5 years, 19 federal courts, and David keeps fighting Goliath
By Katherine Zavala, Thousand Currents Regional Director, Latin America
La Demanda Colectiva Maíz, or the Collective Action of Maize consists of researchers, peasant farmers, artists, representatives of civil organizations, beekeepers, human rights activists, environmentalists and…lawyers.
And wow, do they need them! Below we’re sharing their report after completing five years of litigation in 19 federal courts in Mexico to prevent the widespread planting of genetically-modified, or transgenic maize. The aim of their collective lawsuit is to:
- Protect indigenous varieties of maize in the country of the crop’s origin.
- Protect Mexican peasant farmers and their families who rely on the right to the sustainable, fair, and equitable conservation and sharing of Mexico’s biological diversity.
- Protect the health of each and every Mexican since maize and its derivatives are the main ingredients in processed foods, beverages, and other consumer products.
The translated report below fulfills the Collective’s legal mandate to inform the maize-consuming public in Mexico, as well as the signatories of the collective lawsuit, about the actions and results that have been achieved in the defense of Mexican native maize and its wild relatives.
1. Interim measures to suspend the planting of GM/transgenic maize
The collective lawsuit has succeeded, by court order, in suspending the planting of GM/transgenic maize throughout the entire country from September 2013 to date.
Pre-commercial and commercial permits are suspended by court order; whereas, [GM/transgenic maize] could be planted for scientific purposes since 2016. Previous federal government reports state that in such a case, it could be suspended again if the tribunals detect (or if proven) that the bio-security measures are ineffective. However, SAGARPA (the Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food) has NOT issued any permits.
The transnational companies (Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow Agrosciences and PHI Mexico, known worldwide as Dupont) sued, and SAGARPA has tried filing 15 amparo lawsuits (a form of appeal and constitutional relief) to achieve planting GM/transgenic crops. They have sought the tribunals to protect them against judicial suspension of transgenic planting. We have won 11 amparo lawsuits and there are 4 pending to be resolved. Because of this, the SUSPENSION of transgenic planting continues.
The First Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation determined this semester that it will analyze and consider the interim measures ordered. However, it has not yet defined whether it will only decide on the constitutionality of the law applied, or whether it will also analyze all the questions against this judicial order.
PHI Mexico contested the constitutionality of Article 610, section IV, of the Federal Code of Civil Procedures because the following was applied in the interim measures: (i) to define what type of GM/transgenic maize crops are judicially suspended and which ones are NOT; and (ii) to order the government to submit reports with which, if applicable, the general suspension is reinstated.
On the other hand, from May 2016 to June 2018, SAGARPA and SEMARNAT (Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources) have submitted monthly reports to the court (some of them in an extemporaneous way) where they report that they have NOT granted or processed any type of permits for planting GMOs of maize.
In their case, they would be subject to the control and supervision of the federal judge, before, during, and after the transgenic planting authorization. The scientists of the collective lawsuit may get to know, express their opinion, and appeal the [decision] the judge makes about the glyphosate herbicide, the unauthorized presence of GMOs/transgenics, scientific research, etc.
2. Demand for Collective Action against GM/transgenic maize
Claims of the collective lawsuit
That federal courts declare that the liberation or planting of transgenic maize will damage the human right to biological diversity of native maize, current and future generations; as well as the rights to food, health, and of native and indigenous peoples. Additionally, the purpose is to deny all permits for the liberation or planting of GMOs of maize.
In five years, the following stages have been overcome: 1) preliminary admission of the lawsuit, 2) certification of the lawsuit (a stage that exceeded another 11 amparo lawsuits that the federal government and the transnational industry promoted), 3) conciliation (without having reached an agreement between the parties), 4) offering and tests preparation, and we are currently processing 5) objections and appeals on tests preparations [or “experimental” cultivation that is still allowed for research].
On one hand, by detecting that the sued transnational companies claim to justify their technology by mutilating scientific articles through incomplete translations; they were questioned just after the transnationals ratified these documents and before the court admitted them. The court was also asked to correct them in terms of the law.
On the other hand, the defendant also questioned documents of the collective long after they were ratified, even when they were already admitted by the court. Their approach was favorably processed, unlike ours. We appealed this circumstance with revocation resources.
The judge resolved this contradiction this semester by allowing the counterpart [government secretariats and food companies] to reject the Collective. Faced with this, we filed a amparo lawsuit that has recently been admitted for processing. Collective actions are designed so that those who DO NOT have the means to litigate before the courts can access justice.
To achieve this, the judges must balance the lack of means of the collective, against the disproportionate power of commercial corporations and NOT the other way around.
In addition, we have proposed and ratified new scientific studies so far this year. One of which is of official nature and has already been admitted by the judge and that verifies the illicit dispersion (NOT allowed), causing combinations of transgenes that were never analyzed or evaluated. It also shows the inadequacy of government monitoring.
The other study is to be admitted in court. It contains a meta-scientific analysis that demonstrates that modern biotechnology, or genetic engineering, produces unexpected consequences in crops.
More information can be requested by e-mail: rene.sanchez.galindo [at] gmail [dot] com