Region, Nicoya

FEMUGUA Requests Nicoyan Councilors’ Support for GMO Crops in Canton

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The Federation of Guanacaste Municipalities (FEMUGA – Federación de Municipalidades de Guanacaste) has requested that Nicoya’s Municipal Council suspend the agreement prohibiting the production of genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) in the canton.

Nicoya was declared a GMO-free canton in 2006, following a unanimous agreement among previous Municipal Council members.

Viviana Alvarez, FEMUGUA’s executive director, explained during the April 30 municipal session that they are visiting all of the municipalities in Guanacaste, requesting that the councilors’ support the arrival of GMO-producing companies.

“We want them to revisit the agreement. Since the end of the 90s we have been eating [and using] GMO cereals, meats, milk, cotton, and even injectable insulin and other GMO medicines and nothing has happened to anyone,” said Alvarez.

The official believes that companies such as Monsanto G.P.L. could generate employment in the province. “Guanacaste has been a province damaged by [lack of] work. We cannot say goodbye to companies that are creating employment, and in the end it’s a myth that they’re going to do anything to traditional agriculture. If we had a vision for the future we would be training those farmers.”

Several representatives of the company Monsanto G.P.L. were present for the session. They used a slideshow to discuss myths about Monsanto and GMOs.

However, the councilors and syndics showed a variety of reactions, as even though some are in favor of opening the canton to GMOs, the large majority still have their doubts and others are emphatically opposed to GMOs.

Juan Luis Aguirre, councilor for the Libertarian Movement and the council’s new president, commented that the topic of GMOs requires careful examination. “There are several interests involved – the environment, the economy, health and even ideologies.”

For his part, the National Liberation Party (PLN – Partido Liberación Nacional) councilor Rodolfo Orozco affirmed that he defends the canton’s small producers and that, “I don’t know how chicheme (a drink made with purple corn) or arroz de maíz (a rice and corn stew) would taste if they were made with GMOs; for that you could buy a hamburger from McDonald’s.”

Syndic Mario Ondoy expressed concern, due to the fact that he doesn’t understand current regulations on selling, labeling, monitoring and producing GMOs. However, he believes it is necessary to come to an agreement that benefits both farmers and companies.

Councilor Juan Edwin Yockchen maintained that there is a need to raise awareness and teach people about GMOs. “We have to explain to our traditional producers that the intention is to improve production. Obviously that has a cost and what the companies want is to earn a profit selling their seeds every year. But I am also sure that GMOs aren’t harmful to your health because we’ve been using them without realizing it,” he explained.

Marco Jimenez, the municipal mayor, reminded the council that the people of Nicoya categorically voted “no” in the 2007 referendum regarding the Central American Free Trade Agreement between the United States, Central America and the Dominican Republic. He also said that, if a company wants to obtain a productive operating permit in the canton, the Municipality does have the obligation to grant it.

For her part, Viviana Alvarez affirmed that they will continue to visit the eleven Guanacaste municipalities to try and convince councilors to allow the arrival of GMO-producing companies.