Monsanto and AMLO’s Train are killing the bees in the Yucatan Peninsula


The company’s illegal agro-industrial practices and now the Mayan Train have made the bees disappear.

YUCATAN Mexico – A 67-minute documentary “Qué les pasó a las abejas?”- What Happened to the Bees? (2019), directed by Robin Canul Suárez and Adriana Otero Puerto, was made to make visible the negative impact of the planting of transgenic seeds and the excessive use of pesticides by the Monsanto company in Mayan territory. This area is now also in danger by the “Mayan Train”.

Hundreds of thousands of bees have died due to this kind of agro-industrial practice. According to the film, there are land, water, and soil contamination, threatening people’s health. The film premiered at DocsMX Documentary Film Festival in Mexico City 2019 screened by streaming at Ambulante en Casa, last May 20, World Bee Day.

Canul Suárez (Mexico, 1985), who co-directed and worked on the photography of this his first film, tells Proceso magazine via telephone, that as a journalist he covered several years of this battle of the ladies of Hopelchén, Campeche (where the film is located), who not only focus on the care and preservation of native bees but also defend that territory: “I felt that that battle deserved a documentary record in a closer way. We had the opportunity to team up with Adriana Otero and visited the place, with a more organized work.”

Otero Puerto (Mexico, 1989) also wrote the script, and Maricarmen Sordo Aguilar was also involved in the photography. They co-produce Abeja Cine, Caja Negra, and the Fund for Quality Film Production (Foprocine).

In What Happened to the Bees, Gustavo Huchin and Leydi Pech, activists and members of the Chenes Mayan Community Collective tell how after thousands of bees died in the state of Campeche, the beekeeping communities and their representatives decided to detect the cause.

In 2012 Monsanto obtained a license to plant GM soy in their territories, with the Mennonites, so they decided to confront the authorities. This international company, which uses glyphosate, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), “is carcinogenic to humans.”

On Nov. 4, 2015, when the documentary began, the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN) ruled in favor of the indigenous Mayan communities. It ordered the suspension of the permit to plant GM soy, marketed by Monsanto, while an indigenous consultation was taking place in the states of Campeche and Yucatan. But cultivation continued, and the discussion did not advance.

The documentary contains two years of continuous recording, reports Canul Suárez, who has collaborated with Tierra Adentro magazine and books from the now-defunct National Council for Culture and the Arts (Conaculta) “We filmed during the process of the indigenous consultation for the planting of transgenic soybeans. We were able to see the government’s position. How they give the green light to the expansion and export of soy, how the communities denounce that this model of development damages their traditional ways of life and progress, and how the Mennonites are participating.

The photographer says that “most of these policies have been built exclusively and should not be repeated in the implementation of other mega-projects, such as wind and solar parks or the Mayan Train.”

With the high presence of diseases caused by pesticides, Pech fears the worst in the face of Covid-19: “People’s health is not 100% in Mayan territory. We don’t have the conditions to withstand the pandemic, because we are not completely healthy. We are largely vulnerable communities.”

-Will the Mayan Train affect the bees? – Every mega-project in a rural area is harmful. Whether it is the Mayan Train, agro-industry, or wind energy, they all affect water and forests. The reproduction of critical ecosystems of animals and plants is cut off. The rights of the natives can no longer be violated. Decisions cannot be made for projects that affect the lives of indigenous communities. There are bees all over the Peninsula”.

Pech is part of the Mayan Alliance for the Bees of the Yucatan Peninsula. The organization that in December 2018 asked the government of President López Obrador to ban GM soy and the use of agrochemicals. The activist finally points out: “This is not just a defense of where the Train will pass, but of all our Mayan territory. It will be challenging, but we Mayans have strength, and we have learned that struggles are a very long process. It’s a mission that we pass on to new generations.”


The Yucatan Post