Opponents report a victory in battle against genetically modified seeds

Opponents of genetically modified organisms have won a partial victory from the Sala IV constitutional court.

Some opponents filed an action of unconstitutionality against the way the Comisión Técnica Nacional de Bioseguridad handles its decisions on permitting the use of genetically modified seeds here. The court, according to a summary from opponents, said that the hearings have to be open to the public and that those opposed to the use of such seeds should be heard.

Opponents received another boost Wednesday when the minister of Agricultura y Gandería told lawmakers he favored a three-year moratorium on genetically modified seeds.

The minister is Luis Felipe Arauz Cavallini.  Lawmakers in the Comisión de Asuntos Agropecuarios are considering a bill that would impose the moratorium. The minister also said that products that use genetically modified crops should be identified on a label.

The minister said that the use of insecticides had not diminished and that there are risks to the environment, the biodiversity and health due to the consumption of genetically modified foods, according to a summary by the legislative staff.

He suggested a three-year moratorium instead of a permanent one as the original bill provides.

He said that the affirmations by producers of genetically modified crops that they are harmless do not have a foundation. He said there were direct effects of genetically modified foods and these require long-term study.

He also said that there were laboratory studies that had found problems in the digestive tracts of animals due to these type of crops.

He seemed to be referring to a generally discredited Australian study of pigs and genetically modified crops.

The summary to the bill itself cites a 2013 study of pigs in Australia conducted by a researcher, Judy Carmen, and associates. The study purports to show that pigs fed genetically modified grains develop stomach inflammation.

Critics immediately pointed out that the researchers were organic food activists, and other researchers quickly questioned the statistical method used and the fact the report was published without peer review in an organic journal.

The Sala IV decision has not yet been provided to reporters by the Poder Judicial.

Those who brought the case said that magistrates froze action on genetically modified projects for which proponents seek approval.

Curiously nearly every package of snack food that contains corn also contains genetically modified products. There is heavy use of the modified crops in the United States because they are resistant to some forms of herbicides and eliminate the back-breaking labor of weeding.

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