Subject: Greenpeace protests US Maize exports in Mexico
Date: Thu, 2 Dec 1999 7:39 PM

Greenpeace protests US Maize exports in Mexico

Veracruz, Mexico, December 1, 1999 --- Greenpeace today demanded an immediate halt to US exports of genetically engineered maize to Mexico. Greenpeace activists hung a banner with the text "Stop Genetic
Invasion!" from the San Juan de Ulua fortress at Veracruz harbour on Mexico's East coast.

"The US GE imports are threatening biodiversity, traditional agriculture and human health in Mexico," said Liza Covantes of Greenpeace. "They must be stopped immediately."

Mexico is one of the countries with the highest biodiversity on the planet.  It is also the centre of origin of maize, which was first cultivated in the country about 7000 years ago. Thousands of varieties still exist, cultivated by indigenous groups, family farmers and breeding centres. All maize grown commercially around the world originates from Mexican varieties. The contamination of these traditional varieties with GMOs threatens the Mexican environment as well as the future of plant breeding of maize internationally.

"Producers of the engineered maize such as Novartis and Monsanto and the exporters are gambling with the future of one of the major food crops of the world," said Covantes.

Growing of genetically engineered maize is prohibited in Mexico because of concerns over crosspollination with related maize varieties. Still more than 5 million tons of US maize containing around 25 - 35 per cent GE maize are exported from the US to Mexico. "There is no way to prevent this maize to be grown," said Liza Covantes. "Only a fool would believe that it will not be used as seed as well."

The Mexican government still has not enacted any effective legislation governing the import of GMOs for food and feed purposes. "The dumping of subsidised US GE maize to Mexico is not only creating environmental damage and but also causing economic hardship among small farmers in the country," said Covantes.

Greenpeace is also alarmed about US efforts to bring the GMOs to the World Trade Organisation (WTO) agenda in Seattle. "The US causing genetic pollution in a centre of origin by exporting GE maize to Mexico is a good example why we need strong environmental rules on GMOs," said Benedikt Haerlin of Greenpeace International. "The only rules in place at this moment are trade rules, which oblige Mexico to import US maize. GMOs are not a trade issue, they are an environmental problem and an untested new product put in the human food chain at the risk of consumers."

Kind regards,

For information please contact:
Greenpeace International Press Office
T: ++ 31 20 5249515
F: ++ 31 20 5236212


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