Solís wins praise for twin decrees on corn and petroleum exploration

Environmentalists are praising two new decrees.

One restricts petroleum drilling and makes Costa Rica the first country in the world free of industrial extractive industries for petroleum and metals, according to a summary by Mauricio Álvarez, president of  the Federación Costarricense para la Conservación del Ambiente and a Universidad de Costa Rica professor.

The second declares corn a cultural symbol.

Both decrees were signed by President Luis Guillermo Solís, although they have not yet been published. They were signed at the Anexión del Partido de Nicoya celebration July 25.

Solís put a moratorium on petroleum exploration and drilling until 2021.

Álvarez said this decree was something environmentalists have been seeking for 15 years. He noted the years of protest when Harken Petroleum, now HKH, Inc., sought to drill offshore in the Caribbean.

He praised what he called an historic campaign of resistance. That was in 1997 to 2000. The legal issues are still to be resolved.

A more recent case is that of Mallon Oil which had struggled for 10 years to clear away legal obstacles put in the firm’s path to prevent it from exploring for oil in the northern zone.

Former president Laura Chinchilla issued a decree against such efforts, and Álvarez said the Solís decree builds on it and lengthens it.  Mallon continues to seek approval. There also is an agreement that former president Óscar Arias Sánchez made with China as part of a deal to build a big refinery in Limón province.

The thrust of the corn movement has been against Monsanto Co. and its genetically modified crops. The company’s corn is resistant to its herbicides, and farmers can spray instead of hoeing each corn row individually.

A court case this week seeks to overturn the authority of an agency of the Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería in approving the use of genetically modified seeds.

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