Detailed presentation given on genetically modified crops

Lawmakers heard presentations from four experts Tuesday on the controversial topic of genetically modified plants.

The experts were Pedro Rocha Salvatierra, who is with the Ministrio de Agricultura y Ganadería, Gloria Abraham Peralta, president of the Comisión Nacional de Bioseguridad, Walter Quirós Ortega from the Oficina Nacional de la Semilla and  Esteban Cerdas Quirós of the Dirección de Regulación of the Ministerio de Salud. All hold doctorates.

The genetically modified plants are not dangerous and there is no scientifically proven case that they are harmful to the health of humans or animals, said Rocha, who also said there was no danger of loss of biodiversity.

Quiròs said that the benefit of these plants for humans is that they will augment the production of food for future demand.

Cerdas said that there exists many myths over genetically modified products and many are totally false. He said that one could not state in general that genetically modified plants are good or bad. Each situation requires an evaluation of risk, he said.

It was the Comisión Nacional de Bioseguridad that gave approval for a Monsanto subsidiary to plant a small plot of genetically modified corn in Chomes, Puntarenas, to produce seed for export. That decision is controversial and the decision has been appealed to the Sala IV constitutional court.

There is a movement of environmentalists and students to overturn the decision based, in part, on the need to defend corn strains that have been planted for years in Costa Rica. As A.M. Costa Rica pointed out Friday, there is no comprehensive list of so-called heritage corn. A number of municipalities have declared that they will remain free of genetically modified crops.

The experts gave detailed presentations that showed there are and have been many varieties of modified crops already growing in Costa Rica, including cotton, soybean, rice, banana and pineapple. The bulk of the plants either are engineered to resist certain weed killers or to produce a poison that will kill munching insect pests.

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