Monsanto's GM soya comes to Chile (5/4/2007)

2.Guatemala Rejects US Ethanol Plan

Failure To Legislate Leaves Door Open To GM Products
By Beatrice Karol Burks ([email protected]) The Santiago Times, April 4 2007

Monstanto, one of the world’s leading transgenic seed producers, announced plans to cultivate Chile’s first genetically modified (GM) soya bean at the Expoagro 2007 show in Argentina last week. The introduction of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) into the Chilean farming industry represents another step backwards from President Michelle Bachelet's 2005 election campaign pledge "to not open the country to commercial transgenic crops."

Monsanto's general director for Chile, Alfredo Villaseca, alongside Chile's Minister of Agriculture Alvaro Rojas, announced plans to introduce 20,000 hectares of GM high-yield soya into Chile by 2010. An initial trial area of 5,000 hectares will be in place by October 2007.

Despite Bachelet's election pledge, there is no law to explicitly prohibit the growing of GM crops in Chile and the country refrained from signing the international Protocol of Biosecurity which monitors biosafety issues regarding GM organisms. According to internal rules of Chile's Department of Agriculture and Livestock Services (SAG), transgenic crops cannot be grown for human consumption. Scientific and experimental research, however, is permitted and many businesses within Chile develop GM seeds for export.

While home-grown GM products cannot be purchased by Chilean consumers, imports containing GM products are freely available on Chile's supermarket shelves.

The umbrella organization The Network for a Transgenic-Free Chile – which includes enviro-heavyweights such as Greenpeace and Consumers International – "energetically" rejected the move by Monsanto and Chile’s government.

"If President Bachelet promised not to open the country to transgenic crops, it's impossible to understand why the Ministry of Agriculture has given this the go-ahead," said Samuel Leiva from Greenpeace Chile. "On what basis was this decision made?"

"We also want to know whether Monsanto will have completed an environmental impact study before spring 2007 when they hope to introduce the GM soya into our country," he told the Santiago Times. "We just don't know what impact cultivating this crop will have on Chile's biodiversity."

As part of her election pledge, Bachelet also promised to require environmental impact studies for projects involving GMO's that were already underway.

The environmentalists' worries stem from the fact that without clear legislation, the introduction of GM crops could jeopardize Chile's reputation as a prominent organic producer. Cross-pollination could easily affect crops with organic or non-GM status.

Carlos Fernandez, head of the Strategic Development Unit for the Foundation of Agrarian Innovation, a strong supporter of GM technology, said Chile's producers are let-down by the SAG law, which prevents them from gaining competitive edge on the international market. He argued it is possible to grow both GM and organic products within the same country.

"To prevent cross-pollination between species you have to carefully organize production," he told "Our country already has a good history of supporting both organic crops and plants producing GM seeds, which of course, are later exported."

Fernandez is also a strong supporter of GM organisms to aid the production of bio-combustible fuel. Producing bio-combustible fuel is a costly process, but it can be made more profitable by using crops that have been genetically modified to produce high quantities of ethanol. If Chile wants to compete with bio-fuel leaders like Brazil, this may be the road the government will need to follow (ST Jan. 24).

GMOs have been legal and available in some countries, notably the United States, for nearly 10 years. Former president Ricardo Lagos started Chile's GM ball rolling when he announced a five-year biotechnology expansion plan. Despite Bachelet's promise, it appears the pro-GMO initiative has gained momentum. Specialists at Chile's Universidad Catolica have headed research into GM grapes and pine trees – the staple crops of two of Chile's most important industries: wine and cellulose – and are eager to get them to Chile’s producers.

The Network for a Transgenic-Free Chile also expressed concern that Chile's small producers could be swept into the shadows by a multinational company like Monsanto, with its US$7 billion turnover. According to the network, Monstanto's entry into Chile "ignores the interests of small-scale farmers who aren’t familiar with Monsanto's way of operating. The company grows patented seeds which require the company's own pesticides."

The anti-GM group will take their concerns to Chile's newly-inaugurated Environmental Ministry in coming weeks.


2.Guatemala Rejects US Ethanol Plan

Guatemala, Apr 5 (Prensa Latina) The US-promoted plan of using agricultural products to produce ethanol would bring a world food catastrophe, Guatemala s popular leaders and farmers stated on Thursday.

Orlando Blanco, leader of the Social Organizations Group (COS), told Prensa Latina that to use great quantity of corn and other cereals to extract a gallon of ethanol is really an offense to people who are starving.

"In the case of Guatemala," said Blanco, "this project would cause a devastating crisis because it would wipe out production of basic grains in a country where 50 percent of population live on agriculture."

He warned that since the Free Trade Agreement with United States came into force, there is a latent risk here on the idea of sowing transgenic corn, sugarcane and African palm to produce fuel.

Blanco denounced that the US does not use its own territory for this purpose, but it tries to impose these technologies on Latin America to turn it into a captive market.

This policy was condemned in a recent world forum on food sovereignty held in Mali, because it could generate more hunger and poverty, stated Aparicio Perez, from the National Rural Organizations Coordinator.


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