A small group of beekeepers in Mexico has won an important victory over Monsanto,one of the world’s largest biotech companies,which is responsible for planting millions of acres of genetically modified (GMO) Roundup-ready soybeans around the world.
“A district judge in the state of Yucatan last month overturned a permit issued to Monsanto by Mexico’s agriculture ministry,Sagarpa,and environmental protection agency,Semarnat,in June 2012 that allowed commercial planting of Roundup-ready soybeans,” reports The Guardian. “The judge was convinced by the scientific evidence presented about the threats posed by GM soy crops to honey production.”
A Real Threat
The permit had previously authorized Monsanto to plant its seeds in seven states in Mexico,covering more than 253,000 hectares,which amounts to around 625,000 acres. Thousands of Mayan farmers and beekeepers prompted the change in ruling,with support from Greenpeace,along with the Mexican National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity,the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas and the National Institute of Ecology.
The new ruling has halted the biotech corporation’s ambitious plans for planting GMO soybeans in Mexico,although Monsanto is expected to appeal the ruling. The evidence supports claims by beekeepers in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula that co-existence between honey producers and Roundup-ready soybeans is not possible,and that allowing Monsanto to proceed would negatively affect production of honey in the states of Campeche,Quintana Roo and Yucatan,among others.
“Mexico is the world’s sixth biggest producer and third largest exporter of honey,” writes The Guardian. “About 25,000 families on the Yucatan Peninsula depend on honey production.”
Around 40 percent of Mexico’s honey comes from the tropical region found throughout the Yucatan Peninsula,which is home to the popular expat and vacation destinations of Cancun,Playa del Carmen,Tulum and Merida,among others. Much of the exported honey is shipped to the European Union,amounting to around $54 million in 2011 alone.
Why it Matters
The concerns surrounding GMO crops are multiple and very serious,including a number of health risks,environmental damage and even the overall security of the world’s food and water supplies. Roundup-ready crops have been genetically modified to resist glyphosate,the active ingredient in Roundup,which has also been found to harm bee colonies worldwide.
Although Monsanto and other agribusinesses continue to reject claims that its crops are unsafe,the EU has barred the sale of honey containing pollen derived from GMO crops that are not approved for human consumption following a landmark decision in 2011. Furthermore,honey with more than .9 percent of GMO pollen that does come from an approved GMO food source must be labeled accordingly and cannot be sold as an organic product,while some countries – such as Germany – have banned the sale of honey that contains any GMO pollen altogether.
“A small study in Campeche,where about 10,000 hectares of GMO soybeans were planted after the permit was approved in 2012,found GMO pollen in some honey samples destined for the European market,” writes The Guardian. “This threatens the local honey industry and contradicts the position taken by Sagarpa and industry groups that soybeans are not visited or pollinated by bees searching for food.”
Setting a Precedent
The recent decision follows a similar ruling by a district judge in Campeche earlier this year,and a third ruling supporting the decision to prevent Monsanto from planting Roundup-ready soybeans in Mexico is expected to be handed down soon from a court in Chiapas,setting a precedent that will help farmers and activists prevent the spread of GMO crops in Mexico.
The action by beekeepers also comes on the heels of a decision to place an indefinite ban on GMO corn in Mexico last fall,a decision that is intended to protect the nation’s natural environment and colorful culinary heritage. More than 20,000 different types of corn are currently found throughout Mexico,which can be traced back to maize,corn’s natural predecessor.