Roland Arellano suggests that some ‘high-income tourists’ come for a few days just so they can taste Lima’s famous cuisine. Peru’s gastronomy circuit could generate revenue of up to 13,000 million Euros during the festival, and with many of the tourists coming from neighbouring Chile and Ecuador, the majority within the industry rely on tourism. Without the attraction of healthy, GM free organic produce, such food fairs will have lost their showcase ingredients.
In September 2004, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) developed a framework to promote the worldwide consumption of fruit and vegetables. In times of climate change, with a growing population, they have been promoting the use of genetically modified crops that are better suited to extreme climatic conditions to improve the nutritional value of agricultural products and help alleviate hunger. However the Independent Science Panel (ISP) has criticised the FAO for its qualified backing of genetically modified (GM) crops in the global fight against hunger.
The FAO seems to ignore the implicit message of its own study (The State of Food and Agriculture), that GM crops have thus far delivered negligible benefits to the World´s poor. There is little indication that these trends will change in favour of the poor. With this in mind, and with the constant threat of water scarcity in Peru, the country’s minister of Agriculture has raised 8 main proposals for Agriculture, one of which is to implement a moratorium on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).
In the wake of the 2008 food price increase, enough food was produced to provide the Peruvian population with 2,700 calories per day, more than the recommended daily intake. In Peru, fruit and vegetables rotted in the absence of adequate transport and roads, a signal that hunger is not always a result of a lack of food, because it persists even when there is a surplus. Currently, almost a third of Peruvians do not get enough to eat. Also the ever increasing threat of climate change makes it difficult for farmers to survive. This is a reason why farmers might choose to plant GM seeds, having been promised more resistant, less water intensive crops, which produce larger yields, from companies such as Monsanto, a specialist in agricultural biology and the leading worldwide GM seed provider, which has been the spear head of GM seeds entering Peru.
Due to a previous lack of labelling laws, GM products such as chicken were, and still are, commonly eaten by much of the World’s population, many of whom are unlikely to be aware of the possible consequences. The International Journal of Biological Sciences notes that a recent study has linked some varieties of GM corn to kidney and liver damage in laboratory rats. With this in mind, the 10 year moratorium on GMOs in Peru has come too late. Even with new labelling laws it will still prove difficult to identify GM products, especially considering the ease of flight and transference between farms. This could suggest that organic crops will in the future be contaminated with pollen or seeds from GMOs.
Cross Pollination has already occurred due to the assistance of the wind and insects, and in sharing a border with Brazil, a top GMO producer, Peru will inevitably be home to GMOs, whether it wants to or not. Notwithstanding the potential impacts on health, the ensuing chain reaction and the spread of GMOs could have any number of environmental consequences.
A four-year study at the University of Jena in Germany conducted by Hans-Hinrich Kaatz revealed that bees ingesting pollen from transgenic rapeseed had bacteria in their gut with modified genes. These genes however, can mutate. Mutations may also be able to travel internally to other cells, tissue systems and organs throughout the human body. This is “not to be underestimated the potential domino effect of internal and external genetic pollution can make the substance of science-fiction horror movies become terrible realities in the future.” Sadly this is only one of the dozens of the side-effects of genetically modifying organisms.
Despite Immanuel Wallerstein’s claim that “years of uncertainty and global chaos are coming”, Peru’s agricultural sector should have cause for hope. As well as the Moratorium on GMOs the Minister of Agriculture has also called for more support for farmers, the strengthening of technological innovation in agriculture and an agricultural census, which may help track GM foods, making labelling of products more straightforward. However one can’t help but feel that the damage may have already been done, not just to Peru, but to the World.
The Western World has been consuming GM foods for over 10 years and the effects of this may be irreversible. Lim Li Ching from the ISP suggests that “if the world is to seriously address hunger, this means rethinking agriculture and associated policy making, and exploring how traditional knowledge and science can work together, while learning from farmers themselves.”
Text: Jonathan Moody