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Mexico bans imports of GM maize, NGOs say move is 'irrelevant'
New Straits Times, February 27, 2004
At a Press conference yesterday, Mexico's Interministery Commission on Biosafety and Genetically Modified Organisms (Cibiogem) executive secretary Dr Victor Manuel Villalobos Arambula said Mexico imported genetically modified corn from the US and Canada for agriculture use only, and would prohibit any research or import of corn engineered for any other purpose.

Currently, Mexico imports most of its maize from US, and traces of transgenic or GM maize have been found in their fields although GM maize is not legalised for cultivation.
It is believed that Mexican farmers planted US GM maize intended for food and feed without knowing it was genetically modified.

Arambula said: "Since Mexico is a centre of origin of corn and corn plays an important role in our culture, any transgenic change made on corn other than as a source for food will have an impact on human health and the environment."

In an immediate reaction, non-governmental organisations scoffed at this announcement, saying it was "irrelevant" as Mexico has already signed a trilateral agreement with the US and Canada that threatened to further contaminate Mexico's maize.

The trilateral agreement states there will be a five per cent threshold for contamination, where if a shipment of GM grain has less than five per cent GM, it can be identified as a "non GM" shipment.

Greenpeace science adviser Doreen Stabinsky said since the agreement also stated that shipment with "unintentional" GM contamination would not require identification, there was no guarantee that GM pharmaceutical maize would not be introduced into Mexico.

"It does not really matter if they have the ban. They are not looking out for any unintentional presence and are not monitoring its entry into Mexico," she said.

Mexico had also earlier defended the trilateral agreement and its imports of GM maize, saying there was no scientific proof that GM maize posed a risk to human health, to basic crop, or to its biodiversity.

"(GM crops have) benefited agriculture and the environment thanks to the sensible reduction in the use of pesticides," it said in a statement read out by Arambula.

The trilateral agreement, it said, would allow Mexico to share information about GM crops with the other two countries, as well as enable it to develop common approaches to risk assessment and enhance capacity building.

Admitting that it has encountered "mistrust and criticism" from other countries for signing the agreement, Mexico said the agreement was in line with the objectives of the Cartagena Protocol.
MGR Archive 28.2.2004
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