Crop Seen as Threat to Honey Bee Colonies
Environmental and Food Justice
by Devon G. Peña
According to reports appearing in the Mexican print media, a federal district court judge in Yucatán yesterday overturned a permit issued to Monsanto, the U.S.-based multinational corporation that is a leading purveyor of genetically modified crops (GMOs). The permit, which had been issued by the Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food on June 6, 2012, allowed the commercial planting of GM soy bean in Yucatán. The ruling was based on consideration of scientific evidence demonstrating (to the judge’s satisfaction) that GMO soy crop plantings threaten Mexican honey production in the states of Campeche, Quintana Roo, and Yucatán.
An op-ed piece appearing in yesterday’s La Jornada (July 23), applauded the decision with insightful commentary suggesting that the federal agencies involved in this dispute are guilty of corruption and collusion with the transnational Gene Giant.
According to La Jornada, the permit(s) revoked by court order had been issued by SAGARPA (Mexico’s agriculture ministry) and SEMARNAT (Mexico’s environmental protection agency) despite longstanding recommendations for denial made by the nation’s own leading environmental institutions – the Mexican National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity, National Commission of Natural Protected Areas, and National Institute of Ecology. As was reported here on March 16, the federal permit approval also came despite objections by several hundred scientific research scholars associated with Mexico’s Union of Concerned Scientists Committed to Society.
At the very heart of the court ruling is the all important conclusion that coexistence is not possible: The court is in effect agreeing with scientists, farmers, beekeepers, and indigenous communities that Monsanto GM soy and honey production are incompatible.According to La Jornada, the scientific concerns are complemented by economic factors: “[T]he aforementioned permit runs the severe risk of undermining the marketing of honey produced in these states and destined for the European market”. According to the data cited in the ruling, 85 percent of Mexican honey is exported to European Union (EU) markets and the Court of Justice of the EU already prohibits (as of 2011) the sale of honey containing pollen from GM crops.
The editorial in La Jornada further opined that:
Taken together, these elements make this judicial determination of particular importance: This is a setback to the major transnational corporation involved with the production and marketing of genetically modified foods, whose presence in our country has grown in recent years, and is an extremely valuable victory for peasant farmer, indigenous, environmental, and scientific organizations that are opposed to these crops because they constitute a risk factor for the health and nutrition of populations and biodiversity. [My translation]
The decision is also a rebuke to a set of federal governmental agencies that continue to exhibit a “clearly inappropriate and irresponsible attitude” that borders on complicity with transnational capitalist interests and against the national interest. The Mexican government – despite the nation’s status as a signatory to the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Cartegena Biosafety Protocils – has refused to take the responsible approach being followed across much of Europe “where…national governments are adopting a precautionary approach to scientific evidence and risk effects”. In contrast, the Mexican government is not just failing to respect its various treaty obligations – which carry the force of binding law – the agriculture and environmental protection ministries are actually “by-passing guarantees owed native communities – such as the right to be consulted on operations of individuals that affect their territories, and leaving them to their fate in legal battles against of powerful multinationals.”
The editors conclude by noting:The editorial in La Jornada celebrates the setback dealt Monsanto but it also notes, somewhat somberly, that this “is clearly insufficient to reverse the damage caused by opening the free production of genetically modified crops” across Mexico. However, the editorial suggests that the ruling reinforces the need for a broad and systematic review by federal agricultural and food authorities of their current policies that favor large transnational corporations like Monsanto that peddle GM crops and foods and against traditional farmers and the nation’s own food sovereignty.
If it is true that the eradication of hunger is a priority of the current federal government, then the starting point must be the recognition of the relationship between the [GMO] scourge and the food policy model that has been imposed on the entire population, which has transformed the human right to food into the private business of a few companies. [My translation]
Indeed, this is the principal rationale for resisting Monsanto: A democratic food system can ill afford to allow a handful of monstrously large transnational corporations to control our food and agriculture. It really is that simple, whatever else the science might tell us, food is best produced, served, and consumed from the bottom up, mostly at the local level.