Mexico’s main agricultural lobby, the National Agricultural Council, has criticised the government’s decision to ban genetically modified (GM) maize, while organic growers hailed the move in the hope that it would protect smaller farmers.
In a decree issued during the first week of January, Mexican authorities stated that they would “revoke and refrain from granting permits for the release of genetically modified [maize] seeds into the environment”.
The decree also mandated the phasing out of GM maize imports by 2024, and the elimination of glyphosate, a controversial herbicide, by the same date, a report on the Mexico News Daily website said.
While a total ban on glyphosate was still some way off, federal departments would immediately abstain from “purchasing, using, distributing, promoting and importing glyphosate or agrochemicals that contain it as an active ingredient,” according to the decree.
The objective of the decision was to “contribute to food security and sovereignty” and protect “native maize, maize fields, bio-cultural wealth, farming communities, gastronomic heritage and the health of Mexicans”, the decree said.
Commenting on the latest development, a spokesperson for the council, Laura Tamayo, told Reuters that, “The lack of access to production options puts us at a disadvantage compared to our competitors, such as maize farmers in the US.”
In addition, the council said a ban on the use glyphosate could cause agricultural production to fall by up to 45%, but government officials rejected this claim.
Meanwhile, Homero Blas, president of the Mexican Society of Organic Production, described the government’s decision to ban GM maize as a “huge victory”.
Mexico was largely self-sufficient in white maize used to make the country’s staple tortillas, but was dependent on imports of yellow maize from the US for livestock feed, which was made up largely of GM maize.
According to Reuters, the country’s government had yet to clarify whether the decree would result in the phasing out of imported GM maize for livestock, or whether the new regulations would apply solely to maize for human consumption.