author photo

Isbel Diaz Torres: Pinar del Rio and Havana are my cities. I was born in one on March 1, 1976, and I’ve always lived in the other. I am a biologist and poet, though at times I’ve also been a musician, translator, teacher, computer geek, designer, photographer and editor. I’m very non-conformist and a defender of differences – perhaps due to always having been an ever-repressed “model child.” Nothing enthralls me more than the unknown, nature and art; these serve as my sources of mystery and development. A surprising activism has been born in me over the recent period. Though I’m not very sure how to channel it, I feel that it’s a worthy and legitimate energy. Let’s hope I have the discernment to manage it.

Cuba creates pro-GMO media campaign

July 19, 2016 |

Isbel Diaz Torres

Foto: greenpeace.org

The Cuban government opposes environmentalists over the issue of GMO crops and imported foods.  Foto: greenpeace.org

HAVANA TIMES — With help from the government website Cubadebate, the Castro administration has created a media campaign which supports GM foods almost in silence, which is very in line with the imminent arrival of US producers of GM crops.

In this month of July alone, Cubadebate has published two articles (which both essentially say the same thing), which rally against critical environmentalists who speak out against the use of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) in farming, and who promote food sovereignty.

“Over a hundred Nobel Peace prize winners have accused Greenpeace for acting against GM crops” (1) was one of the articles published on Cubadebate on July 1st.

Without presenting any other details and ignoring the few debates that have been developed in Cuba about the issue, they promote lies like GMOs “help global biodiversity”, “don’t harm the environment”, don’t affect human beings or animals and are “safe.”

Of course, they focus especially on Greenpeace, ignoring the fact that the majority of Latin American environmental, rural and indigenous social movements have also opposed this imperialist common practice throughout history.

On July 10th, Doctor Luis A. Montero Cabrera dealt with the subject of “GMOs and Nobel Prizes” (2), and without giving any scientific or philosophical argument to back himself up, he joined those who, sitting on the global pedestal, try to criminalize environmental struggles, driven by clear economic interests.

Of course, this isn’t what the Doctor tells us; in fact he apologizes to “life” and “diversity”, adopting a viewpoint riddled with positivism, while trying to confuse the line between mushrooming “artificial selection” which us humans carry out, with what’s known as “natural selection” by evolutionists. Mainly because transgenesis isn’t only about simple selection, but about intervening in and manipulating the natural process of reproduction itself.

450-i-am-strongest-person

GMO promo.

In his series of outrageous points, the Doctor even goes so far to say that “The revolution of GM crops has been just as important to the well-being of humanity as artificial fertilizers were at the beginning of the 20th century.”

And just like that, years and years of Cuban bio-agriculture research has been put down the drain. Now we’re beginning to see the consequences of never having elaborated a strong critique on the so-called “Green Revolution” here in Cuba, which gave us the wonderful gift of “blasts” (this is what Cuban specialists call the high dosis application of toxic chemicals on crops).

Of course, it’s always a good idea to fall back on Nobel prize winners if you want to legitimize something (or the opposite). In this case, exactly 25 physicians, 34 chemists, 41 doctors, 8 economists, one Nobel Prize in Literature winner and one Nobel Peace Prize winner.

The last is no other than Jose Ramos-Horta, the former president of Timor-Leste, who is famous for having supported the invasion of Iraq by US troops in 2003. His Nobel Prize reminded me a little of the one given to Obama: rather than acknowledging his merits, it was a request to uphold world peace.

Richard Roberts and Phillip A. Sharp, also witnesses on the show, are both businessmen in the biotech sector, so I don’t think they’re driven by altruism either.

The truth of the matter is that, as much as our government wants to try and sell us the idea that technology is “apolitical”, GM seed patents remain in the hands of multinational corporations Monsanto, BASF, DuPont, Syngenta (which is already in Cuba), amongst others, which quite frankly don’t give a damn about our food security.

It’s already been well established in this debate (even though pro-GM opposing parties don’t want to admit it) that this isn’t only a question about productivity or technology, but about bioethics.

The extensive single-crop farming technique based on agrochemicals, which these Nobel Prize winners defend, wipes out culinary and traditional farming techniques, forces entire families out of their homes and creates mega-plantations which take over hectares and hectares of land. In fact, 75% of farming land is used to produce fodder for animals in the livestock industry and for the agrofuel industry, not for food.

Greenpeace alerts to the risks of GMO foods.

According to the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization), between 33% and 40% of the food the global food industry produces is wasted; and that would be enough to feed all of the world’s poor which these physicians and chemists supposedly defend (while giving way to the system that creates this poverty).

Meanwhile, responding to the European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility’s call to action, over 300 scientists have rejected the idea that GMOs are safe for agroecosystems and human beings.

And who does the Cuban government choose to believe? Well, allies of the global power, in line with the country’s current process of catching up to speed with the rest of the world, with the juicy promise that US farmers will export their products to Cuba and invest in our agriculture; now that the Europeans don’t want to buy their GM seeds.

Therefore, the Cuban government is secretly creating a media campaign among ill-informed Cuban readers.

By the way, Dr Luis A. Montero Cabrera forgot to mention the fact that the letter from the Nobel Prize winners concerned about the hungry South, was presented way up north, in Washington, as Congress was about to vote on a law about labeling GM foods which would prevent States from making their own decisions on the matter, leaving it completely up to companies to decide.

Montero prefers to ignore all of the above and concludes his argument with naivety:

“Some of the reasons that have been used against GMOs have been political in nature. Certain multinational corportations are important developers of these crops because of their commercial benefits. This may be why it receives negative press from some institutions. However, scientific truth can be used by a monopolist and exclusive organization just as much as it can be used by a revolutionary biopharmaceutical laboratory, which belongs to the people. The harmlessness and humanitarian benefits of biotechnologies’ products which have been correctly and scientifically proven don’t depend on their owners.”

First of all: State-owned laboratories don’t belong to the people, but to the State. Secondly, if biotechnology results don’t depend on their owners, can we then assume that the results from one owner or another will be the same? Yes, as an anarchist, I agree with this, but… do you?

Share this:

What's your opinion?

  • Carlyle MacDuff

    By far the majority of Cubans are not concerned about genetically modified crops or livestock, they just want to be able to have sufficient food to feed their families and themselves. They are already consuming GMO products – especially in imported cooking oils.
    If they were able to access beef – a product which many have never tasted, they would not care whether it had been butchered from hormone treated animals – as is the case in North America or not. If able to feed hogs copper additives improving the conversion rate, they would do so. The niceties of the use of such products is of little concern when both poor and hungry!

  • CUBAQUS

    Not merely an act of the elite to pander to US interests as some will want to claim:
    “Agricultural technology
    Cuba is a leader in organic farming and non-GMO agriculture, as isolation has meant an absence of genetically modified seeds. Businesses that can use technology to scale these operations.”
    http://money.cnn.com/2015/12/10/technology/cuba-venture-capital/

    The Cuban military had already started the process:
    “Empresas militares lideran la introducción de cultivos transgénicos en la Isla a espaldas de la población
    Joan Antoni Guerrero Vall | Barcelona | 17 de Febrero de 2016”
    http://www.diariodecuba.com/cuba/1455741756_20289.html

    In June 2015 this publication proudly stated:
    “Cuba Drops Genetically Modified Crops, June 17, 2015”
    http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=112027

    in line with its past reporting:
    “Activists & Scholars Demand that Cuba Renounce Transgenics, July 4, 2013”
    http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=95840

    I guess the Cuban economic -military – political elite does whet it wants without consulting or informing the Cuban people.

  • steve webster

    Poor people growing crops in India could not afford the extra costs of the seed and more expensive crop imputs causing some of the poorest farmers in India to go broke and lose their land. Some of those farmers then took their own lives as a result. Monsanto is not to be trusted and the current leadership of Cuba does not seem to consult the people. There are many people in Canada who would be more than happy to invite a Cuban farmer to Canada for one growing season that are either organic or grow some or all non-GMO crops. Cuba has too much to lose has I believe that production of many crops excluding sugar can be doubled by the use of better and more imputs . The unused bush reclaimed and managed by small scale farmers using local coops for imputs and equipment sharing. Monsanto would be more than happy to give free seed and imputs for one year to be the large scale non-GMO, farmers out.