Farmer criticism of Mexican GMO corn ban not universal

A farmer holds different types of corn cobs in Otzolotepec, on the outskirts of Mexico City, February 7, 2017. Picture taken February 7, 2017. Reuters/Carlos Jasso/File photo

MONTERREY, Mexico (Reuters) — Mexico’s main agricultural lobby has criticized the government’s decision to ban genetically modified corn, while organic growers hailed the move that should protect smaller farmers.

Mexico will “revoke and refrain from granting permits for the release of genetically modified corn seeds into the environment,” stated a decree issued Dec. 31, which also mandated the phase out of GM corn imports by 2024.

Proponents of GM corn say the ban on domestic cultivation would limit the options of Mexican farmers, while phasing out its importation could imperil the food chain.

“The lack of access to production options puts us at a disadvantage compared to our competitors, such as corn farmers in the United States,” said Laura Tamayo, spokesperson for Mexico’s National Farm Council.

“On the other hand, the import of genetically modified grain from the U.S. is essential for many products in the agrifood chain,” added Tamayo, also a regional corporate director for Bayer, whose chemical unit Monsanto makes Roundup and the GM corn designed to survive application of the pesticide.

Opponents of genetically modified crops celebrated the ban.

“It’s a huge victory,” said Homero Blas, head of Mexico’s Organic Producers’ Society.

Opponents of GM crops say they contaminate age-old native varieties of corn and encourage the use of dangerous pesticides that endanger public health and harm biodiversity.

Mexico is largely self-sufficient in white corn used to make the country’s staple tortillas, but depends on imports of mostly GM yellow corn from the U.S. for livestock feed.

It was unclear whether the decree will phase out imported GM corn for livestock, or whether the rules will only apply to corn grown for human consumption.

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