GM contamination of wild Mexican maize revealed

Last edited 29 November 2001 at 9:00am
GM crops

World scientists demand halt to US exports, as Nature publishes evidence

DNA from genetically modified corn has been found in wild maize on remote mountains in Mexico. Evidence documenting the extent of this genetic pollution has been published in the scientific journal Nature.

Greenpeace calls upon the US government to immediately halt their exports of genetically engineered corn to Mexico, as the first vital step in protecting that country's native corn varieties from further contamination.

"As the source of the contamination, the United States should be the first to step forward and immediately halt exports of genetically engineered corn to Mexico," said Hector Magallon Larson, GM campaigner for Greenpeace Mexico.

"Contamination from genetically engineered corn to local corn varieties in Mexico could cause their extinction. If this diversity is lost, future food security is at risk," added Dr. Doreen Stabinsky, science advisor to Greenpeace. "The US must act immediately and aggressively to protect it."

Mexico has had a moratorium on new plantings of GM maize since 1998 but still allows the import of GM crops for consumption.

Over 80 scientists and plant breeders have joined Greenpeace in demanding that governments work together to prevent the contamination of Mexican maize and its wild relatives by genetically engineered corn varieties.

Plant breeders rely on the genetic diversity of local maize varieties found in Mexico. It is essential, so crops can continue to grow in the face of disease, pest problems and climate change. If one plant strain falls vulnerable to one disease, another will have the natural immunity to survive.

Mexican authorities have known about the contamination for several months. Investigation by the Mexican National Institute of Ecology in the states of Oaxaca and Puebla found contaminated varieties in 15 of the 22 communities tested, at levels from three to 10 per cent.

But the paper published in Nature today provides the first peer-reviewed scientific evidence documenting the scope of contamination of Mexican corn by genetically engineered varieties.

And the discovery of this contamination in Mexico - a country that also prevents GM crops from being grown commercially - has huge implications for the UK.

It is vital to prevent the further release of GM crops into the environment here. Otherwise the ongoing contamination of our food chain will be inevitable and - as shown by the Mexican experience - uncontrollable.

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