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Maize and Biodiversity

The Effects of Transgenic Maize in Mexico

This report comprises key findings and recommendations to the CEC Council concerning maize and genetic diversity in Mexico.

When it was reported in 2001 that genetically modified corn had spread among native maize land races in the high valleys surrounding Oaxaca, the familiar controversy and debate over genetically modified, or transgenic, crops suddenly took root in Mexico. 

More recently, testing sponsored by the government of Mexico has confirmed the appearance of transgenic material in the maize fields of the Sierra Norte region and elsewhere. 

Peasant farmers and many others know that open-pollinated plants like maize easily share their genes, so they were naturally concerned with questions about the effects of transgenes.

  • Were they safe?
  • What impact would the spread of transgenes to native races—and perhaps their wild relatives—have on both Mexico’s rich genetic diversity and this important global resource?

In 2002, members of Mexican civil society, international organizations and, in particular, indigenous and peasant groups from Oaxaca, requested that the CEC Secretariat initiate an independent enquiry to determine the facts.