GMO not Wanted
Belize, a small Carribean country is joining many other countries saying no to GMO crops.
Eighty-five percent (85%) of respondents to Amandala’s online poll say that Belizean authorities should NOT permit the cultivation of genetically altered or transgenic corn, or any other such genetically-engineered agricultural produce here in Belize.
Over the recent weeks, the public debate has been raging over whether Belize should exploit genetically modified organisms or GMOs—touted as hardy, economical and high-yield—or whether Belize should, instead, keep its agricultural sector as natural as possible.
The debate has been triggered by reports that Monsanto Bt corn, which has an implanted bacterial gene that produces a toxic pesticide from within the plant itself, has been imported into the country for test plots.
Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Agricultural and Fishers, Gabino Canto, had told Amandala that the trial run in Belize should not pose a danger of cross-pollinating other natural cornfields, since the 20 pounds of seed would be planted under quarantine, and the 6 plots of about 15 by 20 feet, to be surrounded by electric fencing, would be under the watch of a guard to discourage theft of the GMO corn.
We understand that some high-ranking technical staff in the Government service, including some who sit on the Biosafety Council, firmly objected to their superiors, and Cabinet has since declared that it will not allow the propagation of GMO seeds in Belize.
Prime Minister Dean Barrow announced on Wednesday, October 5, on the KREM WUB Morning Vibes, that the GMO corn will be destroyed with the Government Press Office as witness. We have tried to find out from Mr. Barrow if independent media can also witness the event, but we have not gotten a response to our query.
How will the government verify that no one will try to pull a fast one, by switching the Monsanto corn with regular corn?
Since Barrow’s announcement, members of the public have been advocating for confirmation testing to ensure the seeds earmarked for destruction are really the said GMO seeds.
Others are advocating for the testing of cornfields for possible GMO contamination, in light of reports from a Maya farmer in Santa Teresa, Toledo, that a Mennonite by the name Henry, from Spanish Lookout, had recently been giving out free corn seeds that he reportedly said would increase their crop yield, and that he would be back to check on the results of the crop. The Maya farmer indicated that he had gotten 10 pounds of the corn, but Henry did not return, he said.
Incidentally, the Mennonite farmer of Spanish Lookout who was supposed to help the Ministry of Agriculture with the trial planting of corn is Henry Wolfe, but no one has established whether the “Henry” the Maya farmer spoke of is this same Henry. There is also no indication what seeds have been distributed in Toledo.
A representative of Sustainable Harvest International (SHI), a Toledo-based NGO, said that they would be testing the corn in the Maya fields, in light of fears that the corn may have been contaminated by GMO corn.
At a public forum held by SHI and Plenty Belize in Punta Gorda, Toledo, on Monday, a call was made for a public protest against GMO. Residents of Toledo had said that two busloads would be taken to the nation’s capital, Belmopan, to send the message to GOB that they do not want GMO corn in Belize.
Indeed, the fight may not be over yet. Barrow has indicated that the Biosafety Council may still look at the GMO issue, but there is no rush. We note that government’s biosafety policy does take into account possible proposals to introduce GMOs into Belize, but risk assessments are mandatory before approval. Contrary to established procedure, there was no risk assessment before the GMO seeds were imported into Belize.
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