Mexico to Start First Genetically Modified Corn Plantings
News Oct 02, 2009
- Maja Wallengren, Sept 25, 2009
Mexico's sanitation agency Senasica gave its approval for such plantings earlier this year after years of studying the issue, the official told Dow Jones Newswires, citing a report by Senasica. The plantings will go ahead despite protests by interested parties, including environmental groups and scientists, who say that the introduction of genetically modified corn could contaminate historic varieties unique to Mexico.
A total of 26 biotechnology companies have applied for permits to participate in the pilot phase for the production of corn with genetically modified seed. The seed will be based on varieties that already have been used for more than 10 years in over 40 other countries, Senasica said in the report. The ministry contends that the use of genetically modified corn will help the country increase production and reduce grain imports. The government has yet to authorize plans for commercial production.
Mexican corn yields currently stand at an average of about 3.2 tons a hectare, up from 2.6 tons at the end 2005. But most of the country's subsistence farmers use traditional corn varieties that produce yields between 300 and 800 kilograms per hectare, according to official data.
Companies participating in the pilot plantings of genetically modified corn include St. Louis-based crop biotechnology giant Monsanto Co. (MON); Bayer CropScience, a unit of German pharmaceutical and chemical group Bayer AG (BAY.XE); and DOW AgroSciences, a unit of Dow Chemical Co. (DOW), the official said.
During the last eight to 10 years, Mexico has run experiments with genetically modified cotton seeds, saving water and herbicides and increasing production to six from four bales a hectare, the Agriculture Ministry said earlier this year.
The first plantings will be focused on seeds that have proven resistant to a variety of crop diseases, and will be planted in Mexico's 2009 fall-winter crop for which sowing traditionally starts between late September and mid-October.