The planting of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) is legal in Honduras and El Salvador but illegal in the rest of Central America.
In 2002, the Honduran Government approved Monsanto’s request to plant MON-810 Bt maize cultivars (Otero, 2007). This is corn with genes from Bacillus thuringiensis – a bacterium that possesses an insecticide effect – so pests that eat the corn die.[i]
Transnational fruit corporations, such as Dole and Chiquita, are also thought to be experimenting on transgenic bananas (Otero, 2007).
According to Jaffe (2003), Honduras is one of the few Latin American counties with an operational biosafety regulation. However its biosafety “Acuerdo” of 1998 simply says “proper measures have to be taken to prevent the negative effects of GMOs on human health and the environment”. The Honduran Ministry of Agriculture, the designated authority to regulate GMOs and evaluate requests for field trials and releases, does not have any specific criteria for such evaluations.[ii]
Monsanto said that by 2007, the company’s GMOs accounted for 15% of the country’s corn production but predicted this would increase to 50% by 2012.[iii]
El Salvador became the second country to allow the cultivation of GMOs when it approved the experimental planting of Monsanto’s YieldGard® Corn Borer with Roundup Ready® Corn 2. The products were planted by the Centro Nacional de Tecnologia Agropecuaria y Forestal (CENTA) which has stations in San Andres, Ceda Izalso and Santa Cruz Porrillo.[iv]
Monsanto admits it was instrumental in securing the government statement which first outlined the use of GMOs which came after the National Congress of El Salvador eliminated the vote against article 30 – which forbade GMO activity – and new biosafety regulations were published.[v]
The company says a biotechnology framework is also being implemented in Guatemala in 2009 and it hopes more Central American countries will adopt Monsanto technologies. But while extensive field trials on the effects of GMOs to human health and the environment remain incomplete, other Central American countries have upheld their ban on GMOs.
[ii] Gerard Otero. Food for the Few: Neoliberal Globalism and Biotechnology in Latin America (2007)
[iii] Rita Perdomo, Monsanto’s Marking Manager, quotes in http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=93310225 (Accessed 20/07/09).
[iv] http://www.monsanto.com/monsanto_today/2009/el_salvador_to_adopt_gmos.asp (Accessed 20/07/09).
[v] See note 4.