Moratorium on modified crops would cost 1,000 jobs, opponent says

A spokesman for agricultural firms told a legislative panel Wednesday that a proposed ban on genetically modified organisms, if passed, would cost the country about 1,000 jobs.

He is Martín Zúñiga, executive director of CropLife Latin America, a trade association.

He testified before the Comisión de Asuntos Agropecuarios, which is considering a bill that would institute the moratorium. It is No. 18941.

Zúñiga also questioned the wording of the bill because it says that the moratorium would be in effect until there is a scientific consensus that genetically modified organisms pose no risk. He said that science is not designed to demonstrate a consensus.

He added that throughout the world there are 18 million farmers who plant 175 million hectares of land with modified seeds. Such crops also benefit the environment because they reduce the use of pesticides.

Some modified crops produce their own substances that chase away or kill harmful bugs.

Zúñiga also said that the moratorium would reduce research in agriculture. By approving the moratorium, the country would reject one aspect of technological development predicted in science for the next 50 years.

CropLife Latin America represents a network of 22 associations in 18 countries of Latin America, including Monsanto and Dow Chemical, the firm says on its Web site.

Environmental activists began fighting genetically modified crops when Monsanto wanted to put in a test plot of modified corn that resists one of the firm’s herbicides. The environmentalists said they were concerned that the pollen from the modified corn would pollute traditional Costa Rican corn strains.

They encouraged most of the cantons in the country to pass bans on modified crops, even though there is a significant use of modified seeds all over the country in soybeans, cotton and other crops beside corn.

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