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19

Maize under threat as Mexico fails to ban US imports

Greenpeace today marked the World Food Day by renewing its demands...

Greenpeace today marked the World Food Day by renewing its demands for an
emergency ban on all US maize imports to Mexico until their purity
from genetically engineered (GE) compounds can be guaranteed. The
Mexican embassies in the United States, at the European Union and at
the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) were told by
Greenpeace that the US imports were the most likely source of genetic
pollution currently contaminating one of the world?s most important
food crops, maize, in a vital area of diversity in Mexico.

On Sunday in Mexico, Greenpeace occupied a maize field near
Mexico City highlighting it as an example of one of the 300 local
varieties at risk of being genetically contaminated. Greenpeace,
supported by the National Farmer Trade Association (ANEC),
stressed that there is no need to continue with the US maize
imports to Mexico as the country already has a 630 thousand
tonnes of home-grown GE free maize stored in warehouses.
About the same amount of maize is still due to be imported from
the United States by the end of the year. The Mexican
government has prevented the sale of the domestic maize in
order to maintain the market price, which is threatened by cheap
US imports.

?The Mexican government?s policy is insane both
environmentally and economically. We already have large
amounts of maize rotting away in storage but 783 thousand
tonnes are still scheduled to come in from the US by the end of
this year without any guarantees that it is GE free. These imports
risk further polluting 300 cultivated and indigenous maize
varieties existing in Mexico. This would not only be a loss for
Mexican environment and culture but this area is essential to
maintain food security globally. We simply cannot afford any
more delays in taking emergency action against this genetic
contamination,? said Raul Benet, Executive Director of
Greenpeace Mexico.

The Mexican government has so far failed to take measures to protect
the maize in the affected areas located in at least 15 communities in the
states of Oaxaca, Puebla and Guanajuato. The International Maize and
Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in Mexico recently described
the contamination as a serious development and offered its expertise to
the appropriate Mexican institutions.

Since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) came
into force in 1994, the maize imports from the United States to Mexico
have doubled from 3 million tonnes to 6 million tonnes. One fourth of
the maize produced in the United States is genetically engineered. The
GE grains are imported from the US without labelling which increases
the risk of contaminating both the environment and the food chain.