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Thursday, 20 June 2013 08:18

Puerto Rico Senate Fights Back Against Monsanto GMO and Toxic Research on Island

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puertoric6 20The Puerto Rico Senate agricultural committee is attempting to regulate experimentation with GMO seeds, specifically due to Monsanto research facilities located on the island.  According to the website Corpwatch, however, Monsanto wouldn't even send a representative to testify at a hearing about GMO research and its potential dangers.

As CorpWatch reports:

Puerto Rico has ... been a major location for the development of genetically modified crops since 1987, conducting open air field tests on corn and soy, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data. Crops developed on the island and other Monsanto research locations have a number of unusual properties – some are resistant to Monsanto's Roundup herbicide or any herbicide with glyphosate as active ingredient. Others secrete an insecticidal toxin called Bt and there are even combination strains that combine both these traits.

[Agricultural] Committee chair senator Ramón Ruiz-Nieves of the Popular Democratic Party told the media that he intends to summon Monsanto again, insisting that the company should be regulated locally since it receives substantial local and U.S. government subsidies for its activities in Puerto Rico, and is registered with the local Agriculture Department as a bona fide farmer.

This is not the first time local officials have targeted Monsanto. On April 22, senators María de Lourdes Santiago of the Puerto Rico Independence Party, and Larry Seilhamer of the New Progressive Party, introduced Senate Bill 524, which would mandate the labeling of foods with genetically modified content sold on the island. The Senate Health Committee is expected to hold hearings on this bill later this year.

Monsanto has also been embroiled in a legal controversy over the fact it plants crops on 1,500 acres, despite the fact that Puerto Rico's 1952 constitution prohibits agricultural landholdings larger than 500 acres. In May, Puerto Rico Agriculture Secretary Myrna Comas, a well known food security scholar, referred this matter to the Puerto Rico Justice Department, requesting a legal opinion.

"It is our duty to monitor the food health of our people. If we are given evidence regarding some effect on the island we'll take it into consideration," Comas said in a radio interview.

Because of Puerto Rico's Commenwealth status, the question of the island's senate's jurisdiction has been raised by Monsanto. The GMO behemoth, with a history of toxic chemicals for agriculture and other uses (DDTs, PPCs and Agent Orange among many), contends that Puerto Rico cannot pass restrictive GMO laws that supercede extremely lax federal legislation and regulation.

The battle with Monsanto to rein in GMO research on the island was featured in an article in the widely-read Puerto Rican newspaper, El Nuevo Día (The New Day). In a June 11th report on the paper's Internet site, Gerardo Cordero writes (translation by google and BuzzFlash at Truthout):

International environmentalists question genetic manipulation by Monsanto, as well as the use of certain pesticides described as highly harmful. In some jurisdictions these environmentalists have led protests that have resulted in a temporary blockade of Monsanto operations.

Senate Bill 624 proposes the creation of a Seed Certification Program, within the Department of Agriculture. The measure recommended the creation of a Board of seeds and the issuance of licenses as part of the regulation of their production and sale.

Senator Nieves Ruiz, author of the bill, argued at the hearing about the importance of ensuring genetic purity of seeds that are grown in Puerto Rico and said the move would promote food security guarantees for the people.

Among Monsanto's arguments for refusing to offer testimony to the Puerto Rican senate committee is that it doesn't grow GMO agricultural products for consumption on the island; it just creates the Frankenstein seeds there through research.

Given the aggressive efforts of the commonwealth agricultural committee, one can hope that it will inspire obsequious congressional lawmakers and administration regulators to stop letting Monsanto pretty much write its own ticket on the mainland.

But then again, that would mean there would have to be a law that congress and the White House cannot be bought with campaign contributions.

And that doesn't appear anywhere on the horizon because the companies that own the politicians aren't going to let it happen.

(Photo: SEIU International)