Stop GM Contamination in Mexico -- Please SIGN
Stop GM Contamination! -- Please SIGN
Please ANSWER BEFORE TUESDAY NOV 11
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A group of Mexican farmers, indigenous peoples and civil society organizations recently released the results of their own studies of GMO contamination of maize in Mexico. They found that the extent of contamination was worse than previously believed, and they even found cases of single corn plants contaminated with multiple transgenes derived from different GMO varieties. The group has requested that we initiate a sign-on letter to support them in their fight against contamination of their native corn varieties.
The issue of the contamination in the center of genetic diversity of maize, one of the world's most important food crops, has long-term negative implications that extend far beyond Mexico. It is critically important that we all work together to support the efforts of Mexican civil society to stop the contamination.
The Mexican organizations are now trying to stop the Mexican Congress from approving a very bad biosafety law drafted by scientists close to the biotech industry. This biosafety bill has already been approved by the Mexican Senate but it's at the Chamber of Deputies for final decision. Meanwhile, the Mexican Secretary of Agriculture has announced the lift of the moratorium on the planting of transgenic maize in México, while massive imports of non-segregated US corn - a high percentage of which is genetically modified - continue to pour in, and is likely the main source of the original contamination in Mexico.
This case of GM contamination in the center of origin of one of the world's main food crops serves as an urgent warning that all centers of crop diversity - risk GM contamination. It is therefore critically important to raise this issue and the demands of Mexican organizations at upcoming events taking place at different international forums.
Please CONSIDER SIGNING ON to this joint letter by sending your organization
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Open letter from international civil society organizations on transgenic contamination in the centers of origin and diversity
To the Mexican government and the international community:
On October 9, 2003, peasant farmers and indigenous communities, along with civil society organizations in Mexico, publicly released the results of their own testing that found GM contamination of native maize in at least nine Mexican states, even though the planting of transgenic maize is prohibited in Mexico. These results show far more serious and widespread contamination than previously assumed by earlier studies (e. g., the study by Berkeley scientists Chapela and Quist and one by the official Institute of Ecology in Mexico. For background information, see
One alarming fact is that the communities found widespread contamination with Starlink maize (not approved for human consumption in the US and finally taken off the market) and contamination of single plants with up to three different transgenes, which indicates that contamination has been occurring over several generations. All identified sequences are patented by one of the five multinationals that control the agricultural biotechnology industry.
Mexican indigenous peoples and peasant farmers, the creators and developers of maize, consider this contamination to be one of the greatest attacks on their cultures, economies and livelihoods. Maize is a fundamental part of the diet and culture of every Mexican. We are deeply concerned that despite the risks this contamination poses, two years have passed since its orginal discovery with no effective action by the Mexican government to stem the contamination. The government is now considering lifting the moratorium on the planting of transgenic maize, and the Mexican Congress is considering the approval of a biosafety bill that has been sharply criticized by Mexican indigenous and farmers' organizations as well as by civil society organizations. The bill could facilitate further contamination.
This is an issue that concerns the entire world, as maize is one of our most important food crops and Mexico is the repository of genetic diversity upon which we all depend. The policy changes being contemplated today could place the Mexican government in the unenviable historical role of having permitted the destruction of a resource that is critical for future global food security, and of having put the most treasured heritage of Mexican indigenous peoples and peasant farmers at risk.
Uncertain is the word that best describes GM technology today. The long-term impacts of GM contamination on crop genetic diversity are not known. However, there is growing evidence that GM crops can pose a threat to the stability of a crop's genome and can have other negative impacts on related biodiversity and the environment. Recombination of transgenic bacteria in plants and animals and the potential to trigger allergies in those who consume GM crops are also grave concerns, as well as the possibility of contamination by crops modified to produce non-food substances, from plastics to pharmaceuticals. The presence of patented traits in farmers' maize is particularly worrying because biotech companies are aggressively prosecuting farmers for patent infringement. Under patent law in the US and many other industrialized countries, it is illegal for farmers to re-use patented seed, or to grow GM seed without a licensing agreement. Farmers in North America are being prosecuted for growing patented seeds on their land, even if they didn't buy the seeds, or benefit from them.
Contamination of farmers' varieties threatens many centers of cropdiversity, particularly in the third world. Although GM contamination has been known to exist for more than two years in Mexico, neither governments nor international institutions have taken action to stop GM contamination and to protect farmers' and indigenous peoples' livelihoods. Traveling transgenes are a global problem, not one confined to maize in Mexico. Among others, GM contamination of traditional varieties of maize in New Zealand, cotton in Greece, canola (rapeseed) in Canada, soy in Italy, and papaya in Hawaii have been reported. The international community and the Mexican government must take action immediately to stop and prevent further contamination of traditional varieties.
It is urgent that a process of decontamination be undertaken by civil society, peasant and indigenous peoples' organizations. We support the demand of Mexican peasant and indigenous peoples' organizations that this process not be left in the hands of the technocrats or government agencies that have allowed, and even promoted, the contamination. The process of decontamination must be farmer-led. Given their intimate knowledge of the their land, crops and farming systems, farmers are the only actors capable of leading this process.
We call upon the Mexican Government and the Mexican Congress to:
- Maintain the moratorium against the planting of transgenic maize in Mexico, the center of origin of this critical food crop.
- Stop immediately the importation of transgenic or non-segregated maize - likely the main source of contamination in Mexico.
- Scrap the biosafety bill now being considered by the Mexican Congress, which, despite its name, is not based on the precautionary principle and does not take into account the status of Mexico as a megadiverse country, nor does it take into account the views of indigenous peoples, farmers and environmental organizations in Mexico.
- Stand firm against the extreme pressure being applied by the biotech industry and by scientists closely connected to it.
- Initiate studies on the extent of GM contamination on traditional varieties in Mexico.
- Present an emergency plan to prevent further contamination of farmer varieties.
- Present the issue of contamination in centers of origin at the first Meeting of the Parties (MOP 1) of the Cartagena Protocol.
We call upon the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), and the Cartagena Protocol to:
- Publicly acknowledge that GM maize contamination has taken place in Mesoamerica and that other centers of origin are threatened by the release of GM crops.
- Immediately adopt these issues in your agendas (FAO Conference and CGRFA Meeting, COP 7 of CBD, MOP1 of Cartagena Protocol), and take actions to ensure the application of the precautionary principle to prevent further GM contamination of traditional varieties everywhere in the world.
- Acknowledge that GM contamination poses a potentially serious threat to biological diversity, particularly in crop centers of origin and/or diversity
- Call an immediate moratorium on the release of genetically modified seed or grain, either for food, feed or processing, in those countries or regions that form part of the crop centers of origin and/or diversity for the species.
- Declare that patent infringement claims against farmers who are victims of DNA contamination will not be permitted, and that companies should be heldlegally liable for the contamination.
- FAO and CGIAR must adopt a comprehensive strategy and procedures to ensure that gene bank accessions are protected from contamination. The integrity of farmers' varieties must be maintained, with zero tolerance for DNA contamination. The vitally important exchange of genetic resources between gene banks and farmers must not be imperiled by concerns about contamination.
- The FAO-CGIAR Trust Agreement must be reviewed to ensure that the integrity of germplasm held in Trust is protected and that there are no intellectual property claims pertaining to any of the germplasm or its components.
ETC Group (international)
Food First, Institute for Food and Development Policy, USA
Centro Ecologico, Brasil
CET Sur, Chile
Community Technology Development Trust, Zimbabwe