Mexico Set to Define Policy on Genetically Modified Corn

Article excerpt

Mexico is grappling with deciding what policies to apply to genetically modified corn, reportedly entering the country as part of US shipments.

A government commission (Comision Intersecretarial de Bioseguridad y Organismos Geneticamente Modificados) is in the midst of a study that will examine the issue thoroughly and make recommendations to appropriate agencies. The study is scheduled for release sometime in December.

Commission director Victor Manuel Villalobos said the panel is looking at both the negative and positive aspects of genetically modified corn, including such positive factors as increased yields and greater resistance to disease.

"We must carefully analyze all risks and benefits," said Villalobos. "We cannot close the door to new technologies."

Environmental organizations, led by Greenpeace Mexico, have raised concerns that genetically modified corn could carry hidden health problems for humans. Opponents also worry that these altered corn varieties could mix with and eventually destroy native strains.

Greenpeace accuses some firms of importing modified corn

Greenpeace Mexico has begun a campaign to stop Mexico's three largest tortilla manufacturers from using genetically modified corn.

A study released by the organization in mid-October said Grupo Industrial Maseca (Gruma), Grupo Minsa, and Grupo Bimbo rely on imports from the US to supplement their corn supplies to produce corn flour. At least a percentage of those imports involves genetically modified corn, said Greenpeace Mexico spokeswoman Liza Corvantes.

Corvantes said all three companies promote their products as healthy and worthy of consumer confidence. "The reality is that they use genetically modified corn in their products and do not inform the public about risks involved in consuming these products," she said.

Minsa was forced to suspend exports of all corn-based products to Europe in 1999 because the company was unable to provide guarantees that its products were not manufactured with genetically modified corn, said Corvantes.

The Greenpeace report said Gruma utilizes about 1.8 million metric tons of corn annually at its corn processing plants in Mexico. Of this total, about 10% is imported from the US.

The amount of genetically modified corn entering Mexico could be increasing with the growth of US corn imports resulting from the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). …