Bayer AG, the German pharmaceutical giant that owns the Monsanto Corporation’s portfolio of glyphosate-based products in the Roundup weed killer line, has put pressure on Mexico to drop its proposed ban of the controversial herbicide.
A report by The Guardian says that internal government emails show that Bayer, along with lobbyist CropLife America, have been working closely with US officials to pressure Mexico to drop the ban, which calls for the gradual phase out of imported genetically-engineered corn and glyphosate by 2024.
This pressure, says The Guardian, has been orchestrated for the past 18 months, and mirrors the efforts by American industry and government officials that eventually led to the government of Thailand reversing course on a glyphosate ban in 2019.
However, The Guardian claims that thus far, the pressure being placed on the Mexican government is apparently not working.
The internal emails were obtained by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) via the Freedom of Information Act and shared with the Guardian, which reviewed emails obtained from the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) and other US agencies. Considering that Mexico is the biggest customer of U.S. corn, purchasing over $2.5 billion a year, US trade officials are obviously worried about the proposed ban. The Guardian suggests a high level of frustration on US officials’ part.
In one email, the staff of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, is described as “vocal anti-biotechnology activists”. And another email states that Mexico’s health agency (Cofepris) is “becoming a big time problem”.
CropLife (which is funded by Bayer), the EPA and USTR are hoping that the ban will essentially be nullified via the USMCA (United States-Mexico-Canada-Agreement) trade pact.
In response to the pressure being placed on the Mexican government to reverse course on the proposed glyphosate ban, a biologist with the Center for Biological Diversity said, “We’re seeing more and more how the pesticide industry uses the US government to aggressively push its agenda on the international stage and quash any attempt by people in other countries to take control of their food supply.”
Although the glyphosate ban proposal by Mexico’s Agriculture Department was announced mid-December last year, growing concern over that country’s agricultural policy by US interests has has been mounting since at least 2019, when Mexico began refusing glyphosate imports from China, The Guardian reports.
In addition to corn imports being jeopardized, US agricultural and trade interests are concerned that soy imports to Mexico would be greatly reduced. Over 90% of the corn and soy grown in the U.S. comes from genetically-engineered crops. A majority of GMO crops are sprayed with glyphosate-based herbicides.
The world’s best-selling brand of glyphosate-based herbicide, Roundup Weed Killer, has been the focus of over 125,000 lawsuits. Plaintiffs who have filed Roundup claims allege the product caused them to develop cancer, most notably the rare type that strikes the lymphatic system: non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
In June 2020, Bayer announced it would settle the majority of these lawsuits for over $10 billion. More recently, Bayer proposed settling any future Roundup lawsuits for an additional $2 billion.
The Roundup lawsuits mostly involved users of the product for agricultural and landscaping purposes. In 2015, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer classified glyphosate as probably carcinogenic to humans. When it comes to the health risks of glyphosate via the food supply, as in GMO corn and soy, as well as oats, hummus and many other foods, The Guardian says “the agrochemical industry and US regulators maintain pesticide levels in food are not harmful.”
However, many scientists disagree and say even trace amounts can be dangerous, says The Guardian.
Read the full report by The Guardian here.