Bayer and US officials pressure Mexico to overturn glyphosate ban

“Will they continue the pattern of doing the bidding of global biotech/seed firms like Monsanto? Or, will the USTR respect other countries’ rights to protect the environment and indigenous crops?”

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According to The Guardian, internal government emails reveal Monsanto owner Bayer AG and industry lobbyist CropLife America have been working closely with U.S. officials to pressure Mexico into abandoning its intended ban on glyphosate, a pesticide linked to cancer that is the key ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weedkillers.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador had given farmers until 2024 to stop the use of glyphosate. 

The Mexican government has characterized the restrictions as an effort to improve the nation’s “food security and sovereignty” and to protect its wealth of biological as well as cultural diversity and farming communities, reported EcoWatch

The moves to protect glyphosate shipments to Mexico have played out over the last 18 months, a period in which Bayer was negotiating an $11bn settlement of legal claims brought by people in the US who say they developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma due to exposure to the company’s glyphosate-based products, writes The Guardian journalist Carey Gillam. 

Bayer had influenced Thailand in a similar way back in 2019 who had voiced concern over the pesticide. 

As reported by the Center for Biological Diversity, in October 2019 Thailand’s National Hazardous Substances Committee voted to ban glyphosate and two other highly controversial pesticides: chlorpyrifos and paraquat. But one month later — five days before the ban was to go into effect — Thailand suddenly reversed its decision on glyphosate. Records reveal that the U.S. government got involved after Bayer appealed to the administration to intervene on two separate occasions in September and October 2019.

The Guardian reports: 

The emails reviewed by the Guardian come from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) and other U.S. agencies. They detail worry and frustration with Mexico’s position. One email makes a reference to staff within López Obrador’s administration as “vocal anti-biotechnology activists”, and another email states that Mexico’s health agency (Cofepris) is “becoming a big time problem”.

Internal USTR communications lay out how the agrochemical industry is “pushing” for the U.S. to “fold this issue” into the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) trade deal that went into effect 1 July. The records then show the USTR does exactly that, telling Mexico its actions on glyphosate and genetically engineered crops raise concerns “regarding compliance” with USMCA.

Citing discussions with CropLife, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) joined in the effort, discussing in an inter-agency email “how we could use USMCA to work through these issues”.

The documents about the Mexico matter were obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and shared with the Guardian.

“Will they continue the pattern of doing the bidding of global biotech/seed firms like Monsanto? Or, will the USTR respect other countries’ rights to protect the environment and indigenous crops? Will they recalibrate U.S. trade policy to be more transparent?” asks the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP). 

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