Modified crop moratorium called major 2014 political goal

Some environmental organizations are targeting key elements of commercial agriculture this year, they promised Tuesday.

Monoculture, vast fields with a single crop, is one of the techniques they oppose. They also are against genetically modified crops and agricultural chemicals.

The announcement comes as international activist Vandana Shiva arrived in Costa Rica. The controversial Indian environmentalist toured the Caribbean pineapple growing region Tuesday. She is expected to make presentations today at the Universidad de Costa Rica.

Ms. Shiva, who opposes globalization, has won wide acclaim and has received a number of awards, prizes and honors. She also has been called by critics a luddite who opposes anything new. Their stiffest criticism is directed at her opposition to golden rice, a genetically modified strain that generates vitamin A to youngsters and others. Vitamin A deficiency kills several million a year in developing countries and also causes blindness.

At a session at the university Tuesday, members of Bloque Verde and Federación Costarricense para la Conservación del Ambiente said they were planning a court appeal to require labeling of genetically modified produce on store shelves. They also are planning a political effort to pass a law banning genetically modified crops from Costa Rica.

The organizations already have convinced councils in 70 cantons to ban the planting of such crops. However, the legality is uncertain because approvals are in the hands of an agency in the Ministerio de Agricultura y Gandería.

The presenters urged their audience primarily of university students to vote for either the candidates of the Partido Acción Ciudadana or Frente Amplio because those political parties have supported the proposed national moratorium on modified crops.

One of the presenters, Grace García, was quoted by the organizations saying that a vote for the Partido Liberación Nacional or Movimiento Libertario was an endorsement of the monoculture of death.

Genetically modified crops are grown worldwide, even in Ms. Shiva’s India. They are the result of genetic manipulations in the lab. Much of the corn and many other crops grown in the United States and imported into Costa Rica as animal food and food products for humans contain such crops.

Environmentalists here have been fighting proposals by the Monsanto Co. to grow a test patch of corn. Corn strains usually are modified to protect the plant from the company’s weed killer Roundup.

The organizations also said Tuesday that a field of genetically modified pineapples have been planted in southern Costa Rica. There have been a wide range of modified crops planted in Costa Rica for years.

The environmentalists also oppose a law that was required by the Free Trade Treaty with Central America and the United States that provides patent protection to new plant strains. They say that seeds are the heritage of the people and should be free.

Monsanto charges farmers for growing their plants and then sells them the weed killer to eliminate plant competition.  The company defends its patents vigorously.

Ms. Shiva, the Indian activist, also supports the free use of seeds.

The organizations correctly note that pineapple production has caused toxic agricultural chemicals to flow into the water and that some communities have to rely on truck deliveries. There have been a number of court cases.

Ms. Shiva holds a doctorate in physics from a Canadian university. She has been active in the environmental arena for years and most recently in an international campaign for free seeds.

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