— 30 September 2011 — by M. Vargas
Great thanks to Ms. Adele Trapp for undertaking an article on the volatile issue concerning Genetically Modified seeds (GM). The decision to allow the testing of GM corn in Belize is an issue so vital and far reaching that it potentially threatens the future of food security in Belize for all generations that follow.
It seems to me that the protocol set up by the historic acts of the GOB actually prevents the importation of GM grain at this point in time. So why is it sitting in a vault at Cardi?
What folly are we playing out on the landscape of Belize?
Cross-contamination is the paramount peril for the agricultural sector in Belize with ANY introduction of GM seeds, not only due to the negative environmental implications, but the onerous legal liability that comes with the seed.
Let’s be realistic about the situation. A sterile isolated environment is the only way to test a GMO to assure no escape of pollen. Given that one of the objectives for the trial is reduction of crop damage from pest infestation, in an enclosure, how will one test the premise of pest control, if the crop is not exposed to pests?
If the trial is conducted in the open field in the “off season” as Ms. Trapp states in her article, will there even be sufficient volume of the vector in the open field to test the efficacy of the genetic gnome imprinted in the corn against the vector?
Once this pollen escapes and cross pollinates with local strains of corn, the unsuspecting and unknowing village milpa farmer, the adjacent industrial farmer, the family gardener, will be liable for potential payment of royalties to Monsanto.
While MAF states that they do not have to ratify Monsanto’s patent for intellectual property, I am sure given the financial resources of this global mega corporation, whose annual budget exceeds that of Belize by 200 times, will find a way through the legal maze to benefit itself in the end.
To protect its patent rights, Monsanto enforces a “limited use license” called a Technology Agreement. This contract shields Monsanto from liability associated with contamination of innocent, unsuspecting neighboring farmers and passes the responsibility to the GM farmer for keeping GM crops out of markets, elevators or other farmers’ fields that do not want GM crops.
In a case of cross-contamination, the victim farmer must sue the GM farmer to recover income loss from crop damages and loss of market, as the GM farmer has indemnified Monsanto against such contamination by the simple act of just opening a bag of Monsanto’s GM seed.
In turn, Monsanto sues the victim farmer for patent infringement. Quite a clever scheme.
Thousands of farmers have been sued and spied upon for alleged “seed piracy” – at least 2,391 farmers in 19 states in the United States through 2006, according to Monsanto website documents obtained by the Washington, DC-based Center for Food Safety (CFS).
A report by CFS, using company records, found that “Monsanto has an annual budget of $10 million dollars and a staff of 75 devoted solely to investigating and prosecuting farmers.”
Per the Technical Agreement, all legal disputes must be settled in St. Louis, Missouri, USA. Does this imply that US law governs over the patent issues?
Furthermore, the terms of this agreement are not negotiable, and are binding upon the parties even after the farmer ceases to plant Monsanto’s GM seed.
Has anyone in position of power considered who will step up and pay the legal bills for defending Belize farmers, large and small, from Monsanto on the alleged grounds of “seed piracy” and the infringement of patents?
To say that Belize will not register the patent will not alleviate the legal liability potential.
Gentlemen, we are playing with fire, so they say.
Ontario Village, Cayo