Isbel Diaz Torres

The issue is made to seem only relevant to scientists and intellectuals, without involving the rest of civil society or the “simple citizen.” Photo: Caridad

Transgenic corn is now being planted in Cuba, information that has created a groundswell of opposition.  What caught my attention was that the news didn’t appear in Granma, Cuba’s principal national newspaper, but rather in Juventud Rebelde, another official publication.

Using the triumphalist formula of our press, they want to make us believe that transgenic produce is the solution to the country’s agricultural difficulties.  A little dose of information, fragmented and manipulated, is all that’s provided to the Cuban pubic.  Meanwhile, most of the debate occurs in online publications.

Faced with the goveernment’s proposal to plant over 2,600 hectares (6,640 acres) of transgenic corn in the province of Sancti Spiritus, I received in my hands the alert of environmentalist Narcissus Aerie Marin. That was the first public protest concerning this controversy, one to which other voices have been added over time.

Dr. Carlos G. Borroto, who is in the forefront of research in this field, published a response to Aerie in the Spanish website Rebelión.  Despite the limitations of the head of the National Agricultural Biotechnology Program, it is commendable that his criticism has been acknowledged.

Nevertheless, the written press up until now has remained on the margin.  It is not surprising that once again they are staying well outside of the controversy that rages in the rest of society.  The lack of public debate in Cuba is part of the logic that we have lived through and experienced for years.  The issue is made to seem only relevant to scientists and intellectuals, without involving the rest of civil society or the “simple citizen.”

Recently, the voice of Cuban philosopher Eduardo Francisco Freyre Roach has added more difficulty to the dilemma.  Freyre, who is a professor at the Agrarian University of Havana, has for years studied bio-ethical issues, sustainable agriculture and agrarian sociology in Cuba.  His published works are indispensable for understanding the current issues.  Recently there was supposed to have been a presentation of his book Transgénicos: que se pierde, que se gana. Textos para un debate en Cuba (Transgenics: What Is Lost Is Won. Writings for a Debate in Cuba), however this launching was unexpectedly cancelled.

This all makes me wonder: Is this truly a “respectful debate based on scientific and technical elements,” as Borroto affirmed, or is it simply to deny people information?


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.

3 thoughts on “Here Come the Transgenics (I)

  • Thanks for this publication. Just be careful, the name of the cuban cientist who rang the alarm bell is NARCISO AGUILERA MARIN. Please check the spelling. Thank you, MB

  • Same as with building and running nuclear plants,etc.: the problem is not necessarily with the new technology itself, per se — but with the people in control of it, and what their motives are.

    In Cuba, the “command economy” (i.e. ‘stalinism’) too much resembles the capitalist praxis it in fact is modeled on. Clear, as you imply, the decisions to use technology of any kind must be made in an open, democratic and measured, rational fashion. That is apparently the last thing going on here.

  • Like the “Green Revolution” in agriculture beginning in the middle of the last century, the revolution in transgenics will have unanticipated negative results. Both are short-term solutions to a long-term problem (how to sufficiently feed an ever-burgeoning population). Since we (i.e. the human race) have a woefully limited understanding of the complex workings of evolution, I shudder to think of the unanticipated consequences of our primitive science.

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