Cuba’s Young Communists League Comes Out in Favor of the Use of Transgenic Crops

Isbel Diaz Torres

Police singing and dancing at the UJC Congress related event in the Plaza of the Revolution.
Police singing and dancing at the UJC Congress related event in the Plaza of the Revolution.

HAVANA TIMES – The recent Young Communists League (UJC) Congress held in Cuba has served to promote the use of transgenic crops in the island’s agriculture.

One of the news reports on the congress aired on television showed the remarks made by delegate, who acknowledged Cubans have been consuming transgenic foods for some time and called for a wider use of these technologies.

Judging from how carefully the island’s media (all under the control of the Communist Party) handle certain information, we can assume these remarks, included in the coverage among many others with any introductory comments, is one of those “subtle” ways in which power plants certain ideas in the minds of people.

Transgenic agriculture has been encouraged on the island for quite a number of years now, in violation of the Declaration of Cochabamba (signed by Cuba), which categorically rejects the use of transgenic crops.

I came across another contribution to this debate made by the UJC at a fair organized at Havana’s Revolution Square this past Sunday, July 19, where a transgenic variety of corn (FR-Bt1) was promoted inside a tent set up by the National Toxicology Center (CENATOX).

This variety of transgenic corn has been grown in Cuban fields since 2008 and now, during this recent fair, they are making public an eco-toxicological study that allegedly demonstrates that this crop poses no threat to other beneficial species that make up Cuba’s agro-ecosystems.

CenatoxInterested to see these results, I asked those who were presenting the poster about the crop for more information. Concretely, since they were offering only a summary of the results, I asked to see the complete article (in order to read it), and a young man in charge replied that the research had been conducted by a military company and that he could not reveal the information I was requesting.

This is a very important issue, because the risks these crops pose to populations of insects and other arthropods have not been widely documented, as these studies involve complex research designs, require much time and high costs in terms of equipment, supplies and human resources.

In contrast to other countries, could Cuba have actually invested these resources to demonstrate the non-toxicity of Cuban transgenic corn? I doubt it very much, particularly bearing in mind the bio-safety violations that have taken place during the trials with this variety of crop on the island.

In case you don’t know, CENATOX is the country’s flagship toxicology entity and it is in the hands of the military. Concretely, they evaluate bio-products destined to agriculture that, for their subsequent registration and release into the environment, must be proven to be harmless through proper assessments.

Within this entity, the Toxicological and Environmental Assessment Department is entirely responsible for the eco-toxicological and environmental evaluation of chemical, biological and genetically modified products that are released to the environment.

In a pamphlet that was proudly handed out at the fair to anyone interested, they identified genetically modified corn and soy as the two “main products evaluated.”

There is in fact no need to hide any of this, as the Cuban State does not legally prohibit the use of transgenic products anywhere, including the food industry.

Thus, this new anniversary of the Young Communists League has been a subtle offensive by the Cuban government, aimed at placing the issue of transgenics on the table.

As you can see, it makes no difference that, days before, an official announced that Cuba had no plans to import transgenic seeds, as, on the one hand, they’re already doing so by importing grains from the United States and Brazil and, on the other, Cuban military officers and scientists are already producing these at home.

Isbel Diaz

Isbel Diaz Torres: Pinar del Rio and Havana are my cities. I was born in one on March 1, 1976, and I’ve always lived in the other. I am a biologist and poet, though at times I’ve also been a musician, translator, teacher, computer geek, designer, photographer and editor. I’m very non-conformist and a defender of differences – perhaps due to always having been an ever-repressed “model child.” Nothing enthralls me more than the unknown, nature and art; these serve as my sources of mystery and development. A surprising activism has been born in me over the recent period. Though I’m not very sure how to channel it, I feel that it’s a worthy and legitimate energy. Let’s hope I have the discernment to manage it.



6 thoughts on “Cuba’s Young Communists League Comes Out in Favor of the Use of Transgenic Crops

  • There is a lot of scare talk in the world today about trans-genetic crops and some small amount of it is valid .
    The disastrous decline in the ( migratory) Monarch butterfly population in North America is due to genetically modified crops and the honeybee declines might well be caused by something similar .
    It is new science and with so many variables even very extensive testing may miss something important.
    They have to work out the bugs, so to speak, before going wholesale into any of this .
    That said, the future of a great deal of all farming will be indoors in what is called vertical farming in multi-storied buildings with stacked trays of greens, tomatoes etc under solar -powered LED lights.
    No insecticides, herbicides or interactions with natural wildlife .
    That’s about 20 years off but with some small operations up and running now.

    Reply
    • Protected growing has a centuries long history from greenhouses to plastic tunnels and can be seen at its best in Holland which having fed its population of over 17 million is still one of the leading food exporters in the world and is smaller than Cuba. Protected growing is used predominantly for horticultural crops. Extensive crops – grains, roots – will continue to be grown extensively and for much of humanity extensive cropos are the main food source.
      In Cuba as the decline of extensive agriculture proceeded under the Socialismo Castro family regime, much propaganda was made of so-called “urban agriculture” in an endeavor to divert attention from the problems In rural Cuba but the production is negligible in national terms and has not affected the continuing disgraceful decline of food production.
      The livestock portion of agriculture has similarly declined in Cuba, shortages of dairy products, beef, poultry – both for chicken and eggs.
      Livestock production world wide has intensified, but is very unlikely to occur in multi-storied buildings.
      Regarding Cuba, the regime has to abandon current policies towards agriculture for the decline in production to cease and then increase. Agriculture is a business and industry. Development of businesses like in the US Tanimura and Antle and Mann’s – which did much to popularise broccoli – and G’s (the Shropshire family) and Green’s of Soham in the UK demonstrate the success of individual entrepreneurs. Green’s for example (other name is Spearpoint International) now farm some 86,000 hectares in the UK, Poland, the Czech Republic and Spain having been started by John and Andrew Green as tenants of 150 hectares in 1966. (7 years after the Castro revolution). Mann’s was the business which following George W. Bush saying that he didn’t like broccoli, sent three semi-loads from California to the White House.
      The contrast between the family businesses and I have named and the dismal regime controlled system in Cuba is self evident. Although there has been much justified criticism of the US companies which farmed much of Cuba concentrating on sugar and fruit production, they demonstrated how the good land in Cuba could produce a lot of food and having fed the population of Cuba have very large exports. Similar production could be achieved in the future under private enterprise without selling off the land to foreign companies. It is quite possible to rent out land on leases. Indeed many farming businesses prefer such a system as it allows them to use their capital more advantageously.
      Dairy farming similarly can be done more efficiently on a large scale – achieving both high yields and labour efficiency of 120 cows per person employed.
      In 1950, I knew a farm in Scotland where 5,000 laying hens were maintained with the labour of two people. Yes, I have visited poultry units in Cuba and their level of staffing is ridiculously high, but the pay rates are abysmal.
      I respect your endeavor to understand agriculture Mr. Goodrich but it isn’t academic socialism and under named socialist and communist regimes agriculture has proven to be inefficient and of low productive abilities.
      The wider subject of the rural environment and agriculture both intensive and extensive has proven in long established agricultural areas to be best left to the rural population who in general value the countryside more than the urban dwellers. Just take a look at rural France, rural UK, rural Holland, rural Austria, rural Italy – the beautiful scenery and wild life are not a consequence of government programs but of the loving care of their rural populations – including landowners!

      Reply
      • We can argue about the present and what actions in the past brought about these conditions but the past will not be prologue .
        S-F level technologies that are coming online now and in an ever rapidly developing way WILL come about in the very near future and driven by super-human AI and advanced robotics will create a far different world than most can imagine.
        I think it was Arthur Clarke who said that “Technology sufficiently advanced is indistinguishable from magic ”
        What is coming will seem like magic to most of us now.
        There will be no need for human labor in any agricultural area and that easily within two generations .
        It will only matter what the Empire does and what the Cuban government does for that relatively short period of time after which the game changes for the entire planet as capitalism kills itself.
        I like the long and ultimately optimistic view of history.

        Reply
  • The word “transgenic” is new to me. Most of the writing I have seen in English refers to GMOs, Genetically Modified Organisms.

    Reply
    • I believe it means the same thing.
      Genetically Modified Organisms are transgenic organisms .
      The organism is modified by TRANS ( root word means “across”)-ferring genetic material into a foreign gene to favorably alter its agricultural characteristics. .
      Now try trans-human or trans-humanism .

      Reply
  • The decision (made for them presumably elsewhere) by the UJC is lazy and opportunistic. But Cuba is not alone with this nonsense. I just say USA.

    Reply

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