GM farming debate in Peru
In recent months, the government and many stakeholders had been working on new laws relating to GMOs. On April 15, the President Alan Garcia and the Minister of Agriculture Rafael Quevedo approved a Supreme Decree to allow the importing into and planting of GMOs in the Peru. After its publication in the Official Journal this news caused a great deal of upset. Particularly as, the consultation process surrounding this Decree had not been public enough and lacked transparency.
On top of this, the fact that some of the advisors hired by the Ministry were representatives of international GMOs companies in Peru is symptomatic of the tricky nature of this decision. Clearly the major beneficiaries are those that are going to introduce GM plants in their production.
National organizations of small organic producers and many people involved in organic production organised large meetings in Lima to protest against the Decree and the tremendous lobbies that support it. Activists demanded a Moratorium of the decree (initially the idea was 5 years, but now they are proposing 15 years) to avoid the introduction of GMOs.
plants should be copyright free
According to the activists there are three types of problems linked to the introduction of GMOs in Peru.
Firstly, there are the safety issues about the possible effects of GMOs since, they say, these foreign organisms could be potentially damaging to our health. Secondly, there is a problem that concerns consumers and growers rights. These modified organisms fall under the protection of patent laws.The question is: what could happen if you choose not to adopt this technology and then your field gets contaminated? Or, how can you be compensated if the contamination from genetically modified genes destroys your reputation as organic farmer.
Furthermore, assuming that your field has been contaminated by alien GMOs, who owns the rights over the genetic information contained in your plants? Following this logic companies like Monsanto owes royalties to people who preserved the genetic inputs used.
Thirdly, activists complain about the possible side effects, such as the decrease of biodiversity that GMOs could have for the natural environment. Finally, Supreme Decrees such as this one on GMOs reveal the ‘dark side’ of Peruvian politics: how governments create lobbies and conduct secret negotiation with international companies without fully engaging the public.
Even though there are some elements in the protest I do not agree with, such as the worry on food safety (which, on my view is along way and hardly legal binding). I hope that the activists can succeed in obtaining a moratorium. Especially because, and this is the point where I completely agree with them, plants should be copyright free!
Despite my complete support to the protest movement I would like also to express some criticism. In fact, I believe, it has concentrated its effort just in the capital, Lima, not been able to move the regional governments that are so powerful and can make lots of political pressure to sign the moratorium.
In Peru we have at least three regional governments that in the past have been able, thanks to a regional ordinance, to ban GMOs from their land. We have also many municipalities declared by municipal ordinance GMO free. Here in Peru the regional or municipal ordinances have the category of Law. My question is: what's next? The national activism against GMOs, I think, is just starting here.
What I would like to suggest is not to restrict the protest to Lima but to cooperate with the regional governments and reach a wider audience, otherwise the movement is surely loosing a big opportunity. Let’s see what happens.
Text: Cecilia Gianella
Lima, June 7, 2011. Protest movements in Peru have succeeded in their battle against genetically modified (GM) cultivars. The Peruvian Congress approved with a great majority a ten years' moratorium. A decision that, according to some of the members of the Congress, was necessary to preserve the biodiversity of the country. This does not obviously mean that the debate on GM crops has come to an end. Peru has now ten years to reflect about the chance for its farmers to employ this type of technology. Let us see what will happen in 2021...