As the Mexican Senate was hurrying up last December to pass a controversial security law that legalizes and extends military presence and powers, an environmentally harmful biodiversity law was proposed by the so-called Green Party and discreetly passed by Congress. Now, environmental organizations and activists are increasing their efforts to stop it.
The Biodiversity General Law was originally presented in 2016 by Ninfa Salinas Sada, a Senator for the Mexican Ecologist Green Party (PVEM), who environmental activists have linked with open cut mining projects before, with the support of the neo-liberal ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).
It was then approved by the House of Representatives on March 22, during a session led by the PVEM that didn't meet the minimum required standards.
“It didn't have the required quorum, it was held at closed doors, no recording was made and it exceeded the 30-minute limit needed to get the quorum,” said Adelita San Vicente, from the Semillas de Vida environmental organization.
She argues that the law is being promoted through the green party by corporations such as the Salinas Pliego Group, which currently controls a great part of Mexican public television and is getting involved with mining, and pharmaceutical corporations.
It abrogates the Wild Life General Way and opens the way for open cut mining and fracking in protected natural areas, as well as patenting and commercializing traditional indigenous knowledge, including the use of medicinal plants, seeds, insects, microbes and other biological elements by transnational companies under the “genetic resources” concept.
“We found a conflict of interest, since the promoting Senator Ninfa Salinas Sada has interests in metal open cut mining projects in Mexico. Based in the contents of the initiative, like weakening the natural protected areas concept so these destructive activities are allowed, the conflict of interests is evident,” the marine biologist and head of the Center for Biological Diversity.
The law loosens up restrictions on the Natural Protected Areas, allowing for mining activities and fracking, for which numerous environmental organizations are opposing the law, ironically promoted by Mexico's green party.
Carlos Ávila Bello, a researcher from the Veracruz University in eastern Mexico, said Ninfa Salinas is someone who “represents the private interests of the pharmaceutics, food, drinks, cosmetics and biotechnology industries.”
Indigenous groups are opposing the law since it represents the possible looting of their communal knowledge by transnational corporations, and some claim that the law ignores the International Labor Organization's 169 Convention on the right of indigenous people to be consulted by governments over pertinent issues.
The law pretends to match Mexican law with the international Nagoya Protocol, which supposedly establishes a fair distribution of benefits obtained from genetic resources for the conservation of biodiversity, criticized by environmental activists for actually allowing the privatization and exploitation of biodiversity
The Nagoya Protocol is an update for the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which recognizes “local and indigenous communities” as the owners of some biological knowledge. The concept is rejected by indigenous people because it could lead a single community to accept the privatization of resources that belong to a whole people and that should be used to benefit mankind, not a corporation.
Under the new law, a pharmaceutical company could obtain permission from a single individual to privatize the use of a medicinal plant's active components for commercial purposes.
Other famous figures of Mexico's artistic scene have joined the opposition against the law, including Ruben Albarran, singer of the award-winning rock band Cafe Tacvba, and Sergio Arau, from Botellita de Jerez, who is also involved in several social causes.
The law also lifts a restriction on the hunt of sea turtles and allows for the commercialization of endangered species such as parrots and other exotic birds.
The PVEM has been involved in several other controversial laws that have little to do with protecting the environment, such as promoting death penalty for murderers or a law that banned animals from the circus, providing no solutions for the hundreds of animals that were “rescued” and then sacrificed for the lack of a new home.