OCA Helps Mayan Communities Fight Back Against Monsanto

April 12, 2016 | Mercedes López

Organic Consumers Association

Monsanto has a long history of sneaking around—or outright violating—the law. Nowhere has that been more evident lately than in Mexico’s Campeche and Yucatán regions, where the agribusiness giant, in collusion with Mexican government authorities, is violating a court order requiring them to consult with indigenous communities before granting permits for the growing of genetically modified (GM) soy crops.

OCA Mexico and Millones Contra Monsanto have joined Mayan authorities, activists, scientists, community organizers and human rights experts in the Civil Observation Mission, a project that will document specific violations of the consultation process, and work with communities to educate the public about the impact of GM soy crops on Mayan tradition and the region’s biodiversity.

A win for activists, but . . .

Last November, Monsanto was served a “Double Whammy” when Mexican Courts banned the planting of GMO corn and soy in the Mexican states of Campeche and Yucatán. These victories galvanized the anti-GMO movement across Mexico. But unfortunately, there’s evidence in the Yucatán that Monsanto, with help from Mexican government insiders are once again pushing their agenda behind closed doors, to the detriment of Mayan communities.
Over the last decade, the Mexican government has granted Monsanto permits to develop over 253,000 hectares for the experimental planting of GM soy in nearly seven states. The government did this without formally consulting the surrounding indigenous communities, whose livelihoods depend on a rich tradition of organic honey production. When Mayan authorities and beekeepers from Campeche and the Yucatán saw the impact soy was having on their highly prized organic honey production, they joined scientists and activists in a lawsuit against Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources (SEMARNAT) and Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (SAGARPA), the government agencies responsible for granting the GM soy permits. The lawsuit accused the government of failing to follow the proper process for permitting, destroying the livelihoods of Mayan beekeepers and violating the rights of indigenous communities through the excessive use of herbicides and related deforestation.

The courts ruled in favor of the Mayan authorities in March 2014. The ruling was finalized in November 2015, when the federal government temporarily banned GM soy in Mexico and mandated that indigenous communities be consulted before any GMO soy permits could be granted. As part of the settlement, the Mexican Supreme Court appointed the National Commission for the Development of Indigenous Peoples (CDI) and the Intersecretariat Commission on Biosafety of Genetically Modified Organisms (CIBIOGEM) to ensure that Mayan communities were included the consultation process.

Unfortunately, the CDI turned right around and violated the court ruling. On March 31 (2016), the CDI announced that the Mayan permit review body would be composed of 36 communities from Holpechén, six from Tenabo in Campeche and two additional communities from the Yucatán. However, the CDI failed to provide transparency on the selection process, and just days after the March 31 announcement, the commission was already conducting consultations in closed-door meetings, in direct violation of the court ruling which mandated that meetings be open to the public.

It was this blatant violation that led to the formation of the Civil Observation Mission. OCA Mexico and Millones Contra Monsanto are committed to helping the Mission carry out its work to protect the Yucatán region from contamination and loss of biodiversity related to Monsanto’s GM crops. To learn more or support the Mission’s work, visit:


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Mercedes López Martínez is the networking coordinator for Vía Orgánica and OCA Mexico.