beekeeper
Mexican beekeepers are celebrating a victory over biotech giant Monsanto after a judge in the state of Yucatán overturned a permit forbidding the company from planting its Roundup-ready GMO soybeans.

In his decision, the judge said he was convinced that there was enough scientific evidence to link GMO soybeans with the threats to bee populations, including the mysterious illness called colony collapse disorder.

According to the Guardian, the permit had originally allowed Monsanto to plant GMO soybeans in seven states on more than 625,000 acres of land even despite “protests from thousands of Mayan farmers and beekeepers, Greenpeace, the Mexican National Commission for the Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity, the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas and the National Institute of Ecology.” In the ruling, the judge noted that honey production and GMO soybeans cannot coexist in a sustainable fashion.

Honeybees are crucial to Mexico’s economy—it’s the worlds six biggest honey producer and third largest exporter, reports the Guardian, “About 25,000 families on the Yucatán peninsula depend on honey production. This tropical region produces about 40% of the country’s honey, almost all of which is exported to the EU.” 2011 sales to the EU were near $54 million.

Contamination from GMO soybeans and other crops including corn, canola, sugar beets, cotton and alfalfa, could distress Mexico’s honey production. Honey that contains pollen from genetically modified crops faces the potential of being rejected by the EU ever since  2011 when the European court of justice put restrictions into place regarding GMO-contaminated honey. “Honey with more than 0.9% of GM pollen (from an approved GM food) must be labelled as containing GM ingredients and cannot be marketed as an organic product. Some countries, including Germany, reject honey that contains any GM pollen,” explains the Guardian.

Mexican newspaper La Jornada accused the Mexican government of not taking the issue seriously and even forcing small beekeepers to take legal action against the big biotech companies—a conflict of interest if the government is really invested in eliminating hunger in the region if it cripples beekeepers’ abilities to export honey.

Another similar case in Chiapis is underway against Monsanto; the biotech giant is expected to appeal if the judge rules in favor of the beekeepers.

Find Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

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Image: Thiago Gama de Oliveira