Maya beekeepers

Members of Mayan communities that signed the petition with the IACHR.

Members of Mayan communities that signed the petition with the IACHR. Credit: Robin Canul.


In the forests of Southeastern Mexico, indigenous beekeepers have tended hives for hundreds of years. Passed down through generations, beekeeping is central to the cultural heritage of Mayan communities in the states of Campeche and Yucatan.

But now, this heritage is threatened.

Farmers and agroindustrial corporations like Monsanto are growing genetically modified soy in indigenous territory, causing deforestation and health concerns. Mexico granted permits to Monsanto without consulting or getting the consent of affected Mayan communities.

The growers are spraying enormous amounts of toxic herbicide on the fields of soy, which soy has been modified to resist glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto’s RoundUp. The World Health Organization has classified it as a probable carcinogen.

Because “RoundUp Ready” soy resists the herbicide, growers no longer have to spot-treat their fields to kill unwanted weeds. Instead, they just douse their fields with the chemical. Wind carries it to homes, schools, water sources, and flowers that bees use to make honey. People who live and work near the fields are exposed to high concentrations of glyphosate, posing even greater health risks to children, pregnant women, and the elderly.

This situation is a clear violation of international law, which requires the States to safeguard the rights of indigenous people.  Seeking protection, the Mayan communities took their case to Mexico’s judicial system.

In November 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that Mexico had violated the Maya’s right to be consulted – but the judgment did not address the issue of prior consent.  The growing of genetically modified soy has not been suspended.

What is AIDA doing?

On July 25, 2016, AIDA along with colleague organizations, the Centro Mexicano de Derecho Ambiental (CEMDA); Greenpeace México; Indignación, Promoción y Defensa de los Derechos Humanos A.C. and Litiga Organización de Litigio Estratégico de Derechos Humanos A.C. (Litiga OLE) brought this situation before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, where we:

  • Requested precautionary measures asking the Commission to direct Mexico to take specific actions to protect the life, health, and physical integrity of affected communities, including:
    • Conduct health studies and, if necessary, provide specialized medical care,
    • Prevent more deforestation in Maya terrority,
    • Suspend cultivation of genetically modified soy in Campehe and Yucatan,
    • Enforce sanctions if the suspension is not respected.
  • Filed a legal case seeking to hold Mexico accountable for violating human rights. 

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