Shall we just shoot ourselves in the foot again?

A bill in legislative committee seeks to establish a moratorium on the use of genetically modified organisms in Costa Rica.

The bill is flawed and is more of an attack on multinational corporations than a measure to protect the health of Costa Ricans.

If lawmakers really had a concern about the safety of genetically modified crops in food, they would ban them. Of course that would mean no imported snack food because 90 percent of the U.S. corn crop is grown from modified seeds.

The crops are modified to protect itself when farmers use herbicides to put down the weeds. Most of the legislature probably never spent a hot August day hoeing the corn rows. That’s why farmers buy the seed, yes, from Monsanto.

Costa Rica has a real need for genetic modifications. Coffee, banana and orange diseases might soon be thwarted by certain gene transplants. Scientists even see a time when humans will live longer because of genetic modifications.

Does Costa Rica want to shoot itself in the foot again by avoiding these lines of research?

The minister of Agricultura y GanderĂ­a, Luis Felipe Arauz Cavallini, supported a three-year moratorium because he said the crops have not been shown to be harmless. Despite his hope that scientists will prove a negative, the minister needs but to look around and see all the Costa Ricans who have been consuming genetically modified crops for years. Even most dog food is made from U.S. corn.

There are several bogus studies that purport to show that genetically modified products are dangerous. These articles are published in offbeat outlets without review by scientific peers. Some of these publications still fight against the fluoridation of water. The summary of the bill is filled with these suspect studies.

The minister even cited one discredited study in his presentation to a legislative committee.

The worst that any real scientist has ever said about modified crops is that they sometimes can cause an allergic reaction if the consumer is already allergic to the plant that was the source of the modified gene. Just like with peanut butter.

The minister, a distinguished agronomist, needs to take a closer look at some of the studies. And the lawmakers should differentiate between an attack on international corporations and their intellectual property rights and public health.

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