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In Nicaragua, in addition to the presence of GMOs, there is a sinister project called “pound for pound” by the Inter-American Development Bank through which peasants deliver a pound of their native seeds and Monsanto contributes a pound of theirs. In other words, the IDB finances the purchase of Monsanto's seeds and the Creole seeds remain as financial pledges for the Bank.
Oh Nicaragua ... Nicaragüita!
Facilitator of the Alliance for a GMO-Free Nicaragua and coordinator of the biodiversity program of the Humboldt Center, Julio Sánchez tells how biopiracy thrives in the poorest country in Central America.
When was the Alliance born?
- On May 14 of last year. It is made up of organizations that have been denouncing the presence of transgenic foods in our country, especially those that are destined for pre-school children and workers who were earning these foods in exchange for their work.
How many organizations make up the Alliance?
- Seven organizations, representing various sectors of producers, consumers, human rights, health, food workers, unions, the environment and also organizations linked to the issue of food safety. The IUF is one of the founding organizations of the Alliance.
What is the attitude of the government?
- We have informed the President of the nation our opinion on the risks and dangers of transgenics, however his attitude is extremely passive. To date, no official position has been adopted on the matter, it has not been said whether we accept them or not, but the paradox is that they are already here.
What do you know in relation to the other countries of the Central American region?
- In the case of El Salvador, there is no open policy, the only thing that exists is an article in a law where it is mentioned that transgenic seeds do not have to be produced. However, El Salvador has always supported US industries, and is currently one of the countries that is holding the initiative to support the United States against the European Union to lift the moratorium it has declared. (See related article)
In the case of Honduras, it is known that it is at the level of experimentation. In Costa Rica there are 500 hectares of soybeans, but not for internal consumption, nor for commercialization. In Guatemala there is not much knowledge and there is no specific legislation. In Central America we can say that there is no very strong legislation on the issue of transgenics. At most, in some countries, a biosafety protocol was signed that meets the requirements of a Central American scenario.
Returning to Nicaragua, in addition to the presence of GMOs there is a sinister project called "pound for pound."
- Yes. It is a project of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) through which peasants give a pound of their native seeds and Monsanto contributes a pound of theirs. In other words, the IDB finances the purchase of Monsanto's seeds and the Creole seeds remain as financial pledges for the Bank.
And where is the collection of these seeds carried out?
- It is not known, the government says that they are the guarantee required by the IDB. This means that our seeds are worth, but no one knows where they have them, or what their final destination will be.
Are they transgenic seeds?
- We don't know, but whether they are transgenic or not, the "pound for pound" project is bad in itself.
How many years has it been implemented?
- Two years and a half. But it should be noted that the rejection of the peasant communities is increasing.
The looting continues. The peasants give their seeds to later remain hostages of a model in which they will not own anything, only their debts.
- The robbery did not end, except that now it is a more diplomatic and tie looting. They are taking our germplasm, especially corn, using the slogans of aid, of hunger in the world, that the peasants do not have enough technique. Pure lies.
The country has lost a lot economically, socially, and now in terms of food sovereignty.
- Yes. We are losing our sovereignty as a nation and our food sovereignty at swift steps, and precisely because we submit to the policies of countries like the United States.
Do you share the opinion that all this problem, and these trends of appropriation of our natural resources are going to deepen with the FTAA?
- Evidently. In fact, I consider this “pound-for-pound” project initiative to be a strategic preliminary step. The problem is that the United States has a lot of technology, but they cannot produce healthy and natural products like us. The strategy is clear: to pollute ourselves, take over the market and monopolize the production that will be theirs, that of transgenics in which they have specialized.
Earlier you mentioned that there is an unfavorable opinion about GMOs from the peasants. Why does that happen? Is there a good level of information?
- In principle, I believe that a well-informed farmer will never accept transgenic seeds. Well informed he will never accept them. Here in Nicaragua there is not a high level of information, although it is increasing. On the other hand, there are several peasant organizations that are working, for example the Alliance, and the peasant-to-peasant program, and even some media have helped.
What do you think about the dramatic balance of “modern” agriculture in Nicaragua: 17 thousand affected by Nemagón and 400 dead from health problems caused by the herbicide Paraquat?
- We are seeing the children of an era, of an era that was ungrateful, that promised much and produced, among other horrors, that macabre balance. The parents of that era are the same who now defend this new biotechnological era, where the consequences will be much more severe.
Finally, what must be done to stop all this madness?
- First, a well-strengthened, well-unified and well-organized civil society is necessary. I believe in the strength of citizen participation and I believe that a very strong bloc can assert their rights. Now, the other thing is that we have to have a fairly dynamic and proactive profile, to generate proposals, alternatives, and if they don't exist, build and promote them at all levels.