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Venezuela to Ban All Genetically Engineered Crops

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has blocked a plan by Monsanto to plant 500,000 acres of GE soy beans and declared his intention to ban all genetically engineered crops from Venezuela

Venezuela to Prohibit Transgenic Crops

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

CARACAS, April 21, 2004 (Venezuelanalysis.com) ? Venezuelan President Hugo Ch?vez 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 Ch?vez 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 Ch?vez 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 Ch?vez, upon learning that transgenic crops were involved. "This project is terminated."

President Ch?vez 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, Ch?vez 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 Ch?vez 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 Ch?vez. "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.

http://www.venezuelanalysis.com/news.php?newsno=1254

great news 22.Apr.2004 22:04

!

brilliant. Thanks for posting!

Chavez is a true hero 22.Apr.2004 22:57

Maximillian

Chavez is an incredibly inspiring leader, and what's going on in Venezuela, and Cuba, should be guiding lights for people in the U.S. Instead, what little we hear is nothing but paranoid agitprop.

Blanket bans on GM are a bad idea 23.Apr.2004 04:50

Techno

The technology has potential for good. Blanket bans are just as misguided as Bush banning stem cell research.

Techno is WRONG! When GM technology is ONLY owned by corporations... 23.Apr.2004 08:40

then

all GM is bad. Agreed that there is potential for the correct use of GM but NOT under the monopolic tutelage of the devilish corporations!! Until power has been rested from these agents of evil, it is not only foolish in terms of health but politically wrong to entertain ANY use of GM anywhere. Chavez cannot afford to make mistakes in judgement because he, unlike the vast majority of leaders that the shrub likes, depends on and is beholden to his people. He did the right thing in eliminating the option altogether from the country. Besides, if I am not mistaken Venezuela will probably be able to produce competitive GMs - now that will really freak out the corporate whores!!

Let me give you an example 23.Apr.2004 12:16

Techno

One of the agricultural problems in Venezuela is soil depletion due to the nature of much of the ground. If an American research lab (not Monsanto or any of that, but a university lab) developed a hardier strain of quinoa that was better-able to thrive in Venezuelan soil, would it be banned from cultivation? If so, that would just be stupid, wouldn't it? Blanket bans are rarely the answer.

No, let me give you an example 23.Apr.2004 13:42

Not buying it

Soil is not depleted "due to the nature of the ground". Technology (cash crop agriculture) destroys the earth and then you suggest technology as the solution???

Quinoa doesn't need human intervention to grow, it grows quite well in poor soils and is used to increase the fertility of nitrogen depleted (from agribusiness' abuses) soils. GMs are about one thing only, controlling nature for profit. Not saving starving kids, not curing blindness, none of that nonsense its pimps proclaim.

Your idealism is naive if you think university research is a positive alternative to corporate agribusiness, where do you think those university funds come from? Mostly from corporations. Plants and animals that have evolved upon this earth for millions of years do not need fixing by arrogant technophiles and greedy corporations.

Are you even educated? 23.Apr.2004 13:59

techno

Do you even know what GM is? It's any tweaking of a crop's genetic material. Evolution does this over time. With new technologies, it can be done directly.

"Technology (cash crop agriculture) destroys the earth and then you suggest technology as the solution??? "

Yes, in the same way that you look to technology to clean up chemical dumpsites.

Banning all GM is a dumbassed idea. You treat GM like it only has potential for absolute evil. GM has the potential to do things like make wheat stalks taste bad to locusts or help plants develop vitamin c in scurvy-prone areas. But I guess those unscurvied, unstarving kids would all be corporate whores then, right?

apparently more educated than you 23.Apr.2004 14:17

reading a little closer

Let me guess techno, you're a college biotech student? It's the same arguments year after year from you guys.

Comparing evolution to genetic engineering is about the stupidest argument you can make and I'd hope your teachers aren't making that argument; they should know better. GE makes combinations of DNA that could not possibly occur in nature. Moreover, the process of evolution is very slow to allow for natural processes to weed out undesirable effects. GE makes rapid changes that are placed in the wild without appropriate safe guards, testing, or precautions. The possibilities for disaster are tremendous. But I suspect even disaster won't change the minds of the true believers.

Countries that have banned GE food have done remarkably well, and interestingly enough many of the countries refusing to import US GE food have been in those poor starving countries. Perhaps they realize that eating food untested for long-term effects may not be such a good idea.

But make no mistake; the corporations that end up with the patents coming from academic research have no interest in feeding the hungry. The hungry are not the hungry because there is not enough food. There is already plenty of food on the planet to feed all the people, there always has been. The corporations are interested in profit and in control. If they control the food supply they can damn well demand any price they choose. Only a handful of large corporations already control most of the food supply. Does this sound like a good idea to you? How about the patenting of human, plant, and animal DNA? Does that sound like something wise? Do some reading on bio-piracy if you really want to hear the dregs of what biotech companies are engaged in.

There is no need for GE (sorry to burst your bubble) and without a need and without proper care GE may go down as a worse threat to human life than nuclear power. I would encourage you not to engage in straw-man arguments about luddism and GE being absolutely evil. Let's discuss what is happening right now, in practice, not the abstract theory.

No need for GM? 23.Apr.2004 15:24

techno

Go to the Sahel and tell the farmers there that, hey, you're doing just fine, ain't no need to try and develop hardier, drought-resistant crops.

Go on.

There are regular flights to Niamey, Bamako, and Ouagadougou.

How can you condemn, out of hand, an entire branch of science. You think that because Monsanto researches GM, that all GM from anywhere is by definition evil? That's not a very sophisticated view of the world. That's extremely parochial and conservative of you, in fact.

sad what passes for "science" these days 23.Apr.2004 15:52

reading a little closer

It seems like dogmatism has replaced serious scientific inquiry. With regard to Sahel are you really advocating treating the symptom instead of the disease? That seems extremely short-sighted to me and that short-sightedness is so symptomatic of scientific thought these days, particularly at the university level. Though most scientists who take a longer view tend to have largely given up hope for the future. If only we could have a youth inspired by science and not dogmatic adherence that would be willing to truly investigate the problems of the day with an open mind. That would be quite... evolutionary.

I warned you about the straw-man arguments; I will not engage them. As for a sophisticated worldview, I suppose I wouldn't come up with anything like "Banning all GM is a dumbassed idea". I have no desire for that kind of sophistication.

Many scientists are opposed to GE; you are following their work with an open mind, right? That is what scientists are supposed to do. Be open to criticism and work with one's peers to achieve truth; not to reaffirm one's already existing beliefs about a particular form of technology.

 http://www.ucsusa.org/food_and_environment/biotechnology/index.cfm
 http://nwrage.org/why.html
 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biopiracy
 http://www.ipcb.org/
 http://www.gene-watch.org/

I'm not sure what your objection to Gm actually is 23.Apr.2004 16:03

techno

You seem to oppose the concept of being able to copyright GM strains. I don't think they should be copyrightable either.

But the other fears seem to revolve around the notion that GM will invariably cause harm if it's introduced into the ecosystem. There's no evidence for that, especially if we're only talking about minor modifications.

That's my whole point - a blanket ban doesn't make good ecological or environmental sense. Do you find it impossible that some good could come of GM? When that day arrives, blanket bans will be tools of oppression and not progress. I hope you see this possibility.

Actually, techno 23.Apr.2004 20:09

Dio

You have carefully and accurately pretended not to see his objections.

how long will chavez last? 23.Apr.2004 22:22

brian

i suspect chavez will only anger the US all the more. He had better ewatch his back.

go to gmwatch 23.Apr.2004 22:27

brian

there are many good articles on www.gmwatch.org to show the problems with GM and how the corporations want to own the food chain. Consider the case of canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser. GM canola found its way onto his farm, leading to his being sued by monsanto. This will be the fate of all non-gm farmers.

Inspiration 24.Apr.2004 18:24

nature of things

Mr. Chavez is indeed an inspiration to all who are not covered by the veil of ignorance. It did my heart good to see someone with the courage to do what is right while knowing that the mean spirited and mis-guided corporate thugs of America are going to do all they can to destroy him.
God Bless Mr. Chavez and the people of Venezueala.

GMO never natural 25.Apr.2004 08:44

horticulturalist

Chavez is a marked man and has been ever since he stood up to the Snakes who run the corporate one world dictatorship. Since the clock is ticking he has nothing to lose in his fight against them.
As for the argument of GMO versus hybridization the technology of GMO could NEVER occur naturally, ie spider genes in goats milk, whereas hybridization couldn technically happen naturally but it may be haphazard and timeconsumming, therfore science can direct and speed up this through manipulation in the lab.

Chavez sucks 10.Nov.2004 18:32

Great White Elephant Hunter

Wake up and smell the coffee folks: www.venezuelatoday.net