Letters — 08 March 2013 — by GMO Awareness Month Educational Campaign

Dear Editor,

The group, Belizeans Against GMOs, is working this month to educate the public about Genetically Modified Organisms. There are different kinds of GMOs, but we are particularly concerned about Genetically Modified Food. We are eating GMOs everyday in food that is processed, packaged and imported from our main importer, the United States, who is pushing this new agri-business technology. Currently Belize imports GMOs as food and as feed, but not as Living Modified Organisms (LMOs) – not as seed.

Many of our group try hard NOT to eat GMOs in any form, but we are especially concerned about living GMOs because planting them, growing them, and harvesting them affects not only us humans; it directly affects our environment here in The Jewel – Belize. The “ecological impacts resulting from the vast introduction of genetically modified organisms are perhaps the least completely understood, though certainly the most significant, for our sustained health and well-being.” (Britt Bailey)

If GMO crops are permitted to be grown here, much of our landscape could change rather quickly with serious impacts. Currently, Belize does grow a good variety of seed crops. Open pollinated seeds bring greater diversity to the landscape because the seed is sexually produced. Each new seed has the potential to express different aspects of its parents, with the seed with the better traits adapting and surviving to grow and reproduce again.

Genetically Modified seed, however, is cloned seed. Planting vast tracts of land with modified seed in every field puts at risk our most basic food. There have been mono-cropping attempts in the past – planting only one variety of potato was chiefly responsible for the death of one million people during the potato famine in Ireland – but at no time in history has mono-cropping been practiced to the extent it is now. It would take only one significant stressor somewhere within the ecosystem to eliminate our entire corn supply.

The biotech industry, however, would have us believe that genetically modified crops are the way of the future. They make the claim they produce better results than traditional crops and are safer and non-toxic to our environment. But their propaganda is deceptive.
The truth is:

• Linking genetically modified crops to Roundup has increased the use of herbicides in the environment, not lessened it.

• Bt maize is more susceptible to plant lice (aphids) than conventional maize

• The use of herbicides on GM crops leads to reduced soil fertility with lesser amounts of beneficial nitrogen-fixing bacteria in the soil

• There are unreported ingredients in the patented herbicide Roundup that are suspected of increasing the toxicity of glyphosate, thus making it more dangerous

• The Bt found in GM corn is NOT THE SAME as the Bt toxin that comes from the soil and which breaks down quickly.

• GM Bt toxin is not limited in its toxicity to insect pests – GM Bt crops have been found to have toxic effects on laboratory animals in feeding trials

• GM Bt crops have been found to have toxic effects on non-target organisms in the environment

• Bt toxin is not fully broken down in the environment and is being found in our waterways, rivers and groundwater

• Engineered genes from a GM crop can enter another species of crop or wild plant through cross-pollination, contaminating and threatening the extinction of rare plants and weeds needed for bio-diversity.

BAGMO is constantly finding new environmental evidence that validates our position of caution with GMOs. The techniques used to insert genes into DNA are imprecise, risky, and give rise to serious concern. The science of genetic engineering is still in its infancy. There has been no time to even begin to understand the many possible and very undesirable environmental outcomes. More research is required involving testing over time.

The current bio-safety policy restricts GM seeds from coming into Belize, protecting our environment and our heritage of healthy local food. Until more, independent, accurate testing is done on the real contents of Bt corn and on the herbicides used, it will be wise for Belize to err on the side of caution when it comes to the decision to plant Living Modified Organisms in Belize.

Sincerely,
GMO Awareness Month Educational Campaign

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