Mexico City — The Mexican government has put the brakes on its plan to ban the use of the herbicide glyphosate in view of the risks it would pose for food sovereignty, and amid warnings from farmers about the impact on food production levels and inflation in the cost of basic foodstuffs.
In 2020, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador proposed the elimination of the agricultural use of glyphosate because “it is proven” that it damages health, and ordered the drawing up of a reform to ban its use.
However, this week the president reversed the proposed ban, arguing that so far there is no low-cost, non-chemical alternative to glyphosate that does not harm farmers.
AMLO, as the president is known, set out to achieve food sovereignty during his 2018-2024 administration, but the ban he ordered on glyphosate could hinder his six-year goal, despite the fact the ban aimed to protect the health of Mexicans.
On December 31, 2020, the President published a decree ordering the Ministries of Environment and Natural Resources, Health, and Agriculture and Rural Development, as well as the National Council of Science and Technology, to promote reforms to prevent the use of glyphosate as an active substance in agrochemicals.
Reform stalled in the Senate
Senators Margarita Valdez and Ana Lilia Rivera, both from AMLO’s national renewal party (Morena), proposed reforms to the health law for the progressive prohibition of highly dangerous pesticides, but now AMLO has halted the proposed reform.
Ricardo Monreal, president of the Senate’s political coordination committee, said Wednesday that the government has requested not to rush the ruling that aims at banning glyphosate.
“The interior minister told me that AMLO had requested a more in-depth study on the impact of this legislative measure [the ban on glyphosate], and that we should wait.”Ricardo Monreal president of the Senate's political coordination committee
Monreal said that the glyphosate issue has split the Morena party in the Senate, and that, according to Economy Minister Raquel Buenrostro, an opinion will be issued on the impact the ban would have.
President López Obrador said in his morning conference on Tuesday of this week that his government has limited the use of glyphosate, the most widely used herbicide in the world in agriculture, but that its use cannot be prohibited outright until an alternative is found.
Greenpeace points out that the chemical is associated with health effects ranging from dizziness and skin irritations to the development of cancer.
What would banning glyphosate in Mexico imply?
Within AMLO’s own government there are also doubts about the prohibition of the agrochemical.
Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Victor Villalobos said on October 26 that the overnment does not promote the use of glyphosate and, on the contrary, it is complying with the presidential decree to gradually replace it, however, he warned that the immediate prohibition of its use would impact the country’s food security, and have inflationary effects.
“We must responsibly warn of the risk to food security that an immediate ban on the use of glyphosate and pesticides would imply, as it would impact production in terms of yields and costs, as well as the availability of food, and would put upward pressure on the price of basic foodstuffs.”Victor Villalobos, Mexico's agriculture and rural development minister
Villalobos said it is estimated that between 30% and 40% of the production of around 64 agricultural crops would be affected by banning glyphosate, and that viable alternatives will be required to control weeds, pests and diseases.
“Currently, alternatives to glyphosate and pesticides are limited, less efficient in control times and more expensive,” he said.
Luis Eduardo González, president of the Mexican Union of Manufacturers and Agrochemical Producers (UMFFAAC), said that stopping the use of glyphosate, which is used to control weeds, would affect small farmers who work 60% of the country’s land, and who do not have the necessary tools and who use such products to lower their production costs and have higher crop yields.
Marte Nicolás Vega, president of the Confederation of Agricultural Associations of the state of Sinaloa (CAADES), said that any product used in agriculture, be it chemical or organic, must be authorized and regulated by the Federal Commission for Protection against Sanitary Risks to guarantee that its use does not represent a risk to farmers’ and consumers’ health.
Both UMFFAAC and CAADES agreed that, if glyphosate were to be completely banned, it would affect the production of grains such as corn, increasing the price of tortillas, a basic foodstuff in Mexico, as well as other foods of animal origin, which would impact the price of the basic food basket.