Response to “Some truth about GMO” by Mr. Wilmot Simmons

— 04 November 2011 — by Naud Brouwer

Dear Editor,

The use of BT in organic farming is a fact; the thing is that organic farmers have used BT as a pesticide, sprayed on their crops so the UV light from the sun can break it down, and the rain could wash the BT off before any product would be harvested.

Another interesting thing is that the BT used by organic farmers for over 50 years is a weakened or almost dead bacteria. This is only sprayed in case of high insect infestation and only onto the affected area. The bacterium inside the spray contains the pro-form of the so- called BT toxin.

This is not an active component; it needs to be tailored (cut to size) to produce the active BT toxin, which is effective as a pesticide.

When the insect eats the dead bacterium, the toxin is partially digested in the insect gut by proteolytic (cutting) enzymes and converted to active BT toxin. This is actually a lectin which binds to the gut wall of the insects and this interferes with the digestion/absorption of food, thereby preventing growth, maturation, reproduction.

The actual bacterium, which is not eaten by any insects, degrades in the light/sun/rain pretty fast (less than a day). The chances of pests developing resistance to it are very low indeed, since all the pests which are exposed to the toxin are affected by it.

NOTE! The ACTIVE TOXIN can only be found IN THE GUT OF THE INSECT. (Susan Pusztai Bt in organic
farming and GM crops – the difference)

The BT produced by BT corn however, does contain high doses of the active toxin, in the whole plant. The toxin cannot be washed off, or broken down by the sunlight. It stays in the plant after harvesting. The rest material of the plant breaks down, and the BT toxin gets into the ground, and the groundwater. Because of the constant exposure to BT toxin the pests that the farmers want to control develop a resistance to the BT itself, and this means that farmers will have to start spraying even more pesticides than they had to do before with their conventional Hybrid seed.

Is BT corn safe to eat? There has not been any long term testing on humans, so we simply do not know. We do know that:

• BT is extremely similar (so much so it is difficult to distinguish without sophisticated testing) to two other bacteria: B. cereus, which causes food poisoning, and B. anthracis, which causes anthrax.

• BT secretes many of the same toxins B. cereus does when it is growing. There is mounting evidence that spores germinate in humans and can live for extended periods of time in the respiratory and gastrointestinal tract. The effect of these low level infections is unknown, but there have been isolated reports of disease caused by BT. One of the reasons BT may not be seen as a common cause of sickness is that it is very hard to test for its presence – many cases diagnosed as B. cereus gastroenteritis (a fairly common form of food poisoning) may in fact be caused by BT.

• People with sensitive immune systems could be affected in ways we do not yet know, but immune responses are seen when BT infections establish in humans.
• DDT was used for thirty years and was claimed to be extremely safe for humans. The same sort of testing done to arrive at that conclusion has been
done with BT. (Quick Bt Facts)

“Lower crop production”

I am not aware of anyone saying that there will be a lower crop production. But I do know from scientific research that the promised higher yields are not as promising as the big companies tell us.

I would like you to read “failure to yield” written by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“The U.S. Department of Agriculture data indicate that the average corn production per acre nationwide over the past five years (2004–2008) was about 28 percent higher than for the five-year period 1991–1995, an interval that preceded the introduction of BT varieties.

But our analysis of specific yield studies concludes that only 3–4 percent of that increase is attributable to BT, meaning an increase of about 24–25 percent must be due to other factors such as conventional breeding.”

Failure to yield

Another interesting research on higher yields is a study performed over 30 years.

“Organic farming is far superior to conventional systems when it comes to
building, maintaining and replenishing the health of the soil. For soil health alone, organic agriculture is more sustainable than conventional.

When one also considers yields, economic viability, energy usage, and human health, it’s clear that organic farming is sustainable, while current conventional practices are not.”

FST 30 Years

Since I am writing a letter to the editor of a newspaper and not a book, I have to leave it at this for now. I do want to challenge Mr. Simmons to come up with some unbiased (not paid for by any of the big GMO companies) research about all the issues there are about GMO corn. And I want him to convince me that there is nothing to worry about.

Naud Brouwer
San Miguel, Toledo


Miriam DeShield answers Wilmot

— 01 November 2011 — by Miriam DeShield – Original post on Amadala

Dear Editor,
Thank you for the opportunity to respond to agro-business’ representative in Belize, Mr. Wilmot Simmons, corn seed salesman of Prosser Fertilizer and Agrotec Co., Ltd., the agent for Monsanto in Belize, the pioneer corn that was imported and destroyed, was developed and the life forms patented by Monsanto who then sold the patents to agri-business’ DuPont’s Pioneer.
Firstly, comparison of the use of Bt as a naturally occurring organic pesticide sprayed on visible pest insects, and Bt as the CRY1Fa2 gene inserted by particle acceleration is worth discussion.   
Though often hailed as a precise method, the final stage of placing the new gene is rather crude, lacking precision and predictability, hence the name bio-ballistics. The construct is literally fired with a gene gun at the genetic code of the material it will manipulate.
The new gene can end up anywhere, next to any gene and even within another gene, disturbing its function or regulation, which can actually turn on or turn off other genes in the region, to unknown effects.
An example is salmon, genetically engineered with a growth hormone gene, which grew too big too fast, and also turned green. Other effects have included an increase in the production of toxins by the organisms.
Make no mistake, the genetically Bt corn is a pesticide and should not be compared to organically grown maize sprayed with naturally occurring Bt.
Mr. Simmons’ claims that public statements made in the press were “wild” does not refute the research, studies and other authoritative documents of many scientists and environmentalists who caution against GMOs, the information Mr. Simmons refers to as “junk” science.
Contrary to industry claims, GM foods are not properly tested for human safety before they are released for sale. In the US, the country from whom this recent importation was made, safety assessment of GMOs is voluntary and not required by law. Monsanto should be presenting its research in peer-reviewed journals.
The animal feeding studies conducted by GM crop developers are short in duration and use too few subjects to reliably detect harmful effects. Mr. Simmons would do well to realize that the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.
Studies on humans have not been done, but scientists are reporting a growing number of studies that examine the effect of GM foods on laboratory animals. These studies, which Monsanto goes to great lengths to discredit, are all reported in peer-reviewed scientific journals. They include problems with rats fed GM tomatoes, GM rape oilseed, GM potatoes, GM corn; mice fed GM soya, GM peas, GM corn, GM soya; and rabbits fed GM soya.
Long-term studies in livestock indicate that GM feed does have adverse effects. Liver and pancreas problems are found in sheep fed Bt GM corn over three generations; GM DNA is surviving processing which raises the possibility of antibiotic resistance and horizontal gene transfer.
GM DNA in feed is appearing in the milk and meat that people eat. In spite of these studies, GM crops that caused ill effects in experimental animals have been approved for commercialization.
While the industry conducts less than rigorous studies on its own GM products, it has systematically and persistently interfered with the ability of independent scientists to conduct more rigorous and incisive independent research on GMOs. 
Comparative and basic agronomic studies, assessments of safety and composition and assessments of environmental impact have all been restricted and suppressed by the biotechnology industry.
Patent rights are used to restrict access of independent researchers to commercialized GM seed. Permission to study patented GM crops is either withheld or made so difficult to obtain that research is blocked. The industry discredits and or muzzles scientists who do publish research that is critical of GM crops.
Aside from the possible ill effects on health with GMOs, we contend that genetically modified products do harm the environment. Farm scale trials sponsored by the UK government showed that herbicide resistant GM crops can reduce wildlife populations.
The massive conversion to GM soya in Argentina has caused a range of environmental problems, including problems for farmers in the spread of herbicide resistant weeds, soil depletion and increased pests and diseases. There is increasing worry that Bt insecticide producing Gm crops harm non-target populations, including butterflies and beneficial pest predators.
It is documented that Bt in GM crops can be toxic to water life and soil organisms.
While Mr. Simmons touts the benefits of GM products in greater yield, what he fails to acknowledge is the long recognized increase in production because of hybridization, a science which has been used for years. GM products are produced from proven hybrids with a long record of increased production.
What Mr. Simmons fails to tout are the real benefits of soil fertility and the fact that building soil has much longer positive effects on yields than does genetic modification. The USDA itself reports that after 30 years of GM “GE crops available for commercial use do not increase the yield potential of a variety.
In fact, yield may even decrease. Perhaps the biggest issue raised by these results is how to explain the rapid adoption of GE crops when farm financial impacts appear to be mixed or even negative.
At best, GM crops have performed no better than their non-Gm counterparts, with GM soya giving consistently lower yields for over a decade. Field tests of Bt insecticide producing corn hybrids showed they took longer to reach maturity and produced up to 12% lower yields than their non-Gm counterpart.
Bt insecticide-producing GM crops have led to resistance in pests, resulting in rising chemical applications, thus negating the supposed benefits of GM technology. Secondary pests which are on the increase because of the absence of Bt vulnerable pests devastate Bt cotton.
In 2007, the first reports of field resistance by the stem borer to BT corn and by the sugarcane borer were published; however, the increase in resistance to GM crops relates mostly to resistance of weeds to Roundup in GM fields. Common Roundup resistant weeds include pigweed, ryegrass and marestall. Herbicides in the US are on the increase as a result.
Mr. Simmons’ lack of concern for organic, niche, and indigenous farmers over the issue of pollinization prompts a basic lesson in the birds and the bees. Besides those and other animals as nature’s pollinators, man causes contamination during product transportation.
I refer to the recent study of GM canola bordering the highways in Canada and the US where new, unpatented strains of GM canola are showing up as GM canola is mutating and cross-breeding.
A number of years ago a study attempted to use Mexican corn as a control and discovered that more than 1,000 miles away, Mexican corn had been contaminated by US GM corn.
It would be good of Mr. Simmons to acknowledge that the new technology he promotes puts at risk many Belizean farmers, valuable export markets and the health of all of us. He would be fair to admit that this technology has not been widely tested, is not approved in most developed nations and is openly rejected in much of the developing world.
To encourage the importation of a controversial, possibly harmful technology which will certainly impact trade, environment and most probably health, without full, open consultation, and without legal issues resolved is unwise at best, and likely foolish.
Miriam DeShield


GMO – The undisclosed legal perils looming for Belize

— 30 September 2011 — by M. Vargas

Dear Editor,
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.
M. Vargas
Ontario Village, Cayo


Biotechnology Issues for Developing Countries

GMOs and Development

Edgar J. DaSilva
Director, Section of Life Sciences
Division of Basic and Engineering Sciences
UNESCO, Paris, France

Important issues such as the conservation of the environment, the energy crisis, expansion and migration of populations, use of agro-residual resources, ocean agriculture, global warming, water security, biowarfare, and emerging diseases have somehow made it to the top of the agenda of international co-operation. The perennial problems of widespread starvation linked to poverty are now back again in the limelight as a result of globalization, biotechnology and summit meetings. Novel agriculture, genetic modified organisms (GMOs), GM crops and products, and bio-based economies have been spotlighted by governmental attention and public action in recent international forums.

The UN Human Development Report 2001 (HDR) “Making New Technologies Work for Development” identified biotechnology as a key avenue for the socio-economic advancement of the developing countries. Considered as the latest frontier of the corporate world, biotechnology enriching the way we do and teach science is full of entrepreneurial opportunities for networking the technological transformation of the developing world. Such opportunities result from simple yet spectacular research in microbiology and molecular biology that closely intertwine with information technology and nanotechnology—i.e. bionanomatics.

The enzymatic machinery of the invisible microbe and genetic tailoring are being harnessed to design solutions to enhance soil fertility, increase crop yield, and engage in molecular farming for the production of new bio-products and novel crops. Use of GMOs will increase in the future to obtain a variety of bioproducts ranging from biofuels, bioplastics, biodiesel, biodetergents, biolubricants, and biopharmaceuticals to bio-ornamentals reflecting new plant and floral architecture (Box 1).

Growth of the gene-based pharmaceutical market, assessed at US$2.2 billion in 1999, for treatment of diseases not possible in the past, is now projected at $8.2 billion in 2004. Edible vaccines administered through GM-foods, and possibly in the future through breakfast cereals, will conserve more human resources at a fraction of current costs. Simply eating a banana or a potato chip with tomato paste could result in a patient receiving a hepatitis B needle-free vaccine for two cents instead of the usual US$15 for an injectable dose. In fact, GMO technology has spurred economic progress in the technically-advance societies.

Traditional chemical, metallurgy, and pharmaceutical industries already are undergoing rapid assessment and adaptation to accommodate the green component into daily production processes. Starch-based polymers have been used for water-retention in calcareous loamy soils for cultivation of mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus) in Saudi Arabia; sorghum (Sorghum bicolor) in India, tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum) in Egypt, and ornamental plants – Rosa cavina, Lotonis bainesii, Indigoferata schimperi, and Hibiscus rosa var. chinensis in Singapore, South Africa and Thailand.

Generally-speaking genetic engineering techniques have been applied to crops of the industrialized world rather than to those on which the world’s hungry depend on. Corporate research activities in agricultural biotechnology, seemingly profit-oriented, should involve resource-poor farmers from least developed countries without adding costs to their meagre household incomes, to better use new knowledge in producing higher yields of pest resistant crops, and in improving local gender and socio-economic conditions. Hunger in these countries, results from a complex situation of interconnected factors –lack of adequate purchasing power, poverty, non-availability of back-up financial facilities, low crop yields, and a deteriorating environment. Some 80 developing countries possess neither the ability to produce sufficient food to feed their own populations nor the foreign-exchange reserves to import food supplies to cover the deficits. President Jimmy Carter said: “Responsible biotechnology is not the enemy; starvation is. Without adequate food supplies at affordable prices, we cannot expect world health or peace”. Several of these low-income food-deficit countries are poverty-prone or poverty-stricken (Box 2). Poverty in urban areas in coming decades will overtake rural numbers.

The face of agriculture is expected to change in the next two decades. GMOs are widely used in the European Union (EU). At least 27 distinct plant species have been tested in Belgium, France, Italy, the Netherlands and the UK with about 70 field tests per country. Other EU countries conducting field trials were Austria, Denmark, Germany, Finland, Portugal, Spain and Sweden. Two years ago, a global review by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications of commercialized transgenic crops showed an increase of 21,1 million hectares between 1998 and 1999. Today, almost 45 million hectares of GMO crops are grown worldwide involving especially Argentina, Canada, China and the USA. In China, 13 gene-altered crops (i.e. rice, wheat, beet, potato, tomato, corn, peanut, rapeseed, sweet pepper and cotton) have been released in the agricultural sector, over a 10-year period, since 1986. Currently, some 50 per cent of all crops are engineered genetically.

Introduction of high-yielding, drought tolerant, and early ripening varieties have led to impressive gains in maize production in Central and West Africa. In turn there is development of supplementary and increased food markets in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Nigeria and Zaire. Such gains result from local collaboration in the semi-arid food grain research and development project sponsored by the scientific commission of the Organization of African Unity and the US Agency for International Development. Genetically-modified trees, have several important uses, inclusive of landscape development, and are of value in forest ecosystems and plantation use. A potential new tree crop for cultivation in saline soils, naturally occurring in Morocco, is the argan tree-Argania spinosa.

In developing countries there is widespread use of GMOs. Approximately 150 releases of GMOs have been conducted in these countries. Ten countries in Latin America and the Caribbean (Argentina, Belize, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Chile, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Mexico and Peru) were engaged in field trials with 7 transgenic crops (cotton, maize, potato, soyabean, tomato, banana and sugarcane); and countries expected to follow with such trials are Brazil, Colombia and Venezuela. Three countries in Africa and the Arab States (Egypt, South Africa and Zimbabwe), and five countries in Asia (China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand) are engaged with 5 transgenic crops (cotton, corn, potato, soyabean and tomato). And, in Africa, field trials are expected to get underway in Kenya, Nigeria and Uganda.

The beneficial aspects of GMO crops and foods for developing countries are: improved nutritional quality and health benefits; an improvement in the quantity and quality of meat, milk and livestock production; enhanced market possibilities and agronomic traits; clean and safe methods for production of edible vaccines and drugs; wider environmental impact through development of clean technologies; reduction in dependence on costly fertilizers and herbicides resulting in valuable savings for poor-resource farmers; and no evidence that commercial transgenic crops contain new allergens other than those in normal foods nor have a negative impact on human health.

Allied to such advancement are the issues of biosafety and biosecurity. GMOs have actually been one of the first beneficiaries of biosafety assessment. Guidelines and directives issued by several international and UN agencies, inclusive of the FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius Commission the universally accepted authority that sets the necessary standards, have been of great help. Nevertheless, the negative rather than the positive aspects have been retained, as is typical of human wont, in the public mind. Loss, of plant biodiversity resulting from economic reliance on a GM species for production of fruit juice; and of landscape diversity arising from demands for more land for public housing and transportation, have little to do with GMO ill effects on human health. As President Carter said: “By increasing crop yields, genetically modified organisms reduce the constant need to clear more land for growing food”.

A World Bank report on Bioengineering of Crops, in 1998, indicated the value of bioengineering in an improvement of 25% in food crop yields in developing countries. A year later the Bank, through a report on Agricultural Biotechnology and the Poor, drew attention to biosafety and ethical issues. In July 2000, a report on Transgenic Plants and Agriculture prepared by the Royal Society of London, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the Brazilian Academy of Sciences, the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Indian National Science Academy, the Mexican Academy of Sciences, and the Third World Academy of Sciences also emphasized the importance of GMO technology enhancing agricultural benefits in developing countries.

On the other hand, genetically-produced cocoa and vanilla flavours developed elsewhere are eroding export markets in Côte d’Ivoire and Madagascar, and adding to unemployment levels. Sugar biosubstitutes are affecting the export earnings of Mauritius, Cuba, Grenada, and the Windward Islands. Also, the indiscriminate appropriation of the indigenous peoples’ knowledge, and the exploitation of native intellectual property resources without adequate compensation are other negative aspects of the globalizing use of GMOs which are obtained from parent animals, plants and microorganisms. Focus of attention has been primarily with the latter two groups of organisms. In summary, the negative features of use of GMOs are: loss of crop genetic diversity; economic loss of evaluated biodiversity and crop genetic diversity; threat to use of generic medicinal products, inadequate compensation costs, alteration in nutritional quality of foods; prevalence of religious, cultural, ethical issues (i.e. with vaccines and single-cell protein (SCP); and concerns of monopolistic ownership of the 15 major food and non-food crops.

The case of fermented foods in relation to GMOs is of interest. A wide category and range of fermented foods which may contain whole or parts of natural organisms, are prepared and conserved in near-to-safe hygienic conditions. Yet, they are widely ingested world-wide without fear or reluctance in contrast to the doubts and prejudices experienced with release of GM foods into public markets.

Significant promotional, permissive, precautionary and preventive choices; and, policy stances in the areas of biosafety, food safety, consumer choice, public research and trade have been featured for developing countries in the HDR. Public concern and debate in industrialized societies on environmental uncertainties and health risks of use of GMO technology should not discourage the developing world from reaping benefits from using GM crops and GMOs to solve their pressing problems of hunger and malnutrition. Much needed public education and understanding of GM food science through appropriate popularization programmes could help do away with vocabulary like “Frankenstein foods”, monster bugs and genetic pollution which only fuel fear and adverse reaction to GMOs. After all, humankind, unwittingly, has been eating genetically-modified foods since the dawn of agriculture as exemplified in wheat, which from the early days of wild wheat, then through einkorn and emmer wheat, and then through spaghetti wheat and bread wheat has finally resulted in biotech wheat. Controversial or not, GMOs could be the breakthrough technology for economic progress in developing countries.

Contact info for Ministry of Finance under the PM

The Hon. Dean O. Barrow
Tel: 501 – 822 2345
Minister of Finance and National Development
Ministry of Finance

Joseph Waight
Tel: 501- 822 3866
Financial Secretary
Ministry of Finance

Betty-Ann Jones
Tel: 501- 822 2362
Deputy Financial Secretary
Ministry of Finance

Gian Ghandi
Tel: 501- 822 2344
Legal Counsel/Director
Ministry of Finance

Alma Gomez
Tel: 501- 822 3808
Supervisor of Insurance
Ministry of Finance

David Garcia
Tel: 501- 822 2406
Director of CITO
Ministry of Finance

Anita Eck
Tel: 501- 223 3251
Accountant General
Treasury Department

George Castro
Tel: 501- 223 2819
Asst Accountant General
Treasury Department

Gregory Gibson
Tel: 501- 227 7092
Comptroller of Customs
Customs & Excise Department

Godfrey Arzu
Tel: 501- 227 7092
Asst. Comptroller of Customs
Customs & Excise Department

Ralph Herrera
Tel: 501- 227 7092
Asst. Comptroller of Customs
Customs & Excise Department

Beverly Castillo
Tel: 501- 222 5574
Commissioner of General Sales Tax
Department of General Sales Tax

Cynthia Castillo
Tel: 501- 222 5574
Asst Commissioner of General Sales Tax
Department of General Sales Tax

Eric Eusey
Tel: 501- 222 4956
Commissioner of Income Tax
Department of Income Tax

Marilyn Ordonez
Tel: 501- 227 5222
Asst Commissioner of Income Tax
Department of Income Tax

Belize Customs and Excise Department

Comptroller of Customs
Mr. Gregory Gibson
Telephone: 501-227-7092/93
Fax: 501-227-7091

Customs House,
Port Loyola,
P.O. Box 146,
Belize City,
Belize, C.A

Countries Growing GMOs

The world’s leading producers of GM crops are the United States, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, India and China. In 2006, GM crop production also reached noteworthy levels in Paraguay, South Africa, Uruguay and Australia. In the EU, GM crops have remained uncommon. Appreciable GM maize production in the EU only took place in Spain on an area of nearly 60,000 hectares. In Portugal, Germany, France and the Czech Republic, transgenic crops were primarily grown for small-scale field trials.

In 2005, Iran and the Czech Republic were added to the list of countries commercially growing transgenic crops. As of 2006, 38 percent of GM crops are grown in developing countries.

Global Area of Genetically Engineered Crops, 1996 to 2006: By Country (Million Hectares)
Country USA Argentina Brazil Canada China Paraguay
1996 1.5 0.1 0.1
1997 8.1 1.4 1.3 0.0
1998 20.5 4.3 2.8 <0.1
1999 28.7 65.7 1.4* 4.0 0.3
2000 30.3 10.0 3.6* 3.0 0.5
2001 35.7 11.8 5.7* 3.2 1.5
2002 39.0 13.5 6.3* 3.5 2.1
2003 42.8 13.9 3.0 4.4 2.8
2004 47.6 16.2 5.0 5.4 3.7 1.2
2005 49.8 17.1 9.0 5.8 3.3 1.8
2006 54.6 18.0 11.5 6.1 3.5 2.0

*illegal cultivation of gmos: calculated area

Global Area of Genetically Engineered Crops, 1996 to 2006: By Country (Million Hectares)
Country India South Africa Uruguay Aus-tralia Mexico Romania
1996 <0.1 <0.1
1997 0.1 <0.1
1998 <0.1 0.1
1999 0.1 0.1 <0.1 <0.1
2000 0.2 <0.1 0.2 <0.1 <0.1
2001 0.2 <0.1 0.2 <0.1 <0.1
2002 <0.1 0.3 <0.1 0.1 <0.1 <0.1
2003 0.1 0.4 0.1 0.1 <0.1 <0.1
2004 0.5 0.5. 0.3 0.2 0.1 0.1
2005 1.3 0.5 0.3 0.3 0.1 0.1
2006 3.8 1.4 0.4 0.2 0.1 0.1
Global Area of Genetically Engineered Crops, 1996 to 2006: By Country (Million Hectares)
Country Philippines Honduras Colombia Iran  Spain Por- tugal Ger- many
1998 <0.1
1999 <0.1 <0.1
2000 <0.1 <0.1
2001 <0.1 <0.1
2002 <0.1 <0.1 <0.1 <0.1 <0.1
2003 <0.1 <0.1 <0.1 0.1 <0.1 <0.1
2004 0.1 <0.1 <0.1 0.5 0.1 <0.1
2005 0.1 <0.1 <0.1 1.3 0.1 <0.1 <0.1
2006 0.2 <0.1 <0.1 <0.1 0.1 <0.1 <0.1

Source: ISAAA, Clive James, 2006.

Michael’s letter to the various Ministries and to the PM

This is Michael’s letter to the various Ministries and to the PM. It was submitted to Amandala Press and The Reporter for publishing.

Dear All,
The decision to import GM seeds into Belize is folly. At the very least, it’s extremely premature. The Belize Agricultural Health Authority does not have the resources, time, or capacity to do any meaningful monitoring of this environmental release. I find it incredulous that the product was brought in and no risk analysis was conducted. For goodness sake, BAHA does risk analysis for importation of milk powder into this country. It does point to the fact that doing a risk analysis for GMO is an involved process and BAHA simply does not have that capacity. BAHA has been expecting this push to get GM seeds into Belize for some time and has been pro-active in trying to develop the necessary capacity to deal with the request for importation. For instance, September 26th to the 30th, 2011, BAHA has partnered with the offices of the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD), to conduct a workshop here in Belize with all the Bio-safety members of the Caribbean and Belize on how to go about doing a risk analysis for living modified organisms (LMOs/GMOs); industry (Monsanto) will be present at this training as well. In addition, we have written a project with the International Atomic Energy Agency and have received PCR testing equipment that can be used for the detection of DNA in LMOs. Furthermore, the CBD is only now developing guidelines for the international community on how to monitor for stacked events in GMO, which this importation is, and a separate set of guidelines for long term monitoring. This is at an INITIAL STAGE. and has not yet been distributed to countries wishing to use these valuable guidelines.

But there are many other reasons why this importation makes no sense. Apart from a policy, Belize does not have a national bio-safety framework, which is composed of a policy, legislation, administrative procedures, and public participation into the decision process. In 2005, 2006, a draft bio-safety law was developed, but this draft law does not reflect the policy, is already outdated given the many new developments in the biosafety arena, and is heavily US centric which will legitimize easy access for GM to come in. I sincerely hope that this is not the same law that is now being presented to the Solicitor General’s Office. Any legislation developed for bio-safety must follow the policy of March 2009 as that policy is the result of NATIONAL consultation over a two year period. Belize, like the US, does not have any provision for liability should something go wrong,(and many things have gone awry, even in field trials). It is unfathomable that the Government is pushing for GM in Belize, which will negate the promotion of Belize as a “natural niche” and the markets that we’re developing for our quality and organic agro-products. This is a specialized market that Belize is tapping into with higher returns; Belize certainly cannot compete with countries like Canada, Argentina and the US, all non-parties to the Cartegena Protocol, in exporting any GM corn.

The most comprehensive assessment of agriculture and food security to date, that involved over 400 scientists and authors internationally, including the bio-tech industry, was the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), co-sponsored by the World Bank, FAO, UNEP, UNDP, WHO, UNESCO and GEF, which found, among many other things, that in the future, agriculture can only be sustained by small farms without the use of GM. This is where Belize has an advantage and should use it by supporting our small farmers to ensure food security and sustainability.

This is my considered opinion.

Michael DeShield, BVSc, MSc
Director of Food Safety 2001-2011
Bio-safety and BCH Focal Point 2004-2011