A federal judge in Mexico issued a ruling early this month suspending any planting of genetically modified (GMO) corn in the country. The ruling also bars the Ministries of Agriculture (Sagarpa) and the Environment (Semarnat) from approving any pending permits to plant GMO corn for “experimental, pilot or commercial” purposes until further scientific evidence is presented on the potential risks of GMO corn to the country’s native maize species. According to media reports, 14 requests for permits to plant GMO corn are pending before government agencies from seed companies including Monsanto, Pioneer and Dow AgroScience, among others. The legal ruling came in response to a suit filed by local non-governmental organizations seeking a permanent ban on GMO corn in the country. The ruling leaves open the door for the current ban to be lifted at an undetermined point in the future following presentation of arguments in favor and against. In an interview with Mexico City daily El Economista, a spokesman for a biosciences industry group said that member firms such as Monsanto, Syngenta, PHI Mexico and Dow AgroSciences respect the ruling but remain committed to their goal of introducing GMO seed technologies to Mexico.
Independently of the GMO corn dispute, this month Sagarpa announced it will promote the cultivation of yellow corn to address Mexico’s production shortfall in this crop. Mexico currently produces a surplus of white corn, however its deficit in yellow corn requires importation of approximately 8 million tons annually. Sagarpa is working to create incentives for corn producers to convert a portion of white corn acreage to yellow corn production in order to address the existing deficit. Mexico uses white corn for tortillas and other human consumption, while yellow corn is used principally for animal feed in the country.