Leydy Pech, a Mayan beekeeper from the Mexican state of Campeche, fought a grassroots campaign against chemical giant Monsanto to keep them from planting genetically modified soy crops in seven states in southern Mexico.
Beekeeping is an important part of Mayan culture. Mexico is the 6th largest producer of honey worldwide, and its a central part of the economy of Indigenous groups in the region. In 2012, the Mexican government granted the Monsato permission to plant GMO Roundup Ready soybeans in seven Mexican states, including Campeche, where Pech lives. An investigation into the effects of the GM soybeans shows that glyphosate, a chemical best known from the widely used pesticide Roundup, was found in the water supply and urine of people in Pech’s hometown of Hopelchén. Traces of GMO pollen was also found to be present in the local honey.
In 2015, the Supreme Court of Mexico ruled unanimously that Indigenous communities must be consulted before the planting of GM soy. Monsanto’s permits were canceled in Campeche and Yucatán states. Further organizing by Pech led to Mexico’s Food and Agricultural Service revoking Monsanto’s permits to grow GMO soy in seven states.
In a statement thanking the Goldman Environmental Foundation for the award, Pech said: “The award gives me the opportunity to tell the world that the territories of indigenous peoples 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 peoples, and ancestral heritage.”