Monday, 1 February 2010

Genetically modified organism, green light to consume but not to plant?

Genetically modified organism (GMO) is indeed a topic which has brought hot debates at international level. Mexico is one of the Latin American countries that seem to have a settled regulation regarding Biosafety of GMOs. However, reading recent news, it appears that the population in general are not quite certain about the product. To this effect, Greenpeace Mexico as well as other Mexican agroindustriales, scientists, Universities, artists, intellectuals among others, joined opposition to the delivery of 28 permits for experimental cultivation in national territory.

This reports comes after last week resolution in which the Federal Commission for Protection Against Health Risks (COFEPRIS) issued eight permits for import and marketing of GMOs. The permits authorise the human and animal consumption and industrial processing on these products. The GMOs authorised includes four varieties of maize and one of soybeans. Bio Agro said that the adoption of these products adds to a grant total of 77 GMOs which are allowed to be consumed in the country.

Nonetheless, observe that while these GMOs are accepted for marketing and consuming, it does not mean that they are acceptable for planting. How come? The Cofepris only authorises the marketing and consumption of GMOs but it does not grant authorisation for planting. The country’s agriculture, livestock, rural development, fisheries and food (SAGARPA) and the environment and natural resources (SEMARNAT) Ministries are the ones that issue the aforementioned permits.

The SAGARPA and SEMARNAT grant permits in compliance with the law on Biosafety of GMO. However, the Ministers clarify that plantings are kept in experimental phase and are land controlled and completely isolated from another crops. I therefore believed that it appears to be sensible enough...until I read the Law and its further amendments.

Art 67 for example, establishes that it is not allowed experimentation on genetically modified maize that contains features that prevent or restrict its use or human and/or animal consumption. It is indeed confusing. COFEPRIS already granted authorisation for the GMOs to be consumed, so what is the point of this Article? Shouldn’t it be the other way around? First do the experimentation and then grant the permit for marketing and consumption. Or, am I missing something? What do you think should be looked at first: the impact on the environment or the human and animal health?

Added to this, Greenpeace Mexico denied that GM crops will bring better conditions for farmers, because the patent of seeds is in the hands of corporations, like Monsanto, which holds 90 percent of the seeds of this kind in the world. It is also added that the experiments do not favour public research, since scientists do not have access to collect data, because the companies control much of the research through patents and trade secret policies.

For the Law on Biosafety of GMOs click here, for its subsequent amendments click here.

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