NGO warns of eventual disappearance of 77 varieties of native corn
According to a press statement by the NGO, SOS MAIZ BOLIVIA, GM Roundup Ready maize has been found growing illegally in the Bolivian village of Charagua, in the south of Santa Cruz department.
The discovery occurred on March 17 2017, when an expedition of agronomists, sociologists, economists and journalists organized by SOS MAIZ BOLIVIA went to the village and performed a scientific test that detected the GM maize (watch the video in Spanish here).
Representatives of civil society organizations grouped in the NGO, Bolivia Free of Transgenics, have sent letters of complaint to several government institutions, denouncing their non-compliance with their official duties in relation to the import, cultivation and commercialization of GM maize in Bolivia.
In a statement, SOS MAIZ BOLIVIA said, “This negligence of the authorities puts at serious risk the seeds genetic heritage of our country and the health of the population.
“The cultivation of transgenic maize is prohibited by law through a series of decrees and regulations including the Constitution in its article 255 and Act No. 144 of the Production Revolution. In addition, eight other regulations relating to consumer rights, food labelling and international treaties are being breached.
“For thousands of years the native communities of Bolivia have depended on maize for their survival, enjoying free possession of and exchange of seeds, which is a determining factor to ensure food… security and food sovereignty of peoples. Among the State institutions notified are SENASAG (National Service for Agricultural Safe an Food Health) and Iniaf (National Institute of Agricultural and Forestry Innovation).”
Rodrigo Lampasona, communications officer for SOS MAIZ BOLIVIA, said, “For many years there have been rumours saying that transgenic maize was being illegally introduced from Argentina by smugglers. This would be mainly Bt corn resistant to a pest know locally as ‘gusano (worm) cogollero’ but, as was revealed in the recent study, also RR maize resistant to Monsanto's Roundup Ready herbicide, composed mainly of glyphosate, which has been recently listed as a carcinogen by the World Health Organization."
Also in March 2017, several maize samples collected in Charagua markets were tested in a laboratory in Santa Cruz, with positive results for GM maize.
According to SOS MAIZ BOLIVIA, “Some sources indicate that the illegal cultivation of transgenic maize in Bolivia already exceeds 30,000 hectares. This proves that government authorities such as INIAF and SENASAG are not complying with their legal obligations towards the protection of the seeds genetic heritage of our country and the health of its citizens.”
Alejandra Crespo of Bolivia Free of Transgenics said, “The situation is very serious since Bolivia has a great biodiversity and holds 77 native varieties of maize which are inevitably doomed to extinction if they are to be contaminated by transgenic maize. In addition, it is an unacceptable fact that in the markets of Charagua and its environments GM maize is being sold directly for human consumption, thus endangering the health of the population. It is also unacceptable that multinationals seek to control the seeds market and contaminate our non-GM seeds, condemning our communities to depend for life on imported seeds."
GM maize has not been scientifically shown to be safe for human or animal consumption over the long term.
Bolivia Free of Transgenics is beginning a national and international campaign named "CORN IS MY ROOT", which seeks to stop the import (legal or illegal), marketing and handling of transgenic maize. The campaign is centred on informing the public about the dangers posed by the use of GM maize and demanding from the authorities a commitment to uphold the Bolivian Constitution and laws that protect the right of citizens to a healthy life. It also aims to defend and encourage the practice of ecological agriculture against the encroachment on lands and communities by big agricultural companies.