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In Uruguay, a country which is experiencing the worsening of the cases of genetic contamination of native maize, and an increase of the use of agrotoxics, the government is assessing to release three new genetically modified varieties, with the opposition of university researchers, environmental organizations, farmers and consumers.
The decision is up to the National Biosafety Agency, made up by the Livestock, Agriculture and Fisheries; Environment; Foreign Affairs; Industry; Economy and Finance; and Public Health ministers. We are talking of GM soy and maize varieties, in some cases for research, and others for commercial use and release as well (*).
An interdisciplinary team of the University of the Republic, Nucleo Colectivo TA, made up by researchers and professors and supported by organizations such as the Uruguayan Agroecology Network and Redes - Friends of the Earth Uruguay, among others, came up with the idea to send a petition to the Agency.
Currently, the process to assess GMOs, both new and those already approved, is carried out without the participation of the organized civil society, since different organizations left the public consultation spaces about the biosafety system, and criticized its operation.
Through the Change.org platform, the petition states that "the signatories expressly reject the authorization of new GM crops and/or events for commercial release in Uruguay, and request that said authorization is denied".
They state that the approval of new events will lead to the "intensification of impacts and uncertainties", to the massive use of the Dicamba herbicide and the development of weeds resistant to the herbicide, and to an increase of "uncertainties related to the safety of stacked events (more than one genetic modification in the same plant)", states newspaper la diaria of Montevideo.
Mauricio Vives, member of the Uruguayan Network of Native Seeds and the Agroecological Grain Cooperative (Graneco) said to Real World Radio that there is no justification for the approval of new GM events.
"The existing ones are more than enough" to cover the agricultural area of Uruguay, where the surface planted with soy amounts to 1.2 million hectares. In the case of maize "the area dedicated to crops has stayed stable since 2003 and it is something irrational in a country with 80,000 to 100,000 planted hectares to have ten authorized GM events. Why do they do it?" asked the ecological farmer in the interview with Real World Radio.
He added that the "problem of maize (in Uruguay) is not on the genes, but on climate and management, as well as its international price", GM maize "is not used to feed human beings", he explained.
Meanwhile, cooperative GRANECO, together with the local government of Montevideo, will organize on June 2nd and 3rd a native maize festival where the "recovery" of two local varieties of this grain for the production of ecological flour: the "cuarentón" maize and "catete" maize", will be celebrated. These types of maize had been genetically contaminated after the involuntary crossbreeding with GM maize in the lands that serve as seedbeds for the cooperative.
Vives said that it is necessary to insist on the enforcement of local regulations that establish that it is mandatory to label food containing GMOs. "There are many fronts and it is not only an issue that involves farmers", he said.
* According to Uruguayan newspaper la diaria, “The events are three: maize TC1507X- MON810XNK603 for research and commercial release trials; and two Monsanto soy varieties, one for commercialization, MON89788XMON87708, and another for research and crop assessment trials for the National Seed Institute MON89788XMON87701X- MON87708XMON87751”.
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