculture Department and U.S. embassy officials were not available to comment on the alleged agreement, which has not been published or released, but which supposedly went into effect Oct. 29.

The agreement was signed without the approval of Mexico's Senate, according to Gustavo Alanis of the Mexican Center for Environmental Law, who said the country's Constitution "requires these pacts to be approved by the Senate."

Mexican farmers and activists fear that imported GMO corn, normally imported as feed for cattle, is being planted as crops by some people in Mexico and could contaminate or displace native corn varieties.

Corn was first domesticated in Mexico some 4,000 to 5,000 years ago, and many of its ancestors plants and noncommercial varieties still survive here, providing a valuable gene pool.

U.S. officials say there is no evidence of such contamination, and that strict labeling standards are unnecessary.

Greenpeace activist Liza Covantes said Mexico signed the agreement in order to curry favor with the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush, and to sabotage ongoing multilateral talks on a stricter biosafety treaty.

She said the United States wants to sign as many bilateral GMO accords as possible before labeling standards are decided under the biosafety treaty adopted in Cartagena, Colombia in January 2000.

The agreement was also signed before the NAFTA Commission on Environmental Cooperation completed its report on possible contamination of native corn varieties by altered genes. A draft of that report is to be made public in March.

"This agreement was aimed at showing obedience to the Bush administration," Covantes said.