The Supreme Court will soon rule on the scope of a federal agricultural regulation that allows for the cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops, a regulation that is contested by the state of Yucatán.
Governor Rolando Zapata Bello issued a decree in October declaring the state as a “GM crop-free zone” and ordering the cultivation of organic crops.
On December 13, the legal counselor in the president’s office, Humberto Castillejos, requested that the Supreme Court declare Zapata’s decree invalid.
Castillejos argued that the government of Yucatán had overstepped its authority by assuming jurisdiction over a matter for which the federal Congress is responsible.
While the Supreme Court accepted Castillejos’ request, it refused to issue a provisional suspension of the Yucatán decree while it deliberated the matter.
The court’s ruling focus only on the limits of the powers — if any — of local governments regarding GM crops. No pronouncement will be made over the scientific and environmental controversies surrounding the use of genetically modified seeds.
Honey producers in Yucatán and neighboring states have repeatedly raised concerns over the cultivation of GM crops and their impact on the quality of their product.
Beekeepers have been litigating against the federal decision to allow GM crops since 2011, achieving a big win in 2015.
In November that year, the Supreme Court suspended a permit granted to the agrichemical firm Monsanto to farm genetically modified soybeans on over 250,000 hectares in the region, on the grounds that local indigenous communities had to be consulted before granting any permits for transgenic soy farming.
With regard to the president’s office’s decision to contest its decree, the Yucatán government has stated it will stand by it.
“We will defend it,” said the Urban Development and Environment Secretary.
Eduardo Batllori told the newspaper Reforma that the state will wait for the Supreme Court to send information regarding the invalidation request before deciding its future course of action.
According to the secretary, the Zapata administration issued the decree because the federal Agriculture Secretariat (Sagarpa) neglected to take into consideration the risk GM crops represent for life and biodiversity, including the purity of aquifers in the state and pollination cycles, on the cultivation of organic soy and honey production.
“While we acknowledge that Sagarpa is able to determine GM-free zones, the state of Yucatán has assumed a stance on the matter, setting a precedent at the national level,” asserted Batllori.