Letters — 12 July 2013 — by Denise Frank

Dear Editor,

This letter is written in response to the article in the July 7th issue of the Amandala titled: Moratorium holds on cultivation of GMO crops in Belize. Mr. Hugh O’Brien, the lobbyist hired by the Belize Grain Growers Association and tasked with getting GMOs approved to be grown in Belize, is quoted as saying, “The Government has a twisted policy – because on the one hand, GMO products are allowed to be imported for human consumption; but on the other hand, restrictions are placed on the farming of GMO seeds.”

Government’s current policy was approved after years spent building a national biosafety framework, extensive education of technical personnel, and consultation with stakeholders. This is not a TWISTED policy, but a very valid and important policy which serves to differentiate between the GROWING of GMOs as compared to the importation of foods and animal feed that contain GMOs.

Although Belize does not yet have labeling laws that tell us if a product contains GMOs (55 other nations DO have such labeling laws), we CAN educate ourselves and make personal decisions for ourselves and families whether to purchase or not to purchase GMO-contaminated foods.

But we CANNOT stop, control or contain the contamination of GMO crops that enter our ecosystem via the growing of GMOs in our soil.

It is now known that GMOs cannot be contained. Buffer zones are ineffective. Contamination will happen, spreading the man-made (synthetic) genetic material to other crop fields, often contaminating organic crops… to the soil where it never washes away… into our ground waters and streams… and into our ocean waters.

This man-made genetic material can then contaminate other organisms through a process called lateral transfer. Who knows what havoc these uncontrolled transfers will cause? Scientists have already noted that the antibiotic agents used to make GMOs are ending up in our soil where resistance is developing, causing serious concerns about how this will impact the effectiveness of the antibiotics we use as our own medicine.

GMOs have been proven to kill non-target pests and organisms. They are known to destroy the natural biodiversity of the environment. They cause serious depletion of the soil. There are so many unknown risks to GMO contamination that the very growing of GMOs has been referred to as the opening of a Pandora’s Box.

Once GMOs are in the soil, there is no taking them back. Their use cannot be justified by simply noting that many places in the world already grow GMO crops. These countries are now finding that super weeds and super pests are rapidly developing resistance to the GMO traits, which means the farmers must resort to stronger and more dangerous pesticides… to newer and more costly GMO seeds with different traits.

I am very pleased that Belize has a moratorium on the cultivation of GMOs in Belize for ALL of these reasons, none the least of which can be considered TWISTED in any way. I strongly urge the GOB to uphold the moratorium on GMOs. I also call on them to penalize these farmers found growing GMO soy AND to do whatever is called for to destroy the GMO fields so that further contamination can be prevented.

Perhaps Mr. Hugh O’Brien can tell us just what WOULD constitute proof that he is wrong about GMOs. What questions would he need answered to his satisfaction that would then allow him to accept that he is wrong? Let’s get it on the table so we can deal with it. With the preponderance of scientific evidence that now exists, all one has to do is to read the studies to understand and know that the bottom line is: GMOs have been proven to be much more harmful than helpful. They ultimately serve no one but multi-national corporations with no special concern for Belize’s welfare.

Belize could do no better than to retain her globally-appreciated natural biodiversity, and in fact, to strive in every way to enhance and protect it. GM food crops can only contaminate and destroy. They do not play any part in a healthy Belize

Denise Frank
A concerned citizen and member of BAGMO

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