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THIRD WORLD NETWORK BIOSAFETY INFORMATION SERVICE

13 October 2003

Dear friends and colleagues,

RE: CONTAMINATION BY GM MAIZE IN MEXICO MUCH WORSE THAN FEARED

Independent studies reveal that the contamination of native maize by genetically modified varieties in Mexico is much worse than feared. The following findings were released on 9 October 2003 in Mexico City:

·        Contamination has been found in cornfields in the states of Chihuahua, Morelos, Durango, Mexico State, Puebla, Oaxaca, San Luis Potosí, Tlaxcala and Veracruz

·        Analyses show contamination with the genetically modified (GM) variety Starlink, prohibited for human consumption in the United States

·        Some plants found to show presence of two, three and four different GM types, all patented by transnational biotechnology corporations

At the press conference were representatives of indigenous and farming communities from the states of Oaxaca, Puebla, Chihuahua, Veracruz, and the Center for Studies on Rural Change in Mexico (CECCAM), Center for Indigenous Missions, (CENAMI), Action Group on Erosion, Technology and Concentration (ETC Group), Center for Social Analysis, Information and Popular Training (CASIFOP), Union of Organizations of the Sierra Juarez of Oaxaca (UNOSJO), Jaliscan Association of Support for Indigenous Groups (AJAGI) who shared the results of their own independent studies.

The analyses were carried out on 2,000 plants (in 411 groups of samples), from 138 farming and indigenous communities. In 33 communities (24% of total samples) from nine states, the tests found some presence of transgenes in native corn. The results show percentages of contamination that run from 1.5% to 33.3%, in a second round of analysis.

In the nine states that tested positive, genetic contamination was found that coincides with the protein Bt-Cry9c, that identifies the corn variety Starlink, patented by Aventis (Bayer), prohibited for human consumption in the United States and nowadays taken off the market. In these same states, other strains of Bacillus Thuringiensis (Bt), used in creating transgenic Bt corn varieties by companies including Monsanto and Novartis/Syngenta, were found, as well as presence of the protein CP4-EPSPS patented by Monsanto and used to create corn genetically modified to resist herbicides.

The analyses were carried out with commercial detection kits of the Agdia brand, applying the DAS ELISA test. The first round of tests were done by the members of the communities and organizations themselves, with the technical assistance and support of biologists from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). The second round of tests was carried out by a company that distributes the kits in Mexico.

“Our analyses confirm the findings of contamination of native corn that were released to the public previously by researchers Chapela and Quist of the University of California at Berkeley, and by the National Institute of Ecology (INE) and the National Council on Biodiversity (CONABIO). Now we see that the contamination has spread at least to the South, Central and Northern regions of the country,” stated Ana de Ita of CECCAM.

She added that “This is just a small sample, but it indicates the seriousness of the problem. If we’re finding contamination in random samples from indigenous and farming communities far from urban centers and in communities that have traditionally used their own seed, then the problem is much more widespread. The presence of Starlink is especially serious because it ends up in the corn these communities consume. The plants in several communities that contain two, three and even four different transgenes together indicates that the contamination has been around for years, and that contaminated maize on small farms has been cross-pollinating for generations to have incorporated all these different traits in its genome.”

Silvia Ribeiro of ETC Group warned that “Recent U.S. production of corn genetically modified to produce substances ranging from plastics and adhesives, to spermicides and abortifacients poses an even greater risk of contamination. There have already been cases in Iowa and Nebraska of accidental escape of corn modified to produce non-edible substances. If we’re already finding contamination in remote areas of Mexico, where cultivation of GM corn is prohibited by law, how can we guarantee that these other types won’t spread as well?”

The other concern raised by Ribeiro is that like all GM products, the proteins detected are all under patent. Monsanto corporation that accounts for 90% of the world market in GM agricultural products already won a lawsuit against Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser claiming unlicensed use of their patent, even though Schmeiser’s fields were inadvertently contaminated by Monsanto’s GM canola. There are currently 2,000 similar cases filed by Monsanto and other biotech corporations against farmers in Canada and the U.S.

In light of these worrying findings, Mexican indigenous and farming communities are demand a halt to corn imports and the continuation of the moratorium on sowing GM maize. They also call for the rejection of the Bill on Biosafety currently before the Mexican Congress, arguing that in its current form the Bill would legalise contamination.

We reproduce below the summary of the results of these latest studies.

With best wishes,

Lim Li Lin and Chee Yoke Heong

Third World Network

121-S Jalan Utama

10450 Penang

Malaysia

Email: twnet@po.jaring.my

Website: www.twnside.org.sg

 

REF: Doc.TWN/Biosafety/2003/B

 

Summary of results of the tests for genetic contamination of native corn,

Mexico 2003

 

The analysis were carried out on 2,000 plants (in 411 groups of samples), from 138 farming and indigenous communities. In 33 communities (24% of total samples) from the states of Chihuahua, Morelos, Durango, Mexico State, San Luis Potosi, Puebla, Oaxaca, Tlaxcala and Veracruz, the tests found some presence of transgenes in native corn.

All the communities that participated in this study practice campesino, or small-scale agriculture, using family labor, and little or no chemical inputs. The corn produced is destined primarily to family consumption and is sown on plots of between one and two hectares, using their own stores of saved native seed. Most of the communities are located in regions far from urban centers. Each one of the communities participating in the study defined the size of its sample and the plants were selected at random, taken from the corners and center of each plot.

In January 2003, 105 groups of leaves from 520 plants were analysed from the states of Puebla, Veracruz, Chihuahua, San Luis Potosí, Mexico State and Morelos. In August of 2003, additional samples from the state of Tlaxcala were analyzed that also tested positive using the same method described below.

Based on tests to determine the presence of endotoxins through the DAS-ELISA technique, using commercial kits manufactured by Agdia, with a reader of optical density and a filter of 620 nm, the first test was carried out to determine the presence or absence of five types of proteins that are present in GM organisms. Four of these detect the toxin Bacillus Thuringiensis: Bt-Cry 1Ab/1Ac, Bt-Cry9C, Bt-Cry 1C y Bt Cry2a, and one detects herbicide-resistant CP4 EPSPS.

Of these 105 samples, gathered from 95 plots in 53 communities, 48.6 % tested positive for transgenic proteins. 17% of the samples were positive for three or more, 13% were positive for two or more, and 18.6% for one.

Of the total of samples analyzed, in 21% Cry 1a/1ac was detected, among other things, and 26.67% tested positive for Cry9c (Starlink). Another 34% were positive for CP4 EPSPS.

In July/August 2003 a second study was carried out on 306 samples, made up of groups of leaves from 1,500 plants and using samples from the corners and centers of fields located in 101 indigenous communities in six Mexican states: Oaxaca, Puebla, Chihuahua, Durango and Veracruz.

The study sought to determine the presence of endotoxins through the DAS-ELISA technique, and was done by the laboratory Fumigaciones y Mantenimiento de Plantas S.C., using the Agdia commercial kits, with a reader of optical density and filter of 620 nm, diagnosing the presence or absence of three types of proteins indicators of the presence or absence of the toxin Bt that produces insect-resistant plants (Bt-Cry 1Ab/1Ac, Bt-Cry- 9C, Bt-Cry 1C) and one resistant to herbicides (CP4 EPSPS).

Of the 306 samples in total in this case-from all the communities and points of sampling-32 samples (10.45%) tested positive. 1% of the simples registered the protein Bt-Cry 1Ab/1Ac; 1% of the samples registered the protein Bt-Cry 9C; 3.6% were positive for resistance to herbicides CP4 EPSPS. 4.9% of the samples were positive concomitantly for two or three different transgenes: 3.9% of the samples for three types-two different types of Bt (Bt-Cry9C, Bt Cry 1Ab/1Ac) and the herbicide resistant CP4 EPSPS; while 0.65% of the samples registered the presence of two transgenic characteristics: CP4 EPSPS and Bt-Cry 1Ab/1Ac. The remaining 0.33% was positive for CP4 EPSPS and Bt-Cry 9C.

In 18 of the 105 sample groups, between 1.5% and 33.3% of the samples registered positive results.

Deformed plants have been found in the states of Oaxaca and Chihuahua that have tested positive for the presence of GM products.

Some commercial brands and companies that market GM products containing transgenes found in Mexican maize:

·        Bt-Cry- 9C present in the maize Starlink of Aventis (owned by Bayer), prohibited in the United States for human consumption;

·        Bt-Cry 1Ab/1Ac, present, among other commercial brands in the products YieldGard from Monsanto, Knockout from Novartis (owned by Syngenta), and NatureGard from Mycogen;

·        Bt-Cry1C in products from Mycogen y Ecogen;

·        CP4 EPSPS that identifies, for example, the GM maize resistant to herbicide RoundUp Ready Corn from Monsanto, (resistant to the herbicide glyphosate, known locally as Faena or Basta).

 

 

For further information, contact:

ETC Group in Mexico: (+52-55) 55 63 26 64), silvia@etcgroup.org

CECCAM (+52-55) 5661 1925 , ceccam@laneta.apc.org

CENAMI, cenamidad@terra.com.mx

 


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