Last week, PAN delivered a letter on behalf of 80 organizations to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack and U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Katherine Tai, opposing the interference by U.S. government officials and agribusiness interests in Mexico’s planned phaseout of glyphosate and genetically modified corn. Organizations included American farmer, worker, consumer, public health, sustainable agriculture, and other food systems research and advocacy groups.
PAN also delivered over 6,900 petition signatures from concerned individuals, telling Vilsack and Tai to respect Mexico’s decision to protect their farmers and public health — rather than doing industry’s bidding.
Not so sneaky
In December 2020, the president of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, called for Mexican farmers to stop using the herbicide glyphosate by 2024, and also issued a final decree to phase out use of GE corn in the country. The government cited the purpose of these policies as “contributing to food sovereignty and security” and the health of the Mexican people, as well as protecting native corn from contamination by GE pollen.
Then, as revealed by a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by the Center for Biological Diversity, public officials at USTR and USDA under the Trump administration strategized with agrochemical industry representatives from CropLife America and Bayer AG (which produces glyphosate) on ways to pressure the Mexican government to rescind its policy decisions. After these communications, USTR warned Mexico’s Minister of Economy that Mexico’s actions threatened the “strength of our bilateral relationship.”
As key leaders in the new administration, it’s imperative that Secretary Vilsack and Trade Representative Tai set a precedent by respecting Mexico’s decision to protect both public health and the integrity of the country’s farming. In a press release highlighting the letter delivery, PAN Executive Director Kristin Schafer called it what it is — “...completely unacceptable for U.S. public agencies to be doing the bidding of pesticide corporations like Bayer, who are solely concerned with maintaining their bottom line profits.”
Supporting our partners in Mexico
Signees of the joint organizational letter and individual signers of the petition to USTR and USDA urged the agencies to respect Mexico’s sovereignty and refrain from interfering with its right to enact its own protective policies. These U.S.-based groups and individuals echoed concerns from agricultural and civil society organizations in Mexico, like our partners at Pesticide Action Network Mexico (RAPAM). Director Fernando Bejerano explains:
"We reject the pressure from corporations such as Bayer-Monsanto — and their CropLife trade association — which are working in both the United States and Mexico to undermine the presidential decree that phases out the use of glyphosate and transgenic corn. We are part of the No Maize No Country Campaign, a broad coalition of peasant organizations, non-profit NGOs, academics and consumers, which support the presidential decree and fight for food sovereignty with the agroecological transformation of agricultural systems that guarantee the right to produce and consume healthy, nutritious food, free of pesticides and transgenics.”
While PAN and other organizations have sent a strong message to U.S. officials not to cave to industry pressure on this issue, it looks like agribusiness interests have started a concurrent attack on the ban in Mexico as well. This week Bayer/Monsanto and Mexico’s National Agribusiness Council (CNA) filed for an injunction in Mexican courts to stop the glyphosate regulations.
The Sin Maíz No Hay País (No Maize No Country) coalition, mentioned above, is collecting signatures opposing this injunction until Thursday, May 6 — including from individuals and groups outside Mexico. The petition is available only in Spanish, but is short and easily translatable in your browser. Please sign the petition, and share widely!