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Mexican Government Reaffirms GM Maize Contamination

The Government of Mexico has has reaffirmed its report of a finding of transgenic maize in the country, although there is a ban on growing the crops there. A study in Nature by David Quist and Inigo Chapela indicated that maize landraces were contaminated with genetically modified varieties, but the journal had disowned the paper over concerns about the methodology used.
"Genetic contamination of wild Mexican varieties is taking place," Exequiel Ezcurra, president of the National Ecology Institute at the Mexican environment ministry, told the Mexican newspaper La Reforma. "On average, 8% of plants showed signs of GM contamination, although in other fields we found more than 10%"
A study was conducted in the mountain range of Juárez, Oaxaca, and the Valley of Tehuacán, Puebla. The pattern of contamination indicated that there was more around major roads and where modern cultivars were grown. The Secretaría de Medio Ambiente y Recursos Naturales (Secretariat for the Environment and Natural Resources) reported the presence of GM maize in Mexico in a statement in September 2001.
Patrick Mulvany, of the Intermediate Technology Group said "There are real possibilities that the problem extends to all the country, with which the genetic integrity of maize would be lost". Mulvany said that "the fact that the greater levels of contamination are near the highways, indicates to us that the contamination is arriving by that route, via the northern border with the USA."
Although still the causes of the contamination are not known accurately, Ezcurra aimed that they could be due to sowing of seeds by the farmers of the region, without them knowing they were planting GM seeds from USA. An alternative was that they had entered via Guatemala where GM seeds are not prohibited. "It does not matter who is the culprit but we must protect our traditional varieties and our centers of agricultural origin", said Ezcurra. The Mexican Government was taking great care to use a "battery of tests", to confirm their results given the debate over the methodology of Quist and Chapela.
Jorge Soberón Mainero, executive secretary of CONABIO The National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity also confirmed the findings of the study, and said that it could not confirm the origin of the gene construct as Monsanto, Syngenta and Aventis all used the same technology and confidential business information prevents disclosure of the proteins involved. "I find that extremely difficult to accept," he told The Guardian. "How can you monitor what is going on if they do not allow you the information to do it?"