Domingo, 16 de Diciembre de 2018
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Military companies promote the introduction of GM crops on the island, behind the people's backs

Brazilian president Lula da Silva visited Cubasoy fields in 2014. (CUBADEBATE)

Military companies, such as Cubasoy, are currently spearheding efforts to introduce GM (Genetically Modified) crops onto the island, behind the people's backs and with scant transparency, according to a report on environmental issues published by People in Need, in cooperation with Cuban environmentalists.

The country's meagre economic liberalisation has different consequences, and the proliferation of GM crops for human consumption is the "most significant and dangerous" example of this, the report emphasises.

According to this research, this trend means that these types of crops are being introduced into Cuban agriculture, "particularly corn and soybeans, which are part of the people's basic diet on the island."

The report condemns the fact that "the process is being carried out without informing the public of these characteristics and their possible environmental/ hygienic implications." All this is possible because even though there are "outdated restrictions" in place, the change is taking place in a context in which there are no "democratic institutions or citizen oversight of any kind."

Cuba does not have any legislation prohibiting the production, use or consumption of Genetically Modified Organisms. However, in 2010 the Government signed the Cochabamba Declaration, which categorically condemns the growing of these kinds of crops.

But the signing of this declaration has not prevented the Government itself from promoting the production of transgenic organisms. It does so through the Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, working on the production of various transgenic organisms: corn, soybeans, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, potatoes, rice and claria.

The absence of environmental activism, given the control over associations and independent initiatives in Cuba’s totalitarian society, further hamper protest and opposition to this trend.

And the national press rarely uses the word "transgenic" in information related to these types of crop.

As an example, the study refers to a report presented in December 2014 at the National Assembly of People's Power by the Cuban Interior Ministry's Agricultural Business Group (a military unit).

In the document, the company says it aims to bolster "the indispensable relationship between the Agricultural Business Groups and research centres to apply the latest agro-technological advances." The authors of the People in Need report state that this is a euphemism to avoid any use of the word "transgenic."

The report also indicates that the Cuban authorities have failed to conclusively demonstrate the safety of GMOs with regards to human health and the environment under the specific conditions of each site.

In fact, such evidence does not exist in Cuba, which "approved, in record time, the release of FR-BT1 transgenic corn, disregarding the recommendations of experts and the request for a moratorium on the process."

The study indicates that these "anti-environmental" practices entail the recovery of a conventional agricultural model defined by high yields, great dependence on external decisions, and in which the grower is deprived of autonomy.

"GMO-based agriculture, in addition to not guaranteeing truly higher yields, leads to the deterioration and loss of agricultural biodiversity, and favours the privatisation of and control over seeds," says the report.

The door is opened to transgenics

This would be an "imminent danger, with the presumed entry of American agriculture into the island's productive dynamics."

The report points out that approximately 70% of processed foods in the US contain transgenic products, mainly corn, soybeans, cotton, sugar beet, rapeseed, and growth hormones for livestock.

Due to their saturation of the market, and strong opposition to their agricultural products in Europe, US seed and agribusiness firms have turned their sights on China and Latin America.

The main players at the international level are Monsanto, DuPont and Dow Chemical, as well as Germany's Bayer, and Switzerland's Syngenta (both already in Cuba). Many of these large companies have formed the US Agriculture Coalition for Cuba (USACC) for the alleged purpose of achieving an end to the embargo."

According to Greenpeace GMOs form part of an industrial agriculture model that is destructive because it demands large amounts of water and oil.

It is also associated with the deforestation of ecosystems; applies chemical products (fertilisers and pesticides) that release greenhouse gases, like N20 (nitrous oxide), which is the largest agricultural contribution to climate change; harms small farmers and producers; and places the control of agriculture in fewer hands.

The organisation notes that GMOs are new kinds of living beings that have never existed in nature before, created in the laboratory by manipulating genes. More and more scientific data substantiate the risks they pose to human health and the environment.