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9-Misc: GE news from Chile

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-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

SOURCE: Chile Sustenable,
DATE:   Jun 2003

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Two bills on transgenics in Chile have been drawn-up. The House of
Representatives has presented a motion for the modification of Law 19.300
of General Environmental Bases, in order to include within the
environmental impact system, production or scientific projects that could
or may liberate genetically modified organisms into the environment,
given the risks towards areas of clean and organic production. The bill
also considers the right of local agriculture-livestock production
associations and societies to declare areas of clean production or
transgenic free areas in the country, in accordance with the
municipalities or regional authorities. If this bill is approved, it will
mean a significant advance in the development of organic agriculture in
the country, and a brake on the expansion of transgenic organisms. The
Senate has also proposed a bill on the obligatory labeling of transgenic
products. The bill states that all food products that are or have
employed genetically modified or transgenic elements, ingredients, or
additives, should be labeled "Transgenic" or "GMO" in a prominent place
on the container.

National Program for Technological Development and Innovation.

The Chilean Government has decided that technological advances represent
one of their highest priorities, and thus are developing the National
Program for the Development of Technological Innovation 2001-2004, and
the Genome Initiative, for a sum of 200 million dollars with the support
of the IDB. The main objective is to contribute to increasing the
competitiveness of the Chilean economy by supporting technological
development and innovation in strategic areas of the national economy.
The government prioritized the development of biotechnology as a way to
add value to production and exports based on natural resources in the
forestry, agriculture, and aquaculture sectors. This added value is
understood as the development of transgenics and biotechnological
products. The genome Initiative includes the development of knowledge and
technologies based on genomics, proteomics, and bio-information and have
funded the development of transgenic organisms, such as transgenic
bacteria for the bio-leaching of copper, transgenic grapes and nectarines
developed to improve the quality of the fruit. The executer of the
project is the Undersecretary of the Treasury with the support of other
national institutions.

National Commission on Biotechnology. 

On July, 2002 the National Commission on Biotechnology went into session,
presided over by the Undersecretary of the Treasury. The objective of
this commission is to show a prospective vision of the trends and impacts
of the development of biotechnology in Chile, and to elaborate a proposal
with strategic guidelines and concrete actions that promote and regulate
the production, dissemination, and utilization of these new
biotechnologies in the country. Commission participants include
scientists, businessmen from biotechnology companies, parliamentarians,
government employees, but does not include important sectors of civil
society, like organic agriculture, consumers, and environmental
organizations. The Network for a Chile Free of Transgenics met with the
Undersecretary of the Treasury in order to express its discontent
regarding the absence of citizen participation in this process. This
Commission has just finished its work in June 2003, and the report
promotes transgenic organisms in Chile, minimizing the potential risks
and the precautionary principle. Among the recommendations would be to
provide support to biotechnology companies in Chile, attracting foreign
investment in this sector, cultivating transgenic trees and transgenic
fruit and vegetables for export. It rejected the production of transgenic
salmon, following the recommendations of the salmon sector that fear to
loose markets. As regards to food labeling, it does not recognize the
need for the labeling of this food, unless to those that may present
substantial differences from their conventional equivalent, a measure
that disregard potential risks and does not respect the rights of choice
of consumers and the truthful information about their food. The
recommendations of this commission did not consider the observations
provided by the members of the Network for a Chile Free of Transgenics,
and only represent the biased views of the business, academic, and
biotechnology sectors, to the detriment of other interests. This
diminishes the credibility of the process and makes it difficult to
endorse any of the results that may emerge from this commission

Ministry of Agriculture Moves Forward on Bio-Safety Issues. 

The Ministry of Agriculture of Chile, has declared that it will base its
transgenic policies on caution, in the least costly position faced with
the dilemma between the European Union/United States, and on the
consultation of all production sectors. It concluded that the majority of
productive actors wish to maintain the current situation and not increase
the liberation of transgenic crops in Chile for fear of commercial
restrictions in export markets, especially the EU and Japan. The sectors
that support transgenics are the forestry industry (Corma), poultry and
pig production, seed producers, and beet root producers. A large part of
the agriculture-livestock export sectors are opposed to the liberation of
transgenics in Chile. These include wine, salmon and trout producers,
fruit producers, National Society of Agriculture, organic growers, small
farmers and meat producers.

Transgenic Mouse is Created.

The University of Chile's School of Dentistry, together with the Núcleo
Milenio in Development Biology, has created three genetically modified
mice in order to study the formation of teeth. The principle component of
dental enamel is amelogenin, and the amelogenin gene in the modified mice
has been rendered inactive, which according to researchers, would make it
possible to study the function, control, and expression of this gene. It
is unknown how the effects of this modification will affect the health of
the mice, which could suffer tooth defects. The research is directed
towards the possible development of bio-materials with the original
proteins from the dental enamel for the purposes of treating dental
problems, gene therapy, and a third set of teeth.

Transgenic Crops in Chile 

According to information in the media, 6,500 hectares of transgenics were
cultivated in Chile in 2001, 80% of which corresponded to corn. Other
crops included soybeans, tomatoes, potatoes, beets, wheat, canola, melon,
tobacco, squash, and sunflowers. The area of transgenic crops has
diminished since 1999, year in which 9,450 hectares were planted, to
8,223 hectares in 2000 and to 6,500 hectares in 2001. Additionally, the
proportion of cultivation of transgenic corn seed with respect to the
total production of corn seed has also diminished. According to
information from ANPROS, this was 85% in 1998, 78% in 1999, 70% in 2000,
and 47.9% in 2001. This downward tendency reflects the international
conflicts over the commercialization of transgenic food, which has a
bearing on the decreased demand for transgenic crop seeds.

Contamination of Chilean Soybean Seeds

According to information circulating internationally, disseminated by
various information networks on transgenics and published in the Grand
Forks Herald, USA, on November 12, 2002 (, in 2001 the
North Dakota State University sent conventional soybean seeds to Chile in
order to be multiplied.

The university detected that these seeds came back from Chile
contaminated by herbicide-resistant transgenic soybeans.

For this reason, the North Dakota State University, which was adversely
affected as a result of losing the purity of its seed stock, stopped
sending its seeds to Chile for multiplication.

If this information is true, it would indicate that our country is
already losing its status as a safe country for the multiplication of
conventional seeds, which is not surprising given the present situation
of transgenic crops disseminated throughout the national territory
without any planning.

The Network for a Chile Free of Transgenics solicited the Minister of
Agriculture, in a letter sent in March of 2003, for the assurance of
stricter laws and controls with respect to transgenic crops, so as to
avoid the contamination of organic and conventional crops, and for the
adoption of a policy of free access to information on the location of
transgenic crops in Chile, information that has been systematically
denied by SAG, and to take measures for the establishment of areas free
from transgenics. The Ministry of Agriculture has denied this contamination. 

Legal Action for the Right to Information 

The Fundación Sociedades Sustentables together with the Association of
Organic Growers of Chile, Tierra Viva, represented by the Centro Austral
de Derecho Ambiental, CEADA, lost a lawsuit filed against National
Agriculture and Livestock Service, SAG, in 2001, for the access to
information on transgenic cultivations. The trial was won in January
2002, before the Court of Appeals, however, the SAG appealed before the
Supreme Court, which on November 2002 denied the exercise of citizen
rights to obtain public information as established in the Law of Probity
and to develop economic activities as established by the Political
Constitution. The liberation of transgenic crops in the environment in
unknown places affects the development of organic and conventional
agriculture (an economic activity), and involves serious risks that have
yet to be fully studied or quantified. The Fundación will continue its
efforts for it legitimate right to access this information.

Project on Biosafety in Chile 

The national Commision for the Environment, CONAMA, is coordinating the
UNEP-GEF project, Development of a National Biosafety Framework in Chile,
which was begun in November 2002. It aims to develop and strengthen the
country's information, methodological, administrative, and regulatory
systems in relation to modified live organisms, in the framework of
moving towards the implementation of the Biosafety Protocol. The Network
for a Chile Free of Transgenics was invited to join the project's
National Coordinating Committee.

Book on Biotechnology Research in Chile.

The Fundación Sociedades Sustentables is in the process of publishing a
book on biotechnology research and production of transgenic organisms in
Chile, which will be launched in June 2003. Documents on Transgenics in
Chile. The Fundación Sociedades Sustentables prepared the document,
Biotecnología y Bioseguridad: La Situación de los Transgénicos en Chile.

There are still some copies available of the document: Arboles
Transgénicos: Biotecnología en el Sector Forestal de Chile and an
educational booklet on transgenic foods: "Alimentos Transgénicos y Sus
Riesgos a la Salud Humana". For those who are interested, contact or the Foundation's office, Seminario 774, Santiago. We
also elaborate a Spanish electronic Bulletin on Transgenics. Numbers 1 to
11, are available on the web site: or can be
requested at

 Maria Isabel Manzur
Fundación Sociedades Sustentables
Seminario 774, Santiago, Chile
June 2003


European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

Hartmut MEYER (Mr)
Kleine Wiese 6
D - 38116 Braunschweig

phone:  +49-531-5168746
fax:    +49-531-5168747
mobile: +49-162-1054755
email:  genetnl(at)