Cartago will consider ban Saturday on genetically modified crops

The political leaders of the Municipalidad of Cartago plan to meet in an unusual Saturday morning session to consider a ban on genetically modified organisms.

Social agitators who style themselves as environmentalists are promoting the ban and report that 74 local governments have enacted such a prohibition.

The ban actually is against First World companies that have produced genetically modified plants to combat insect or other pests as well as increase the beneficial contents of the foods or cause higher production.

The lengthy campaign began when Monsanto Co. received the right to plant several small test patches of modified corn.

Such crops have been grown in Costa Rica since the 1990s and include cotton. Corn is targeted especially because it pollinates through the air.

Opponents of the modified organisms include some who also protested against offshore drilling and an open pit gold mine in San Carlos.

Opponents have stopped short of seeking a ban on the importation of genetically modified products because nearly all the snack food produced in the United States use modified corn. Scientists generally conclude that there is little difference between modified and unmodified products.

In announcing the Cartago meeting at 8 a.m. Saturday, the opponents correctly noted that President Luis Guillermo Solís has designated a nationwide ban on genetically modified organisms as a bill he wants the legislature to consider. A version of the bill already is under study in a committee.

The opponents say they are trying to defend the traditional corn species of Costa Rica, but there has been no list provided of which species are of this type. There are more than 100 corn species that have been identified here, and some may even be genetically modified.

One of the leading opponents is Fabián Pacheco, who identifies himself as an agrobiologist. He is associated with the Federación Costarricense para la Conservación del Ambiente. That group also opposed the construction of private hydro generating projects and has come out against locating geothermal generating projects in national parks.

The organization plans a demonstration Saturday in Cartago.

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