Internal government emails show actions similar to those by Bayer and lobbyists to kill a proposed ban in Thailand in 2019
Internal government emails reveal Monsanto owner Bayer AG and industry lobbyist CropLife America have been working closely with US 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.
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.
The pressure on Mexico is similar to actions Bayer and chemical industry lobbyists took to kill a glyphosate ban planned by Thailand in 2019. Thailand officials had also cited concerns for public health in seeking to ban the weedkiller, but reversed course after US threats about trade disruption.
So far the collaborative campaign to get the Mexican government to reverse its policy does not appear to be working.
The Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has given farmers until 2024 to stop using glyphosate. On 31 December, the country published a “final decree” calling not only for the end of the use of glyphosate but also a phase-out of the planting and consumption of genetically engineered corn, which farmers often spray with glyphosate, a practice that often leaves residues of the pesticide in finished food products.
The moves are for the “purpose of contributing to food security and sovereignty” and “the health of Mexican men and women”, according to the Mexican government.
But Mexico’s concern for the health of its citizens has triggered fear in the United States for the health of agricultural exports, especially Bayer’s glyphosate products.
The emails reviewed by the Guardian come from the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) and other US 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 US 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.