The legal battles over the existing ban on the planting of GM maize in Mexico continue to unfold with a string of four important court victories by the Acción Colectiva del Maíz.
By Devon Peña Source: Environmental and Food Justice
On February 28, 2015, the collective of organizations known as Acción Colectiva del Maíz announced that they had secured four more favorable court decisions involving amparo (shelter) corporate challenges seeking to end the GMO corn ban in Mexico. These are pivotal victories but the group explains that more administrative and judicial reviews remain to be adjudicated, including five by Monsanto and Syngenta against the use of precautionary measures to manage the bio-safety risks posed by GM corn.
We last reported in 2014 how these decisions reveal a very significant shift in Mexico’s federal civil law judiciary since the legal logic upholding the GMO corn ban privileges Mexico’s signatory status in the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), the Cartegena Biosafety Protocols, and Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization over the nation’s other countervailing obligations under investor-state trade treaties like the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the pending TransPacific Partnership (TPP).
The most recent set of court decrees upheld the continued suspension of authorizations to plant transgenic maize in Mexico. According to a press release posted to the Sin Maíz no Hay País home page, the judges recognized “the supremacy of the right of the collectivity of corn over the transnational seed companies.”
On Friday morning, February 27 two courts upheld two injunctions ordering the suspension of the planting of GM maize and verified the continuing status of the class action lawsuit, which was filed in July 2013 by agroecologists, indigenous and traditional farmers and plant breeders, human rights and environmental activists, and artists. The group that filed the lawsuit seeks to defend corn in all its biological diversity and socio-cultural significance.
The upholding of the ban adds to a growing list of victories that includes the multinational corporation Monsanto, which last week saw its latest appeal rejected unanimously. On Wednesday February 25, the DuPont Corporation also lost an appeal. The class action case faces one more juridical review but there are an additional five amparos pending over limits the corporations seek, in effect, to block verifiable and effective application of precautionary measures previously ordered by the courts.
The current set of four court rulings all reveal a willingness on the part of these four federal civil law judges to recognize the preemptive and superior right of the corn protection group over seed companies in the defense of biodiversity and the quality of corn as the nation’s principal staple food item.
Corn producer Emiliano Juárez explains the significance of the upholding of the ban: “It is clear that if the planting of transgenic corn is contaminating our countryside and foods; the effect is the same as tobacco, both on our health and in the fields, and there is no way to avoid dispersion in the environment while the damage to our bodies is seldom immediate.”
Meanwhile Cati Marielle, one of the plaintiffs and a researcher with the Environmental Studies Group, shared the statement of the Mexican Chapter of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal in support of the court decisions: “The Mexican government must take all necessary measures to ensure conservation of native maize as the main source of our food and nutrition and as a cultural element of cohesion and social coordination. Since Mexico is the gene pool reserve of this pillar of global food security, the planting of GM maize should be banned in the country.”
The lawyer handling the collective judgment, René Sánchez Galindo, detailed the language of the legal resolutions: “Today the Fifth Civil Collegiate upheld the injunction, reserving a right of future audience for Dow AgroSciences, but the seed suspension continues to remain in effect. Even today, the Second Collegiate Civil discarded a Pioneer claim under DuPont. On Wednesday, the Sixth Collegiate Civil denied a defense by DuPont and last week the Fourth Collegiate Civil declared another Monsanto claim as inadmissible. All of the injunctions sought to lift the suspension of planting in various ways.”
Sánchez Galindo explains that a total of 22 amparo claims have been filed by agribusiness corporations and the Mexican government agencies, SAGARPA (Agriculture Ministry) and SEMARNAT (Environmental Ministry). The social movement collective has won 16 of these legal skirmishes.
We will continue to provide updates on the status of these legal proceedings in Mexico until the process runs itself out. If the pattern continues, it may very well be the case that Mexico will be first nation in the North American free trade area created by NAFTA to bolt from compliance with so-called environmental side agreements that hitherto had blocked the assertion of other international treaty obligations, especially those under the CBD, the Cartegena Protocols, and ILO Convention 169, which requires participation and ascent by indigenous peoples of any development activity seen as posing threats to native sovereignty and cultural rights. The principles of consultation and participation under Convention No. 169 affect review of specific development projects, “but also to broader questions of governance, and the participation of indigenous and tribal peoples in public life.” This convention has been used in related legal battles over the planting of GMO soy affecting beekeepers and traditional farmers in Campeche and Yucatán states in southeastern Mexico.