Isbel Díaz Torres
HAVANA TIMES — Genetically modified crops continue to be introduced into Cuban farmlands in a secretive fashion, while domestic consumers and producers are practically left out of all debates surrounding the design of policies and strategies in this area.
A program broadcast on Cuban television some weeks ago, where two of the most renowned figures currently leading the debate around these technologies appeared, does not seem to guarantee that the island’s authorities are aware of the urgent need to cease the use and propagation, at production scales, of transgenic corn and soy, organisms which, outside the controlled environment of the laboratory, no farmer around the world has been able to contain.
The series of debates undertaken by a number of intellectual circles in Havana over a year ago served only to put the business of transgenic crops in the hands of the Cuban military. As we know, the Cuban Armed Forces have every freedom to do and undo what they please, without having to report to the common people or to civil, educational or research institutions.
While it is true that we don’t want the debate surrounding transgenic organisms to polarize people into those who are completely in favor and those who are completely opposed to the practice, something which would simply paralyze the flow and development of ideas and of science itself, it is also true that, without a moratorium that can allow us to delve more deeply into the issue and arrive at a basic consensus, all discussions will be fruitless.
A group of US intellectuals, who became aware of these circumstances while participating at a colloquium in Cuba, issued a public declaration on the issue. This Monday, a small group of Cubans issued another declaration, in support of that statement, which is being distributed to collect more signatures.
Below is the new declaration.
FOR TRANSGENIC-FREE AGRICULTURAL PRACTICES IN CUBA
The undersigned have decided to support a recent initiative launched by US and Cuban intellectuals who, in a recent declaration, expressed their sincere concerns over the introduction into Cuba of agricultural practices based on the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
For some years now, Cuban State entities have been promoting the production of transgenic corn, soy and other crops, and have imported transgenic food products that are consumed by the island’s population as part of its daily diet, without informing the public of the nature of these products and the potential repercussions of their use.
Transgenic technology entails the re-establishment of a conventional agricultural model requiring large volumes of inputs, a model which is highly dependent on external decisions and which deprives the farmer of autonomy – something entirely incompatible with Cuba’s agro-ecological practices.
In addition to being unable to guarantee greater yields, GMO-based agriculture damages and causes the loss of agricultural biodiversity and favors the privatization and commercial control of crop seeds.
For over 20 years, Cuba has developed an ecological agricultural model whose full potential has not yet been tapped and which demonstrates the island’s capacity to produce its own technology and follow its own conceptions about food production. To do so, Cuba relies on an internationally recognized community of scientific specialists and limited but highly valuable practical experience.
The experience of other countries, where GMO technology hasn’t reduced hunger or poverty and has, rather, only helped exacerbate existing problems, displacing small farmers, ought to serve as a warning for Cuban authorities and farmers.
Cultural diversity has also suffered from the implementation of this extensive, GMO-based agricultural model, which has proven intolerant towards different ethnic practices wherever it has become hegemonic.
In addition, the World Health Organization has warned that the use of GMOs could spell “potential risks for human health and development”, for “the introduction of a transgene into the receptor organism isn’t precisely a controlled process, and could have varying results with respect to the integration, expression and stability of the transgene in the host.”
The more significant short, mid, and long-term repercussions of the use of GMOs that have been identified to date (contrary to the pronouncement of transnational companies, which do their own, private research), include: the emergence of new allergies and other immunological problems, resistance to antibiotics, the appearance of new food toxins, the reduction of fertility and endocrine complications.
Those who promote the use of GMOs are duty-bound to provide irrefutable proof that these organisms will not have negative consequences for human health or the environment, in the specific conditions of a given location. Such proof has not been produced in Cuba, which, in record time, approved the use of FR-Bt1 corn in the country, ignoring the recommendation of experts and the request for a moratorium in this connection.
For these reasons, we are opposed to the implementation of extensive, GMO-based agricultural practices in Cuba, and we call on the island’s scientific community, Cuban farmers and all citizens to join us in our initiative, and to demand their right to actively participate in decision-making processes related to matters that have a direct impact on their lives.
- Isbel Diaz Torres. Biologist. CUBA
- Jimmy Roque Martinez. Optometrist. CUBA
- Mario G. Castillo Santana. Historian. CUBA
- Ariel Hidalgo. Teacher. CUBA/EU
- Pedro Manuel Gonzalez Reinoso. Literature Promoter. CUBA
- Karel Negrete. Jurist. CUBA/France
- Julio Tang Zambrana. Historian. CUBA/EU