In an unprecedented move last week, a Federal Mexican Tribunal suspended authorization for the planting of all genetically modified corn by transnational corporations such as Monsanto, Pioneer and Syngenta. The Tribunal recognized the legal interests of 53 individuals and 20 civil associations that filed a class action lawsuit against the Ministries of Agriculture and Environment, the federal government and the transnational corporations that applied for permits to plant transgenic corn. While this decision is not a permanent one, it is a groundbreaking victory in preventing commercial GMO plantations until the collective action lawsuit is resolved.
The litigants – including peasants, activists, environmentalists, lawyers, scientists, and artists – based their arguments on the right to food and a healthy environment as well as the defense of corn biodiversity. This legal tool was recently made possible through Article 17 of the Mexican Constitution, and the Code of Civil Procedure that allows organized groups to access courts to defend their common rights.
The judicial decision falls within the spirit of the precautionary principle and seeks to protect the human right to save, use and participate in the biodiversity of native corn against the threat posed by transgenic corn. This is a collective right of the Mexican population recognized by the Constitution and national laws, as well as international treaties.
The facts alleged in the class action lawsuit are the result of years of legal defense work done within the National Campaign “Sin Maíz No Hay País,” which means “Without Corn We Have No Country.”
The National Campaign in Defense of Food Sovereignty and the Reactivation of the Mexican Countryside, “Sin Maíz No Hay País,” was born in June 2007, driven by more than 300 groups of peasants, indigenous peoples, urban communities, consumers, environmentalists, women and human rights activists, among others. Some of them are Grassroots International partners and allies such as La Vía Campesina Mexico, the National Union of Regional Autonomous Peasant Organizations (UNORCA), the Union of Organizations of the Sierra Juarez of Oaxaca (UNOSJO), Mixe Peoples Services (SER Mixe) and the Center for the Study of Change in the Mexican Countryside (CECCAM) – groups which are also part of the Network in Defense of Corn.
Since the campaign’s launch in 2007, the goal has been to fight for food sovereignty, and to strengthen peasant production through public policies and an inclusive, just, and sustainable alternative project for the countryside and for the nation.
Grassroots’ long-time ally Ana de Ita Rubio, Director of CECCAM, explains:
It’s a victory for civil society which has been struggling since 1998 against GMOs, and above all, against GMO corn.
All the legal actions which other groups had filed before could not move forward, because the government, judicial system, and lawmakers are in favor of the transnational corporations and GMOs. In the beginning of this year, there was a Constitutional change which allows organized groups to access courts to defend their common rights.
Even though the Ministry of Agriculture supports GMO corn as an economic ‘solution’ for the country, what we hope comes from this decision is that we can stop corporate GMO corn plantations. Through this decision, a door is opened to listen to the demands of civil society… And this way it is possible to educate the broader Mexican population about the negative impacts of commercial GMO plantations.
This court decision opens a new stage in the struggle against genetically modified corn in Mexico, which is the center of origin, diversification, and the global genetic reservoir of corn. Our partners’ and allies’ struggles do not end here. They are intensifying their work to ensure the protection of corn, put a final stop to GMO plantations, and achieve food sovereignty.
For example, UNORCA, UNOSJO, SER Mixe, and CECCAM are taking an active role in organizing national hearings on Violence Against Corn through the Permanent People’s Tribunal, an ethical tribunal based on the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Peoples. Through this process, the Mexican people are charging the government with treason, due to the government’s handing over power to transnational corporations, instead of recognizing the rights of people. Grassroots is proud to continue accompanying our Mexican partners in this long-term struggle for food sovereignty, biodiversity, and the autonomy of the Mexican people from transnational corporate control.