A “David and Goliath”-style fight between small indigenous farmers and mega corporation Monsanto is currently playing out in Mexico. In a landmark decision last month, a district judge in the state of Yucatan overturned a permit to allow Monsanto to grow GMO soybeans in seven states in the country. The judge was convinced by the scientific evidence presented about the threats posed by GM soy crops to honey production in the Yucatán peninsula.
The permit authorized Monsanto to plant its seeds in seven states, over more than 253,000 hectares, despite protests from thousands of Mayan farmers and beekeepers, Greenpeace, the Mexican National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity, the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas and the National Institute of Ecology. Mexico is the world’s six biggest producer and third largest exporter of honey — about 25,000 families on the Yucatán peninsula depend on honey production. This tropical region produces about 40 percent of the country’s honey, almost all of which is exported to the EU. In 2011, the EU imported $54m worth of Mexican honey.
The problem that Monsanto’s GMO Soy Bean rollout poses is multifaceted. Roundup-ready crops have been manipulated to be resistant to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup. Some argue that glyphosate poses a risk to human and animal health, a claim that Monsanto and other agribusinesses reject. In addition to health risks, environmental damage to soil, water and bee colonies, which are dwindling fast, have been attributed to glyphosate use, threatening food and water security across the globe. But the biggest immediate threat to the region is that it could devastate the important European export market for Mexican beekeepers, where the sale of honey containing pollen derived from GM crops has been restricted since a landmark decision in 2011 by the European court of justice.
Last month’s ruling comes after an almost identical ruling by a district judge in Campeche. A third victory for local farmers in Chiapas could soon follow where a similar case is pending. But it is likely that with all three cases, that this is just round one and Monsanto will appeal against the decision to a higher court.
Photos by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Headquarters (02-17-BO-2274Uploaded by Dolovis) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons and by Merdal at tr.wikipedia [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0], from Wikimedia Commons