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Naturland

The indigenous Mayan beekeeper and friend of Naturland Leydy Pech received the 2020 Goldman environmental prize also known as the alternative Nobel prize. In the past, she visited Naturland's headquarters in Germany and Naturland supports her fight against GMOs in Mexico.

Beekeeping is a 3000-year-old practice carried out by indigenous Mayan communities in the tropical forests of the Mexican Yucatan peninsula. Especially Mayan women are engaged in keeping the endangered Melipona bee species (Melipona beecheii) native to Central America.

Mexico is the world’s sixth-largest producer of honey, and 40% of the nation’s honey production originates from the Yucatán Peninsula. But the bees as well as the environment and livelihoods of indigenous Mayan communities were threatened, when in 2010 Monsanto (now Bayer) began to plant GMO soy in 7 Mexican states. Soon, bees died because of pesticides, traces of insecticides were found in the local honey, forests were destroyed, and water sources were contaminated by Glyphosate.

 

Achievement of official measures to protect communities and the environment

Leydy Pech formed and led a coalition of beekeepers, NGOs, and environmentalists in a coalition known as Sin Transgenicos (Without GMOs). They successfully filed a lawsuit against the Mexican government to stop the planting of transgenic soybeans. The Mexican Supreme Court ruled that the government violated the Mayans’ constitutional rights and suspended the planting of genetically modified soybeans. Because of the persistence of Pech and her coalition, in September 2017, Mexico’s Food and Agricultural Service revoked Monsanto’s permit to grow genetically modified soybeans in seven states. This decision marks the first time that the Mexican government has taken official measures to protect communities and the environment from GM crops. But even though GMO soy is now forbidden, the planting continuous illegally. So Leydy Pech's fight against Monsanto and GMOs continues.

 

Winning the environmental prize shows appreciation for indigenous people

In her prize acceptance speech, Leydy Pech states: “The award gives me the opportunity to tell the world that the territories of indigenous people are being dispossessed by extractive megaprojects, agro-industry, tourism and others that strengthen a capitalist model that affects natural resources and our way of life. I call on all governments and world leaders to rethink more comprehensive development models that respect and recognize human rights, autonomy, self-determination of Indigenous people and ancestral heritage.”