Yet Another Country Delivers a Crushing Blow to GMOs

Last Update: April 19, 2023

The hits keep coming for Monsanto—and not in a good way.

Last month, a whopping 19 European member states and regions informed the European Union’s European Commission that they would not be growing Monsanto’s newest genetically modified seed, MON819. These member states used an opt-out clause embedded in Europe’s policy on GMOs, sending a strong message that they believe genetically engineered seeds are a threat to human and environmental health.

Then, last week, Monsanto and other biotech firms got hit again, this time in Central America, as judges in two separate court cases in Mexico delivered victories to environmentalists and good food activists regarding GMO corn and soy. In the first decision, a federal judge in Mexico upheld a 2013 law suspending the planting of genetically engineered corn—despite more than 100 challenges by agribusiness and government interests. Last week’s ruling on genetically engineered maize came after the 2013 ban was overturned in August, opening the door for Monsanto to double its sales in Mexico over the next five years.

It appears Monsanto will have to look elsewhere for increased profits, however, especially after the second court defeat it was dealt last Wednesday. The Mexican Supreme Court sided with Maya beekeepers on the Yucatan peninsula who had filed injunctions to stop the planting of Monsanto’s soybeans in the region. The organizations filing the injunctions—which included Greenpeace, Indignación, and Litiga OLE—stated that GMO soy puts honey production and more than 15,000 Maya farm families at risk, as “growing the plant requires the use of glyphosate, a herbicide classified as probably carcinogenic.”

The Supreme Court’s ruling halts the planting of GMO soy in the Yucatan, which had increased to more than 32,000 acres in recent years.

Referring to both cases, attorney Bernardo Bátiz, advisor to Demanda Colectiva—lead plaintiff in the maize ban case—called Mexico “a country of great biological, cultural, agricultural diversity and [therefore the courts should consider the impact of] planting GMO corn, soybeans or other crops.”

Monsanto, in a statement responding to the case involving Yucatan beekeepers, said it “does not accept” the claim that its products pose any threat to the pollinators or those whose livelihoods depend on them.

But mounting evidence contrasts with the biotech giant’s opinion. Just this past August, a study out of Great Britain found that between 2000 and 2010, as pesticide use in British canola fields increased, honeybee colonies decreased proportionally.

The two Mexican rulings certainly hurt Monsanto’s business interests in that country, but on a larger scale, they’re two more public relations disasters for a GMO industry facing mounting pressure from consumers and governments across the globe—from consumer disgust with genetic modification of our food to widespread calls to clearly label such products.

Photo credit: Claus Isenberg via Flickr

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Steve Holt

Steve Holt's stories about food, nutrition and food politics are found at Civil Eats,, Boston Magazine, and elsewhere. He's been featured in the Best Food Writing anthology. Follow his tweets and Instagrams @thebostonwriter.

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