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Daily News Archive

Report Urges Precaution On Genetically Engineered Corn
(Beyond Pesticides, November 12, 2004) The Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC), an agency established to advise the U.S., Canada and Mexico on the environmental impact of free trade, released a report on November 8, 2004 entitled, Maize and Biodiversity: The Effects of Transgenic Maize in Mexico: Key Findings and Recommendations. According to a November 9th Chicago Tribune story, the report which was immediately criticized by the biotechnology industry, focused mainly on the future threats of genetically engineered (GE) corn in Mexico.

The key concern that led to the writing of this report is “gene flow” from GE corn to Mexican maize and its wild relatives. Such gene flow may threaten the diversity of land species in the case of traditional maize, crop varieties with a broad genetic base resulting from thousands of years of development and adaptation to particular soil types and microclimates. This is of particular concern not only because of the socio-cultural and economic importance of traditional maize agriculture, but because Mexico is a center of origin for this important food crop.

The Chicago Tribune reported that among the recommendations to assure that the imported corn does not get planted and contaminate Mexico's native corn were milling all U.S. corn upon its arrival in Mexico, better labeling of the imports and extending a moratorium on commercial planting of lab-engineered corn until more safeguards are in place.

"With the current varieties being imported, we haven't found an impact, but they haven't really been studied either," Chantal Line Carpentier, head of the agency's environment and trade programs told the Chicago Tribune. "The concern is for what [engineered corn] varieties are coming down the line."

The Bush Administration condemned the report, saying it is "fundamentally flawed and unscientific.” In a statement, the administration added, “Implementing many of the report's recommendations would cause economic harm to farmers and consumers in all NAFTA countries and restrict international trade.”

Some have accused the Bush Administration of trying to bury the report, but after a copy was leaked to Greenpeace and published in the Mexican news media, the administration agreed to its release. However, they deny trying to obstruct its release, saying they needed the extra time to "set the record straight on this issue."

The CEC stands firmly by the report. Copies of the report are available online at www.cec.org/maize.