Dylan Charles, Editor
In the small Latin American country of Costa Rica, where agriculture is king and enormous corporate plantations have dotted the country-side, a subsidiary of Monsanto is making a push to plant several hectares of genetically modified transgenic corn in the Northwestern province of Guanacaste.
However, this month, a group of about 100 concerned citizens from several environmental organizations, students and farmers, mounted a spirited protest outside of the National Commission for Bio-security in Costa Rica, the board tasked with permitting this most recent attempt to infest Costa Rica with GMOs.
During a Nov. 6 protest organized by the environmental collectives Bloque Verde and the Central American Alliance for the Protection of Biodiversity, more than 100 demonstrators in front of the Agriculture and Livestock Ministry in western San José demanded the prohibition of genetically modified corn in Costa Rica. (Tico Times)
It appears that the citizens of this small country, which was recently “dubbed the happiest in the world according to the New Economics Foundation’s Happy Planet Index“, are also educated about the perils of allowing Monsanto GM seeds to get a foothold in this beautiful nation:
Farmer Juan Arriaga, a member of the environmental and agricultural organization Sol y Vida in Santa Cruz, the historic city in the northwestern province of Guanacaste, said that introducing GM corn seed in Costa Rica “means shame, hunger, dependence and illness for human beings, and for the nature and biodiversity that we constantly sell [to tourists] in Costa Rica.” (Tico Times)
He goes on to point out the nation’s discrepancy between its public relations image as a healthy and ‘natural’ place, wherein reality, Cost Rica is already heavily polluted with herbicides, pesticides and chemical fertilizers:
“The ICT [Costa Rican Tourism Board] sells the image abroad that Costa Rica is 100 percent natural, with no artificial ingredients, yet we’re one of the countries that most uses poisonous agricultural chemicals,” Arriaga said. “It’s going to be worse if they permit genetically modified corn.” (Tico Times)
The spokesperson for Delta and Pine Land (D&PL), one of the subsidiaries of multinational Monsanto vying for approval of GM corn, Eva Barbosa, maintains that the GMO crops, if introduced, would, of course, be safe amongst an enclave of non-gmo farms, that the health risks of GMO are undocumented, and that the crops would not be used for public consumption:
Barbosa said the varieties of corn the company plans on using in Costa Rica, if approved by the commission, are genetically modified to resist certain insects and to tolerate the application of pesticides. She said the seed is not for human consumption, but rather to generate more seed for export. She added that no scientifically rigorous studies exist showing that GM seeds are unsafe. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization and EFSA, Barbosa said, GMOs are just as safe as their conventional equivalents, which she said is supported by internationally accepted scientific research.
She added that although corn is openly pollinated, studies show that nearly 100 percent of pollen remains within 50 meters of the plant that emits it. Existing regulations of corn-seed certification establish 50 meters of separation with other corn crops to guarantee purity of the seed produced. (Tico Times)
One of the specific strategies employed to block this intrusion by Monsanto has been to appeal to the Ministry of Culture to have local corn varieties declared a national heritage:
According to a press release from the Culture Ministry, a group of citizens asked Culture Minister Manuel Obregón to declare local corn a national heritage, therefore affording local varieties official government protection. The request is based on the idea that a culture of corn generates different cultural products associated with many traditions that are represented in gastronomy, music, literature and indigenous culture, said Adrián Vindas, director of the Center for Research and Conservation of Cultural Patrimony. (Tico Times)
The people of Costa Rica are world renowned for their peaceful, friendly nature, but they clearly also possess a fighting spirit and unwillingness to be kowtowed by Monsanto. In 2004, Costa Rica made headlines after Monsanto quietly terminated its efforts to introduce transgenic corn to Costa Rica:
In 2004, Monsanto unceremoniously withdrew from the country after succumbing to pressure from ecological and social organizations over the company’s Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) business. Monsanto unsuccessfully courted the Abel Pacheco administration and the then-ruling Christian Social Unity, as well as the powerful National Liberation Party (PLN) to allow their GMO business to develop in Costa Rica; particularly its line of transgenic corn products like the YieldGard (MON 810) and the controversial MON 863 strain. (Costa Rica Star)
Let’s hope the National Commission for Bio-security in Costa Rica listens to the righteous concerns of these humble people and declines this attempt to use this nation as another international GMO seed farm, as it has done to the formerly pristine islands of Hawaii. The commission will vote on the company’s request Dec. 3.
In case you are uncertain of the importance of stopping GMO’s world-wide, here are 10 excellent reasons why we do not need GMO foods.