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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.

GMOs in Cuba: More Questions than Answers

May 29, 2017 | Print Print |

Isbel Diaz Torres

Photo: periodismodebarrio.com

HAVANA TIMES — Once again, Cuban TV has brought up the subject of GM crops on its “Pasaje a lo Desconocido” show, where two experts on the subject, with opposite views, discussed the impact of this technology, which has been present in Cuba for some time now.

As a special feature, the presenter Taladrid invited viewers who took part in a similar debate that went over the same subject he and his guests had on a radio broadcast, but where they also included questions from those listening to the show.

That’s when it came to me that I should write a list of interesting questions to put forward to these experts, some of which we could actually ask; and I want to share these with you now. Here they are:

  1. How many square hectares or km of GM crops are being sowed in Cuba? And, how many square hectares or km are expected to be dedicated to GM crops in the next 10 years?
  2. Where can Cuban citizens who don’t want to eat GM crops go to to express their disapproval?
  3. Why is the production of GM crops legal in Cuba if this goes against the Cochabamba Declaration, which our country signed?
  4. With GM crops spreading in Cuba, will the Government give up on developing eco-friendly and sustainable farming? Which kind of farming will have the most land dedicated to it?
  5. Do Cuban agroecologists approve of the extensive use of GMOs?
  6. The Bayer Company recently bought the multinational company Monsanto… and Bayer has been carrying out chemical tests in Cuban fields for years now. Wouldn’t this be a way in for Monsanto’s seeds and pesticides?
  7. Is it true that the majority of studies accepted about the level of toxicity of GMOs are carried out by the same companies who produce GMOs? Isn’t there a conflict of interest there?
  8. Are there independent studies that prove the harmlessness of GM crops? Can you cite some please?
  9. Documents recently discredited by the FDA in the US have pointed out the fact that this organization has ignored reports from scientists warning about the LACK of safety of GMOs for years. Would Cuba change its position with regard to GMOs, given these findings?
  10. Is it true that one of the Nobel prize laureates who signed the letter in favor of GMOs, Jose Ramos-Horta, former president of East Timor, also supported the US invasion of Iraq in 2003?
  11. Is it true that two of the Nobel prize laureates who signed the letter in favor of GMOs, Richard Roberts and Phillip Sharp, are also businessmen in the biotechnology sector?
  12. Can having vast areas of single-crop farming based on the use of pesticides be regarded as ecologically sustainable development?
  13. Are there any alternative methods in Cuba for controlling pests and disease in crops other than GM pesticides?
  14. Is it true that over 300 scientists, responding to a call by the European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility, rejected the idea that GMOs are safe for agroecosystems or human beings?
  15. In almost 30 years of research and 20 years of commercialization, has genetic engineering been able to significantly increase crop yields in the US?
  16. Is it true that Cuban farmers used to sow GM corn in Cuba before this was an officially accepted practice?
  17. Which companies are sowing GM crops on a large scale in Cuba?
  18. Is Cuban GM corn resistant to any specific weed-killer? Is it produced in Cuba? Is it a chemical or biological weed-killer?
  19. Does Cuba label GM products which the Cuban people consume?

 

In spite of it being almost impossible to get in touch with the radio station, and in spite of the journalist, who led the discussion (Reinaldo Taladrid), using up almost all of the time on the show with unsubstantial comments, the experts only responded to one of these questions: the first one.

In my next post, we will take a look at their response and their many silences.


What's your opinion?

  • Carlyle MacDuff

    Cubans don’t give a damn about GMO they just want to eat!
    As Cuban agricultural production declines, an ever increasing amount of food has to be imported. Are those canned tomatoes from Spain and the US GMO’s? If the Castro regime was concerned it would enable Cuba to grow its own tomatoes – a natural outdoor greenhouse, but try to buy a fresh tomato in December and January!
    Discussion of food production on Cuban TV – especially if on Mesa Redondo under the hand wringing Randy Alonso Falcon, is academic. Hundreds of thousands of acres of good agricultural land reverting to bush – and the “experts” are discussing GMO?

    • drspocks

      Why can’t Cubans improve their agriculture and not jeopardize their health? There are plenty of non-GMO agricultural products the US could export and plenty of options for Cubans to increase production without increasing their risk of cancer. A fuller explanation can be seen in the documentary “Seeds of Death” available on Youtube.

      • Carlyle MacDuff

        Sadly, the answer to the question you pose is that the application of communist theory has resulted in ever declining levels of production.
        As I have already written, Cubans just want to eat.
        The first visit I ever made to Cuba was with a group of international agricultural scholars. All we could do after a few days, was to shake our heads! For me the saving grace was that I met my wife to be.

  • Carlyle MacDuff

    Well drspocks, until now I did not know that Cuba is importing Roundup. When did GAESA commence buying it?
    As you apparently have some knowledge of agriculture, what would be your advice to the Castro regime regarding the hundreds of thousands of acres (hectares if you choose) that they have allowed to revert to bush?

    • drspocks

      My point is GMO corn is designed for use with Roundup. If you don’t use this herbicide, there’s no point is using GMO seed. The EU reached a similar conclusion and has banned Roundup.

      • Carlyle MacDuff

        My point drspock is that Cubans are just glad to get to eat and care naught about the source of any food they can obtain.
        The debate about GMO has been going on for thirty years. Similarly, when Dr. Timothy Rowson was doing his work on ovum transplant at the University of Cambridge during the mid-sixties (I first visited his lab in 1967) he little imagined that his initiative would duly be applied to humans and that thousands of people would be born as a result. Research in agriculture has a mixed record, but things like the green revolution in India have enabled millions to eat and survive.
        I have often been humorous about maize in the US and expressed the view that Americans are made of the stuff, as cattle, pigs and poultry are fed on it, food processors and drink manufacturers make extensive use of it as a source of sucrose and for many Americans the day commences with corn flakes and so on. But if you take obesity as a measure, it has been successful!