Opponents of genetically modified crops irked by U.S. note

Opponents of genetically modified crops are calling a letter from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative pressure put on Costa Rica to permit sowing genetically modified crops here.

More than 30 international opponents met in San Ramón, said the organization Federación Ecologista, adding that the attendees signed a document that said the U.S. letter offended the sovereignty of Costa Rica.

The document also said that there was no strong evidence showing that genetically modified crops would cause no harm and that efforts toward growing this type of crop was corporate biocolonialism.

The document supported efforts by the Ministerio de Agricultura y Ganadería to have the legislature pass a bill that calls for a 15-year moratorium on the planting of genetically modified crops outside the laboratory.

This is bill No. 19.477. This was the legislation that generated a letter May 26 from Darci L. Vetter, chief agricultural negotiator, in the  Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. She holds the rank of ambassador.

La Nación obtained a copy of the letter and published it late last month. The newspaper characterized the letter as questioning instead of applying pressure.

In part, Ambassador Vetter said to Alexander Mora, the minister of Comercio Exterior:

“I request your assistance in raising this issue within the Costa Rican government for consideration of the severe potential negative impact of this proposed moratorium, including on science-based decision-making, innovation and investment in Costa Rica as well the close partnership between our two countries through CAFTA-DR. I would welcome the opportunity to discuss this and other important issues regarding agricultural trade between or two countries.”

She was referring to the Free Trade Treaty between the United States, Central America and the Dominican Republic.

The bill, which now is in committee, says that a moratorium should be enacted because it is not possible to discard with certainty either of the competing positions on genetically modified crops: That they are or are not harmful.

The bill specifically excludes from the moratorium imported modifiedcabbage060915genetically modified crops for human or animal consumption
or produce processed from these crops. Nearly all the snack foods coming from the United States have generically modified content because the use of such crops is widespread.
 U.S. based agricultural products companies, including Monsanto Corp., are seeking permission to grow test plots of genetically modified seeds. Such crops, including rice and cotton, have been grown here for years.

The  Federación Ecologista and its allies have prevailed on 71 Costa Rican cantons to pass moratoriums of their own.

A legislative committee already rejected one bill that would have imposed a moratorium. Lawmakers held extensive hearings.

A study published in A.M. Costa Rica June 3 said that opinions on the consumption of genetically modified crops is pretty well fixed in the human mind.

“First impressions are important,” said the research article. “So much so that even armed with new information, many people won’t change their minds about genetically modified foods and global warming, a new University of Florida study shows.”

Both the document signed over the weekend and the bill in the committee commit a logical error.  Each demanded proof that genetically modified crops are not harmful. Of course, proving a negative  is considered impossible. And academic scientists usually tell their freshman classes they cannot prove conclusively that unicorns do not exist.

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