13.01.2021 |

Mexico bans glyphosate and genetically modified corn

Mexico is the cradle of corn (Photo: CC0)

Mexico has banned the use of both glyphosate and genetically modified corn in the country. On December 31, a decree was published in the official gazette which states that the use of the herbicide glyphosate and genetically modified (GM) maize will be phased out by January 2024 at the latest. “With the purpose of contributing to food security and sovereignty and as a special measure to protect native corn, the milpa, the biocultural wealth, the peasant communities, the gastronomic heritage and the health of the Mexican people, the biosafety authorities (…) will revoke and refrain from granting permits for the release into the environment of genetically modified corn seeds,” announces article 6 of the decree. The decision was welcomed by environmental campaigners, while Mexican agroindustry representatives criticised the government’s decision.

With regard to the controversial weedkiller glyphosate, article 1 of the decree aims “to gradually replace the use, acquisition, distribution, promotion and importation of the chemical substance called glyphosate and of agrochemicals used in our country that contain it as an active ingredient, with sustainable and culturally appropriate alternatives that allow to maintain production and are safe for human health, the country’s biocultural diversity and the environment.” A transition period until 31 January 2024 is granted to achieve the total replacement of glyphosate. Based on article 2, glyphosate may not be used in any public programmes or government activities during this period. The decree also calls on agricultural producers and agroindustry to use and develop sustainable alternatives. “In order to reduce the possible impact of the gradual substitution of the use and import of glyphosate in commercial agriculture, the Secretariats of Agriculture and Rural Development and of Environment and Natural Resources will promote and implement sustainable and culturally appropriate alternatives to the use of glyphosate, either with other low toxicity agrochemicals, with biological or organic products, with agroecological practices or with intensive use of labor,” outlines article 3.

The decree also introduces a ban on genetically modified corn with the same transition period as for glyphosate. Mexico will not only revoke existing permits and stop new authorizations for the release of GM corn, but also gradually reduce imports “in accordance with the applicable regulations and based on criteria of sufficiency in the supply of corn grain without glyphosate”. Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador announced policies to strengthen the country’s food self-sufficiency. Mexico, the birthplace of corn and home to dozens of local varieties, is largely self-sufficient in corn for human consumption, a staple food used to prepare tortillas and other traditional dishes. However, the country depends on imports of GM corn from the United States to feed livestock. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the US exported corn worth $2.7 billion to Mexico in 2019. There is no cultivation of GM corn in Mexico and the cultivation of genetically modified soybean was suspended in the country in 2017 following a court injunction. However, an area of 223,000 hectares was planted with GM cotton in 2019 according to biotech lobby organization ISAAA.

Opponents of GM crops and environmental organisations hailed the ban. Environmental group Greenpeace Mexico said that, after countless battles over the last 21 years, the decree is a reason to celebrate. “The time has come to settle the historical debt to genetic diversity in Mexico, and we celebrate the ban on genetically modified maize and the progressive ban on glyphosate by 2024, as these are important steps in moving towards ecological production that preserves the biodiversity and agro-biodiversity that has been cultivated by peasants over millennia, giving us the opportunity to enjoy a healthy environment and a green and fair agro-food system.” Homero Blas Bustamante, president of the Mexican Society of Organic Production (SOMXPRO), also welcomed the ban of glyphosate and GM corn. “It’s a huge victory”, he told Reuters. He said that organic farmers both in Mexico and globally are demonstrating that glyphosate is not necessary in agriculture and that like other agrochemicals it should be banned on the basis of the precautionary principle. In contrast, agroindustry and the private sector were not amused. The Mexican organisation Proccyt which represents the crop protection industry, called the decree a backward step, warning it could affect the entire Mexican countryside and endanger the stability of prices and the availability of corn. (ab)

Back to news list


Donors of globalagriculture Bread for all biovision Bread for the World Misereor Heidehof Stiftung Hilfswerk der Evangelischen Kirchen Schweiz Rapunzel
English versionDeutsche VersionDeutsche Version