MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico’s environment minister has resigned after clashing with colleagues over policy priorities, prompting President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador to defend the government’s green credentials on Wednesday.
Environment Minister Victor Manuel Toledo, an academic known for his views on sustainable agriculture and the environmental practices of Mexico’s indigenous people, said his decision was due to health reasons and “free from political implication.”
Toledo’s resignation had been widely speculated since a recording was leaked in which he criticized the government’s divergent views on environmental issues, specifically the use of the herbicide glyphosate by farmers.
In a resignation speech recorded alongside the president, Toledo said Lopez Obrador was due to publish a decree in coming days prohibiting genetically modified corn and confirming that glyphosate would be phased out.
He said 80 other farm chemicals should be banned in Mexico.
Lopez Obrador, who has been criticized for policies seen as favoring fossil fuels over renewable energy, said a giant tree-planting project, a ban on fracking and a moratorium on new mining concessions showed his government’s commitment to the environment.
However, he said the welfare of human beings came before nature.
Lopez Obrador said Toledo’s decision to leave pre-dated the fight over glyphosate, which is popular with farmers.
The herbicide often sold as Bayer AG’s Roundup has been linked to cancer in court cases. The company has long said regulators have deemed glyphosate safe for use by humans.
Several European countries are considering limits on its use.
Toledo, 75, will return to his prior post as a biologist at Mexico’s National Autonomous University.
Welfare Minister Maria Luisa Albores will take Toledo’s post and be replaced by her deputy minister, Javier May.
Reporting by Daina Beth Solomon and Adriana Barrera; Editing by Steve Orlofsky and Grant McCool
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