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6-Regulation: El Salvador new seed law gives green light for GMOs

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TITLE:  El Salvador could become testing ground for genetically modified
SOURCE: Centro de Intercambio y Solidaridad, El  Salvador,
DATE:   October 24, 2000

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El Salvador could become testing ground for genetically modified products

In May of 2000 the Minister of Agriculture and Livestock presented the Seed 
Law bill to the Legislative Assembly which would replace the existing 
Certification of Seeds and Plants Law. The new law would allow the "free 
circulation" of genetically engineered foods into the country without any 
restriction, safeguarding or certification process. This would be a green 
light for transnational corporations to experiment, produce, import and 
commercialize transgenetic organisms without having to worry about the 
effects to the local economy, health, or environment.

According to the CDC (Center of Defense of the Consumer), Monsanto and it's 
local subsidiary Semillas SA, which ex-president Christiani owns, are the 
financial interests behind the law. The financial interests of this 
company, which has unsurpassed control over the seed industry, and the Seed 
Law would create disastrous social effects.


Genetically engineered products are usually advertised as a way of ending 
world hunger, but in reality have been used to control world food 
production. This phenomenon must be placed within the context of neo-
liberal globalization. Large transnational companies utilize patents or 
Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights to further control the 
production of food. Patenting and property rights are an essential 
ingredient in the biotechnology industry. By patenting plants and seeds, 
once the modified seeds are introduced into a community the traditional 
communal way of farming by collecting seeds and replanting the next year 
will be illegal. Through the TRIPs agreement, which was established at the 
Uruguay Round Agreement, foreign corporations can also appropriate valuable 
agricultural and medicinal biodiversity from "developing countries". The 
TRIPs agreement states that all members of the WTO (World Trade 
Organization) must allow patenting or another "effective" system. Anything 
that can be genetically manipulated can be patented as private property by 
transnational corporations. The TRIPs agreement was conceived by the 
Intellectual Property Committee which was made up of powerful companies 
with global financial interests. At the time they were Bristol Meyers, 
Dupont, General Electric, General Motors, Hewlett Packard, IBM, Johnson and 
Johnson, Merck, Monsanto, Pfizer, Rockwell and Time-Warner. Any country 
that violates "international standards" of property rights can face the 
wrath of sanctions, fines, or other means of inflicting damage upon non-
abiding nations.

In order to gain world control of food production, local and traditional 
producers must be driven out. The new market for the transnationals must be 
"opened up". There are various ways in which this done. Often, the World 
Bank and the IMF encourage or demand that countries not only buy 
genetically engineered seeds but also that they plant non-traditional crops 
for export instead of producing for their needs (often times the "owner" of 
the exports is a private transnational). This practice often ends in 
disaster such as in Mexico and Zimbabwe where both countries were "advised" 
to halt production of the local food staple. Another way of displacing the 
local producers is by "dumping". Dumping is the practice of "dumping" mass 
quantities of certain foreign staple food products on a community with the 
goal of stopping local food production which is meant to be consumed by the 
local communities and opening the "new market". Such is the case right now 
in El Salvador. According to the CDC, free genetically engineered seeds are 
being distributed to farmers in order to create dependency. In the case of 
El Salvador, this law would exacerbate the already grave situation which 
confronts the small and medium size farmers in this country.

Finally, without any required testing or protocols in place "developing" 
countries turn into laboratories for genetic experiments which result in 
health hazards and environmental devastation. Studies have shown that 
genetically modified foods are already on the shelves in the supermarkets 
of El Salvador without having followed the appropriate norms and 
regulations. If a country has too high of standards a dispute can be 
brought to the World Trade Organization. The committee is made up of "trade 
experts" not scientists or doctors who study the social effects. In the end 
the determining factor is if its good for "trade" not if its good for the 

On October 16, the CDC placed a resolution in the Legislative Assembly 
which includes 6 basic measures to try to ensure the safety of the people 
of El Salvador. The measures are:
- all decisions including the use of transgenetic organisms should be 
consulted with the citizenry first
- opening up spaces for participation and discussion about the risks and 
- the Seed Law should not be signed until the Cartagena Protocol and the 
Biodiversity Law are ratified
- declare a moratorium on the entrance of transgenetic organisms until it 
is proven that they are completely safe for the population, the center 
theme of all biosecurity policies should be the application of the Caution 
Principal before approving any related initiative to genetic manipulation
- an institutional norm must be established to assure the control and the 
regulation of such organisms in order to protect health, the environment, 
and life itself
- that the Ministers of Agriculture and Livestock, Economy, Public Health, 
Social Security, Environment and Natural Resources explain the 
considerations and economic, social and political impacts.

The resolution will be sent to a special commission to analyze the bill and 
the resolution. In this case, the Commission of Agriculture and Economy 
will be in charge of investigating the issue.


Write the special commission and demand that they follow all the requests 
presented by the CDC in their resolution

Comisi—n de Econom’a y Agricultura
Asamblea Legislative
Centro de Gobierno
San Salvador
El Salvador, C.A.
Fax: (503) 281-9526

Sample Letter Follows

Comisi—n de Econom’a y Agricultura 
Asamblea Legislativa
Centro de Gobierno
San Salvador
El Salvador, C.A.

Dear Distinguished Members of the Commission,

I write you today as a concerned world food consumer and as an individual 
who cares for the safety and well being of the people of El Salvador. As a 
result, I urge you to seriously study the Seed Law as presented by the 
Minister of Agriculture and Livestock along with the bill presented by the 
Centro para la Defensa del Comsumidor (CDC). I also urge you to implement 
the 6 measures included in the bill presented by the CDC. Failure to do so 
will lead to health and environmental risks for the people of El Salvador. 
In addition, this new law would help to eradicate traditional farming done 
by small and medium sized farms and would further exacerbate the 
agricultural crisis.


Comisi—n de Econom’a y Agricultura
Asamblea Legislativa
Centro de Gobierno
San Salvador
El Salvador, C.A.

Estimados miembros de la Comisi—n de Agricultura y Econom’a,

Les deseo Žxito en su trabajo y espero que esta carta les encuentre bien. 
Les escribo como consumidor de alimentos mundiales y como persona 
preocupado(a) sobre la salud y el bienestar del pueblo Salvadore–o. En ese 
sentido, por este medio les solicito atentamente que examinen detenida y 
profundamente, la Ley de Semillas presentada por el Ministerio de 
Agricultura y Ganader’a. De igual forma, que lo hagan con las solicitudes 
contenidas dentro de la pieza de correspondencia entregada por el Centro de 
la Defensa del Consumidor (CDC) el d ’a 16 de Octubre de 2000. Esta pieza 
de correspondencia, junto con las solicitudes, est‡n directamente 
vinculadas con la aprobaci—n de la Ley. Adem‡s, les pido que respondan 
satisfactoriamente a dichas solicitudes, que son seis, ya que de lo 
contrario, la salud del pueblo Salvadore–o y el medio ambiente estar‡n en 
peligro. La crisis agropecuaria tambiŽn se profundizar’a si se aprueba la 
Ley sin tomar en cuenta las solicitudes del CDC.


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