[Marxism] Venezuela to prohibit genetically modified crops

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Fri Apr 23 20:02:48 MDT 2004

Venezuela to Prohibit Transgenic Crops

Wednesday, Apr 21, 2004  Print format 
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By: Jason Tockman - Venezuelanalysis.com

CARACAS, April 21, 2004 (Venezuelanalysis.com) - Venezuelan President
Hugo Chavez Frias has announced that the cultivation of genetically
modified crops will be prohibited on Venezuelan soil, possibly
establishing the most sweeping restrictions on transgenic crops in the
Western Hemisphere. Though full details of the administration's policy
on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are still forthcoming, the
statement by President Chavez will lead most immediately to the
cancellation of a contract that Venezuela had negotiated with the
U.S.-based Monsanto Corporation. 
Before a recent international gathering of supporters in Caracas,
President Chavez admonished genetically engineered crops as contrary to
interests and needs of the nation's farmers and farmworkers. He then
zeroed in on Monsanto's plans to plant up to 500,000 acres of transgenic
soybeans in Venezuela.

"I ordered an end to the project," said President Chavez, upon learning
that transgenic crops were involved. "This project is terminated."

President Chavez emphasized the importance of food sovereignty and
security-required by the Venezuelan Constitution-as the basis of his
decision. Instead of allowing Monsanto to grow its transgenic crops,
these fields will be used to plant yuca, an indigenous crop, Chavez
explained. He also announced the creation of a large seed bank facility
to maintain indigenous seeds for peasants' movements around the world.

The international peasants' organization Via Campesina, representing
more than 60 million farmers and farmworkers, had brought the issue to
the attention of the Chavez Administration when it learned of the
contract with Monsanto. According to Rafael Alegria, secretary for
international operations of Via Campesina, both Monsanto and Cargill are
seeking authorization to produce transgenic soy products in Venezuela.

"The agreement was against the principles of food sovereignty that guide
the agricultural policy of Venezuela," said Alegria when informed of the
President's decision. "This is a very important thing for the peasants
and indigenous people of Latin America and the world."

Alegria has good reason to be concerned. With a long history of social
and environmental problems, Monsanto won early international fame with
its production of the chemical Agent Orange-the Vietnam War defoliant
linked to miscarriage, tremors, and memory loss, to which over a million
people were exposed. More recently, the company has been criticized for
side-effects that its transgenic crops and bovine growth hormone (rBGH)
are believed to have on human health and the environment. 

Closer to home in Venezuela, Monsanto manufactures the pesticide
"glyphosate," which is used by the neighboring Colombian government as
part of its Plan Colombia offensive against coca production and rebel
groups. The Colombian government aerially sprays hundreds of thousands
of acres, destroying legitimate farms and natural areas like the
Putomayo rainforest, and posing a direct threat to human health,
including that of indigenous communities.

"If we want to achieve food sovereignty, we cannot rely on
transnationals like Monsanto," said Maximilien Arvelaiz, an advisor to
President Chavez. "We need to strengthen local production, respecting
our heritage and diversity."

Alegria hopes that Venezuela's move will serve as encouragement to other
nations contemplating how to address the issue of GMOs.

"The people of the United States, of Latin America, and of the world
need to follow the example of a Venezuela free of transgenics," he said.

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