March is GMO AWARENESS MONTH - Week 5
Where Do We Go From Here?
This editorial piece is the fifth and last in a series of educational papers facilitated by the concerned citizens group:
Belizeans Against GMOs (BAGMO).

In this final week of March, as our GMO AWARENESS MONTH Educational Campaign comes to a close, a review of what we have learned will help strengthen our understanding of Genetically Modified Organisms. The facts are clear… the risks are numerous. The Precautionary Principal encourages us to move forward with care. But MOVE we must! Follow the list of actions steps shown below.

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WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED?
  • We know that to date, GMO seeds or Living Modified Organisms (LMOs) are not yet being grown in Belize. We have also learned that GMOs are here in Belize in the imported processed foods we eat and we feed to our animals.
  • We have learned that there is nothing natural about GMOs. They are made in a laboratory by man. They are combinations of genetic material usually from differing species that would never occur naturally. They are not hybrids. They are not mutations. They are intentionally created products that receive patents and are OWNED by industry.
  • We have learned that GM crops were approved to be grown and to be added to our food products without independent testing of their safety or long-term effects. What limited testing did take place was conducted by the very same industry that created the GMOs in the first place.
  • We have learned that GMO crops cannot be contained. If GMO corn seed is permitted into Belize, it will spread. Once GMOs are released into any environment, they cannot be contained and contamination of conventional and organic fields occurs.
  • We have learned that Bt genetically modified corn has a toxin that is a pesticide inside every cell within the entire corn plant including the roots, the stalk and the corn itself. This Bt toxin does not just kill the intended pest - it also kills a variety of unintended insects and impacts many other life forms, damaging the biodiversity of the region.
  • We have also learned that this Bt toxin does not disappear from the environment when the corn plant dies. The BT pesticide enters the soil through the roots of the corn plant and remains there long after the corn plant has died and the roots have rotted away. This synthetic (man-made) Bt toxin remains viable in the decaying plant material and enters our streams and waterways where it likely impacts other organisms.
  • We have learned that the nutritional content of soil is diminished by the use of GM crops and their accompanying pesticides.
  • We have recently learned that the first long-term health studies point to significant damage to health and wellness.
  • We have learned that increased allergenicities can be traced to GMOs.
  • We have learned that the Bt toxin from Bt corn has been found in the blood of pregnant women and their unborn babies.
  • We have learned that the largest insuring medical provider in the United States recommends their customers to avoid GMOs in their diet.
  • We have learned that laws on GMOs must be written determining liability for contamination, loss of livelihood, and for health and environmental damages BEFORE they can be grown in Belize.
  • We have learned that there are still many unknowns about GMOs that we have yet to discover and to validate. We don’t know, for example, how GMOs will mutate or cross with unintended organisms within our world.
  • We know, therefore, that it is imperative we move forward with both foresight and caution.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” .....Margaret Mead
Precautionary Principle: 
The "Better Safe than Sorry" 
Approach

 

WHAT ACTIONS DO WE NEED TO TAKE?

There are many things we as Belizeans can do to move forward:

-  Petition for moratorium by our Government to not allow the growing of Living Modified Organisms here in Belize for ten years to give time for capacity building and time for adequate health testing.

- Tell farmers to feed our chickens, pigs and beef cattle non-GM soy.

- Ask your local grocery stores and favorite restaurants to seek out non-GM food suppliers.

- Patronize eating establishments that promote healthy, non-GM menus.

- Tell your district representative about your concerns about GMOs in your food.

- Write the Minister of Natural Resources and Agriculture about your con-cerns on biodiversity and food security with GMOs.

- Write the Minister of Health about GMOs and your food safety worries.

- Write the Ministry of Commerce and Trade expressing your concerns about the loss of niche markets with GMOs.

- Write the Ministry of Sustainable Development expressing your concern over the threat to traditional farming and open-pollinated seed from GMOs.

- Write the Department of the Environment regarding your concerns with GMOs.

- Write to BAHA to request testing of crops to ensure GMOs are not con-taminating our agriculture.

- Request that the Biosafety Council be appointed new members representing Agriculture, Trade, Health, Environment, Bureau of Standards (Consumer Advocacy), Pesticide Control Board and Human Development.

- Ask the Belize Bureau of Standards to make mandatory the labeling of all GM foodstuffs.

- Encourage education in the schools about GMOs so our youth can make healthier food choices.

- Continue reading labels on foods, avoiding GMOs wherever possible.

- Talk about GMOs with your friends and family. Spread the word.

 

Protester's Sign reads: 
Explain to the 
Future Generations 
"Its was good for the economy" 
when they are deformed,
can't farm the toxic land,
breathe the air or drink the water

 
This editorial piece is the fifth and final in a
series of educational papers facilitated by the concerned citizens group:
Belizeans Against GMOs (BAGMO).
To learn more, go to the
BAGMO's Facebook page
Also visit our new GMO library at: www.belizeansagainstgmo.info

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Letter to the editor accompanying the above full page info-ad
GMO AWARENESS  MONTH      Letter to the Editor… Week #5
Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs): Where do we go from here?

Dear Editor, 

We commend the Amandala for providing the opportunity to inform the public about Genetically Modified Organisms. By now, this final week of GMO AWARENESS MONTH, we have all learned a great deal -- enough to know that the growing of GMOs commits the entire country to the monopolistic control of the petroleum-based chemical corporations that control Big Ag and ultimately seek to increase our dependency on products that make us sick and keep us broke.  The Greed and the tremendous influence of these mega-corporations involves the pushing of their ‘products’ at us under threat of trade sanctions, should we not accept their agricultural ‘assistance’. 

Belize will need to avoid the immediate attraction of short term gains and instead act with futuristic foresight for the long term good of all, standing with the Central American and Caribbean countries who have said NO to GMOs. 

GMOs are building a history and proving to be far more harmful than originally believed. And, there are far too many unknowns -- especially the unpredictable and unwanted ways in which the synthetic pesticide/poison associated with GMOs will work its way into our environment -- into our soil… our water… our seas…and our children’s bodies.  And, there are many other unknowns to consider.   How will this pesticide corn, whose toxin does not degrade in sunlight or dilute and dissipate when it rains, alter its new environment?   It‘s here to stay… in ways we have only to imagine, or dread. 

We have done the research and, over the last month, we have reported the facts.  It is our hope that the public will now be able to take an informed stand in the struggle to protect the integrity of Belizean agriculture and the food we put into our bodies.

There are many people who will say there is no standing up to corporations as big and influential as Monsanto. But in Germany, one honey farmer took Monsanto to court and WON! Because of his courage, German farmers have been able to keep genetically modified crops out of their country.

We too can be a David against the GM Goliath. We must impress upon our Government that we do not want to eat GMOs, we do not want to feed our animals GMOs, and so we surely cannot grow them.  We must work with our government to see that laws are in place to keep our food safe.

This is our fight. But we are part of a worldwide battle over the right to eat food that is safe, the right to grow food that is safe, the right to save seed for the future, and the right to determine what’s in our own nation’s best interests, not the interests of huge agro-business.  As we win this fight, we become heroes for the world, joining the ranks of warriors in solidarity. 

Sincerely,
GMO AWARENESS MONTH Educational Campaign 

(NOTE:  The following was posted on our BAGMO Facebook page. It might be nice for Belizeans to know the world is watching us.)
-----------------------
Just want to congratulate all BAGMO members on your good work. Here in Australia most of us got caught napping and many people are just waking up to what's happening on all the fronts you highlight - health, legal, environmental and of course, ethical... So yes, education is the key, and fortunately it's still early days in Belize as far as GMOs getting to the 'no turning back' point. I pray Belizeans make the most of this...

Best of luck, keep up the good fight, and know that you have supporters all around the world
Because we're all in this together
Mark Langan
 
 

Article accompanying editorial and info-ad (Week 5)
New US-EU Talks Threatened by Agriculture Spats

By DESMOND BUTLER and DON MELVIN | Associated Press – Sat, Mar 23, 2013

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama used Washington's grandest stage — the State of the Union speech — to announce negotiations with Europe aimed at creating the world's largest free trade agreement. Just weeks later, there are signs that old agriculture disputes could be deal-killers.

European Union leaders don't want the negotiations to include discussions on their restrictions on genetically modified crops and other regulations that keep U.S. farm products out of Europe. But Obama says it's hard to imagine an agreement that doesn't address those issues. Powerful U.S. agricultural lobbies will do their best to make sure Congress rejects any pact that fails to address the restrictions.

"Any free trade agreement that doesn't cover agriculture is in trouble," said Cathleen Enright, executive vice president at the Biotechnology Industry Organization, which promotes biotechnology, including genetically modified products.

That would threaten the dream of a behemoth free trade deal between the world's two largest trading partners that together account for more than half of the world economy. It would lower tariffs and remove other trade barriers for most industries. Some analysts say the deal could boost each economy by more than a half-percentage point annually and significantly lower the cost of goods and services for consumers.

Agricultural issues have long bedeviled attempts to expand free trade across the Atlantic and have led each side to file complaints against the other before the World Trade Organization, an arbitrator in trade disputes. While the U.S. protests EU restrictions, Europeans want the U.S. to reduce agricultural subsidies.

Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, have been a core part of the dispute. Agricultural scientists change the genetic makeup of agricultural products to improve their quality and boost production. In Europe, there is widespread public opposition to GMOs. The EU argues that the risks of altering the genetic pool are unknown. It has strict rules and imposes a heavy burden of proof before such crops can be grown or imported in the EU.

U.S. companies say that genetically modified products have been proved safe by scientific studies and are being excluded based on irrational fears. They accuse Europe of trying to help their own farmers by keeping out American products.

While they have little expectation that the EU would end the restrictions, they say it would be a victory if it clarified what it describes as opaque rules and also set timelines for considering products. Regulators now take what they call a precautionary approach, declining approval of products until they can be more certain of their safety.

But any move to water down the regulations could provoke a backlash in Europe.

"My reading of the mood in Europe around genetically modified crops is that it's extremely negative," said Paul DeGrauwe, a professor of economics at the London School of Economics. "It's going to be very difficult."

Indeed, the top EU trade negotiator, Commissioner Karel De Gucht, seemed to rule out a compromise in remarks this month: "A future deal will not change the existing legislation. Let me repeat: no change."

The U.S. and the EU have similarly intractable disagreements on what the two sides call sanitary issues in meats. U.S. poultry products are restricted in the EU because U.S. companies use chlorine to sanitize the meat. Pork is also restricted because U.S. farmers use a feed additive that makes pigs leaner. The two sides partially resolved disputes over U.S. beef after an agreement that U.S. farmers would restrict hormones in cows intended for the European market.

Some European officials say the agricultural differences should be discussed after a major trade deal is completed. This month, French President Francois Hollande called for excluding sensitive issues, including the sanitary standards, from the talks. In the past, France has been among the most adamant of the European countries about protecting agricultural interests.

Obama, in a talk with his export council this month, suggested this could be a deal-breaker.

"There are certain countries whose agricultural sector is very strong, who tended to block at critical junctures the kinds of broad-based trade agreements that would make it a good deal for us," he said. "If one of the areas where we've got the greatest comparative advantage is cordoned off from an overall trade deal, it's very hard to get something going."

Powerful U.S. agricultural groups could probably block a trade deal from winning approval in Congress. In interviews, representatives of many of these groups said they would oppose a deal that didn't address the regulatory differences.

Robert Thompson, an academic at Johns Hopkins University and a former economist for the Agriculture Department, said that the agricultural issues could easily upend the talks.

"I'm not expecting an agreement to emerge any time soon," he said. "I'm thinking years."

Of course, the rhetoric at the beginning of talks might not preclude compromise in the end. In his talk with the export council, Obama expressed optimism. He noted that austerity measures in response to the debt crisis in the EU have caused European countries to look to a free trade deal as a rare opportunity to boost the economy and improve competitiveness.

"I think they are hungrier for a deal than they have been in the past," he said.

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