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POLICY & REGULATION: United Nations special rapporteur on the right to food calls for transgenic corn ban in Mexico



                                  PART 1


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TITLE:   UN CALLS FOR TRANSGENIC CORN BAN

SOURCE:  Latinamerican Press, Peru

AUTHOR:  

URL:     http://lapress.org/articles.asp?art=6410

DATE:    30.06.2011

SUMMARY: "A United Nations food expert urged the Mexican government to resume a moratorium on genetically-modified varieties of corn. [...] ?In the long term, the continuous improvement of landraces by farmers´ practices of saving, re-sowing and exchanging seeds best suited to specific environments is crucial to effective protection against the unpredictable,? said De Schutter, after visiting with Mexican government officials. He added that poor farmers would become gradually dependent on seeds protected by intellectual property rights and that they would be reliant on a product out of their economic reach."

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UN CALLS FOR TRANSGENIC CORN BAN

Special rapporteur urges country to resume prohibition of genetically-modified version of key crop in both experimental and commercial stages.

A United Nations food expert urged the Mexican government to resume a moratorium on genetically-modified varieties of corn.

Following a visit to Mexico, Olivier De Schutter, the United Nations special rapporteur on the right to food, on June 21 said the introduction of genetically-modified varieties of the country?s staple crop would threaten Mexico?s crop diversity, which he called ?a crucial asset in the face of future threats and unpredictable changes brought about by climate change? and necessary in fighting hunger.

In 2009, Mexico revised its biosafety legislation, lifting a decade-old ban on genetically-modified corn, sparking an outcry from environmentalists, human rights activists, and small-scale farmers who said the move favored the big agribusiness and put their native varieties that have fed the population for thousands of years, at risk.

Earlier this year, the state legislatures of Michoacan and Tlaxcala banned genetically-modified corn from being planted, either commercially or in trials.

?In the long term, the continuous improvement of landraces by farmers´ practices of saving, re-sowing and exchanging seeds best suited to specific environments is crucial to effective protection against the unpredictable,? said De Schutter, after visiting with Mexican government officials.

He added that poor farmers would become gradually dependent on seeds protected by intellectual property rights and that they would be reliant on a product out of their economic reach.

Mexico?s current farm policy that favors large-scale producers and the wealthiest states, showing an ?unacceptable bias in a country that has 80 percent of its farmers with less than 5 hectares [12.4 acres],? he said. ?Agricultural programs is an area in which large improvements should be made.?



                                  PART 2

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TITLE:   UN EXPERT URGES MEXICAN ?STATE OF EMERGENCY? TO BATTLE FOOD POVERTY AND OBESITY

SOURCE:  United Nations News Centre, USA

AUTHOR:  Press Release

URL:     http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=38782&Cr=mexico&Cr1=

DATE:    21.06.2011

SUMMARY: "A United Nations food expert has called for a ?state of emergency? in Mexico to battle both food poverty and obesity, and suggested that changes to the country?s agricultural policies could tackle the two problems simultaneously. [...] Mr. De Schutter also called for a moratorium on field trials of genetically modified maize and said the Government should prevent the introduction of transgenic maize, claiming they would not benefit most farmers since it would lead them to gradually depend on seeds protected by intellectual property rights that may make farming prohibitively expensive."

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UN EXPERT URGES MEXICAN ?STATE OF EMERGENCY? TO BATTLE FOOD POVERTY AND OBESITY

A United Nations food expert has called for a ?state of emergency? in Mexico to battle both food poverty and obesity, and suggested that changes to the country?s agricultural policies could tackle the two problems simultaneously.

Olivier De Schutter, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, said that some 19 million Mexicans are food insecure, ?but at the same time, Mexico is one of the countries most severely affected by overweight and obesity, second only to the United States.?

?A state of emergency should be declared,? he said at the end of a week-long visit to Mexico, according to a press statement released by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

Mr. De Schutter said both undernutrition and overnutrition are the result of several factors, including monocropping and export-led agriculture at the expense of healthy and diverse diets, policies skewed towards the interests of rich farmers rather than smallholders, and marketing of energy-rich foods by companies.

?Agricultural policies and social policies aiding consumers should be made mutually supportive and support local food systems that could present most benefits for consumer and small-scale farmers alike,? he said.

?For instance, existing food aid programmes should source more of their food supplies from small-scale, local producers to increase their incomes and to ensure the provision of fresh foods to consumers.?

Mr. De Schutter also called for a moratorium on field trials of genetically modified (GM) maize and said the Government should prevent the introduction of transgenic maize, claiming they would not benefit most farmers since it would lead them to gradually depend on seeds protected by intellectual property rights that may make farming prohibitively expensive.

?The introduction of GM maize in Mexico will pose a serious threat to agrobiodiversity, a crucial asset in the face of future threats and unpredictable changes brought about by climate change,? he said.

The Special Rapporteur said agrarian reform ?should focus on smallholders and aim at scaling up agroecological techniques. It should start by developing pro-poor agricultural policies: the current policies favour the richest states, the richest municipalities and the richest producers.?

Mr. De Schutter, who serves in an independent and unpaid capacity, reports to the Human Rights Council in Geneva.