Mexico took a step toward the approval of genetically modified, or GM, crops through a court decision yesterday.
A federal court overruled a precautionary measure implemented nearly two years ago that prohibited experimental planting of such crops, known also as transgenic.
The prohibition was ordered in October 2013 after a collective of 53 individuals and 20 non-governmental organizations filed a lawsuit against the use of transgenic seeds. The resolution prevented the Agriculture and Environmental Secretariats from granting experimental GMO planting permissions to anyone interested in carrying out such experiments.
The court decided that it had not been proved that GMO crops cause any damage to the health of consumers or the environment.
The original group that filed the lawsuit requested an amparo, or injunction, immediately after learning of yesterday’s decision.
Although it is a major agricultural producer, Mexico still has to import food to meet its domestic requirements. For example, the country produces 23 million tonnes of corn each year, but consumes 33 million. This makes it the second largest corn importer in the world after Japan. Some estimates say consumption could reach 42 million tonnes in 10 years.
Internationally, transgenic corn crops, cultivated on over 55 million hectares in 17 countries, produce between 10 and 25% more than their non-GMO counterparts.
GMO proponents assert that transgenic crops can positively impact Mexican agriculture, which is hampered by many factors, such as droughts, disease and erosion of farm lands. All directly impact the competitiveness, productivity and viability of local farms.
Those against the use of transgenic crops either to feed livestock or for human consumption claim that GMOs alter biodiversity and propitiate climate change, and affect human health. They claim there is a direct link between transgenic crop consumption and the increase of autism cases in the last 50 years in the United States.
Mexican scientists themselves expressed disagreement over the ban last year. Some lamented the lost opportunity to continue experimenting with GM corn, while others said such corn threatened the biological diversity of Mexico’s corn varieties.
The federal court decision could be the first step toward the commercial use of GMO crops in Mexico.