Mexican Environmentalists Persistance Pays Off

By Eugenio Fernandez Vazquez* (IPS)

Photo: A cornfield where glyphosate has been used in Mexico. Photo: Margarito Perez Retana / Cuartoscuro

HAVANA TIMES – Closing 2020 with good news, Diario Oficial de la Federacion published a decree on December 31st, announcing that “by the first semester in 2023, at the very latest,” the federal government would promote relevant legal reforms “to prevent the use of glyphosate as an active substance in agrochemicals and genetically-modified corn in Mexico.”

This is a huge victory for the farmers’ and environmental movement in Mexico. Moreover, a call to double down on efforts and the struggle to make drastic changes in Mexico’s fields.

The publication of this decree is a win for the hundreds of organizations, groups and political and economic players at every level, within the federal government and outside of it, who took on the huge political apparatus of the large national and multinational agribusinesses.

Previous versions of the draft decree that appeared over the course of 2020 showed that there were many key players from the federal government that opposed it, most importantly former Chief of Staff to the President of Mexico, Alfonso Romo, and his allies in the cabinet. Luckily, they lost and the country won.

If they didn’t get this win, it was because farmer and civil society organizations – from Greenpeace to the ANEC, as well as Ma OGM collective organizations and a long list of groups – worked tirelessly to make the issue a priority and to demand that Lopez Obrador do good on his word.

Organizations and players defending farmer lifestyles and the environment did the tedious job of not letting a single day go by without going over published decrees, media articles, to convince players at every level and from every sector, and if they hadn’t done this work, they wouldn’t have managed to make such monumental progress.

But no matter how big and great this win is, it’s still just a first step.

Glyphosate isn’t the enemy that needs to be defeated, it is just one of its tools. The enemy that needs to be slain is this industrial farming that prevails today, which creates obese and malnourished citizens, poor farmers and rich multinational companies.

In order to slay this enemy, we need to not only fight to stop what harms us, but advance with a restorative agricultural policy. One that leads to inclusive and diverse rural and food economies, that offers farmers a ticket out of poverty and redistributes wealth. One that opens a door towards a new relationship with its fields, forests, jungles and deserts.

This glyphosate win isn’t the only progress recorded during this administration’s term in power. Although some advances have been so meek they are almost like nothing has been done.

For example, the Sembrando Vida (Planting life) program has great potential. There are testimonies in many places that allow us to be moderately optimistic about it.

However, other testimonies wear this optimism down. They confirm it is a lot like “being paid to do very little or nothing”, something done in previous six-year terms. Such has contributed to unravelling the organizational fabric in vast regions of the country. The lack of transparency that exists in Mexico means we don’t exactly know what’s going on with the program.

In any case, the new decree proposes commitments that can serve as an anchor and reference for future battles in this war to defend Mexican fields, the planet, and farmers and other world citizens, and works against those who want to snatch away our natural resources and fill their pockets at our expense.

It’s important to note that the objective of the decree is to replace glyphosate with “sustainable and culturally-adequate alternatives. Ones that allow production to remain the same and are safer for human health, the country’s biocultural diversity and the environment.”

This phrase includes a commitment that will not manifest by itself. We must demand that it is upheld every day.

* Eugenio Fernandez Vazquez, environmental consultant at the Mexican Center of Environmental Experts and Management.

Read more features from Latin America here on Havana Times.

This article was originally published by Pie de Página, on the Mexican platform Periodistas de A Pie.