By Abigail Angélica Correa Cisneros
Peasant organizations call for a ban on GMOs at the start of the new international treaty, which gives way to patenting grain varieties and genes
In the first eight years of NAFTA, the Mexican manufacturing sector linked to the economic cycle of the United States generated 500 thousand jobs, while the agricultural sector of Mexico lost 1.3 million in the same period.
The entry into force of the new trade agreement between Mexico, the United States, and Canada (USMCA) could affect Mexican farmers more than its predecessor, NAFTA.
A little over a decade ago, imports increased 50 percent, condemning national producers to poverty, two million abandoned their activities after the agreement began, triggering a series of problems from which our country has not yet recovered.
At the start of the new treaty, more than 80 peasant organizations expressed their concern, especially with regard to transgenics, which is why they have requested, since last year, and without a response yet, that a decree is issued to prohibit Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). across the country, as President Andrés Manuel López Obrador pledged, from his campaign to the presidency.
The fear in the face of the new agreement is that large company with which the small ones cannot compete end up eliminating the few opportunities they offer them, by appropriating the seeds.
Peasant organizations such as Regenerative Agriculture, the National Campaign without Corn there is no Country, the National Association of Marketing Companies for Rural Products (Anec), the Corn Carnival and the Union of Workers of Rural Inca ask the AMLO government to issue a decree to protect Mexican grains and action against GMOs throughout the country.
They recall that the judiciary granted a “precautionary measure that prohibits the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (Sader) and the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources (Semarnat) from issuing a permit to plant GMOs for corn throughout the national territory since September of 2013.
The T-MEC would compel Mexico to adhere to the UPOV 91 Convention, which considers patents on varieties and genes, and in this way, the intellectual property rights of companies over this common good of humanity that has been preserved by peasants would be ensured.
Mexico signed on August 9, 1997, the UPOV 1978 Act that maintains the “Farmer’s Privilege to use his own seed and the Plant Breeder’s Right”, which allows the millennial exchange of seeds and essential derivation.
Joining the 1991 Act now would imply going against the rights recognized in the Mexican Constitution and in international human rights treaties, in what has to do with the use and access to plant genetic resources and the rights of farmers.
For this reason, these organizations request that GMO release permits be prohibited, whether for experimental, pilot, or commercial issues in Mexican territory, including those obtained with new techniques such as genetic editing or mutagenesis. Likewise, they request that in order to avoid the release and distribution of viable grains of GMOs from corn and other species of which Mexico is the center of origin, “the importation of grains and seeds from countries that do not plant GMOs will only be allowed, and In the event that this is not possible in the short term, it will only be authorized to import grains with a certificate that they have been sterilized in the country of origin and certified seeds without GMOs.
They also demand “to implement Diconsa’s commitment to no imported corn kernels in its more than 25 thousand stores and warehouses” and the monthly publication by Sader-Senasica and Semarnat-Inecc of the results of its GMO detection tests in Mexico and of those obtained in public research centers on the presence of genetically modified DNA and its effects on human and environmental health ”.
The example of corn is the one that most illustrates how and how much Mexico lost with NAFTA. The producers were very affected by the policies that allowed excessive importation. Just over 10 years ago, this grain represented more than 60 percent of the national agricultural production in terms of volume and value and occupied around 62 percent of the cultivated area. When NAFTA began in 1994, the government agreed to enter 2.5 million metric tons of corn duty-free. These imports would expand at a compound interest of 3 percent per year until reaching full market liberalization in 2008.
The import quota was exceeded and millions of tons of this grain entered Mexico without paying tariffs. Between 1993 and 1999, corn imports grew 3 thousand percent, going from 152 thousand tons to 5.4 million tons; In that period, a total of 29 million were acquired, of which 12.9 million were above the import quotas.
President López Obrador assures that the new Treaty “will mean investment, that is, foreign and foreign investment will continue to arrive. It is very important that the treaty comes into force and it is very timely because we are about to come out of the pandemic and we need to reactivate the economy to get out of the economic recession, the fall caused by the coronavirus in the world economy. ”
The T-MEC promises to boost trade for the benefit of all parties and greater freedom in markets, fairer trade, and robust economic growth in North America.
However, for many farmers, this new agreement will only benefit large producers. When NAFTA started, it promised to gradually modernize the agricultural sector and provide the producer with a long-term planning horizon. The same treaty is promised with the initiating treaty. But small producers fear that they will continue to benefit companies that can produce in large volumes, so they will be relegated again.
The Carnegie Fund for International Peace, based in Washington, stated in a study that, in the first eight years of NAFTA’s operation, the Mexican manufacturing sector linked to the United States’ economic cycle generated 500 thousand jobs, while Mexico’s agricultural sector lost 1.3 million in the same period.
Mexico went from being the country of corn to the one that buys it most abroad. Excess imports caused grain prices to drop, which hurt small and large producers. The cost of imports is less than that of the national product, so consumers ultimately prefer it.
The Mexican government must respond to the threat of GMOs, despite the fact that President López Obrador has repeatedly promised that they are prohibited in his mandate. In the negotiations regarding the agricultural chapter, it must be made clear that Mexico will not join agreements that violate human rights. Accepting an agreement under UPOV 91 is opening the door to monopolistic companies to dominate the seed market, and this would mean forgetting food sovereignty.
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