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Monsanto Nominated for Puerto Rico's Agricultural Hall of Fame

As soon as the non-profit organization Acción y Reforma Agrícola (ARA) (Agricultural Action and Reform) [es] announced that it had nominated the controversial agricultural biotechnology corporation Monsanto to the Hall of Fame of Puerto Rican Agriculture [es], activist group started demonstrating their fierce opposition.

Through a press release, the Puerto Rican Organization of Eco-Organic Agriculture, the Agriculture Rescue Front, the Latin America Scientific Society of Agroecology, the Yabucoeño Committee for Quality of Life and the Association of Agriculture Students expressed:
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Exigimos que se revierta la decisión y en su lugar se seleccione a un agricultor local utilizando criterios de sustentabilidad y justicia social. Este reconocimiento a Monsanto, una compañía dedicada a la producción de plaguicidas y cultivos transgénicos, resulta oneroso en demasía para una corporación con credenciales tan nefastas a nivel internacional.

We demand that the decision be changed and that in its place a local farm is chosen, using the criteria of sustainability and social justice. This recognition of Monsanto, a company dedicated to the production of pesticides and genetically modified crops, is just too much for a corporation with such terrible credentials on an international level.

Also, under the slogan ¡Nada Santo sobre Monsanto! (There is Nothing Saintly about Monsanto!) [es], an online petition, which is getting close to its goal of 2,000 signatures, was directed at the ARA, whose headquarters are at the School of Agronomists. The petition explains some of the repercussions of Monsanto's presence on the island:

Puerto Rico es un país que depende alrededor de un 90% en productos extranjeros para alimentarse. Nuestras tierras fértiles están siendo arrendadas a Monsanto para crear sus semillas que hacen daño a la salud y al ambiente en vez de utilizarse para tener una agricultura sostenible que nos brinde más seguridad alimentaria.

Puerto Rico is a country that depends on around 90% in foreign products to feed itself. Our fertile land is being rented out to Monsanto so they can create their seeds which hurt health and the environment, instead of being used for sustainable agriculture which would offer us more food security.

On his blog Proyecto Bioseguridad de Puerto Rico (Biosecurity Project of Puerto Rico) [es], environmental educator Carmelo Ruiz Marrero points out that:

…en el candente debate global en torno a los organismos y alimentos genéticamente modificados, o transgénicos, el rol poco conocido de la isla caribeña de Puerto Rico ha pasado mayormente inadvertido y hasta ahora ha evadido escrutinio crítico.”

…in the hot global debate over genetically modified organisms and food, the little known role of the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico has gone mostly unnoticed and until now it has avoided critical scrutiny.

imagesThe expert also makes it clear that Puerto Rico's colonial relationship with the United States is an undeniable obstacle.  This is seen, for example, at the time of signing international agreements relevant to the “cross-border movement of genetically modified food.

Nevertheless, many politicians, agro-entrepreneurs, and academic and scientific institutions support the development of agricultural biotechnology in the country.  The special series “El experimento caribeño de Monsanto” (“Monsanto's Caribbean Experiment”) [es], written in 2011 by the journalist Eliván Martínez for the Center of Investigative Journalism of Puerto Rico, points to the active role of the Puerto Rican government:

Acá se cocina una realidad que el Gobierno oculta y auspicia: la Isla es un importante centro para ocho empresas, siete de ellas multinacionales, que desarrollan las primeras generaciones de semillas modificadas genéticamente para distribuirlas a Estados Unidos y alrededor del mundo. Los dominios de estas corporaciones se expanden en fincas públicas y privadas, sobre todo en las mejores tierras cultivables del sur de la Isla, donde en el siglo pasado mandaba el imperio de su majestad la caña, aupada por grandes terratenientes que buscaban acaparar la tierra.

La mayoría de estas semilleras ocupa más del límite de 500 acres que permite la Constitución de Puerto Rico, mientras reciben jugosos beneficios del Gobierno y gozan de la Ley de Promoción y Desarrollo de Empresas de Biotecnología Agrícola de 2009, hecha a la medida para favorecerlas.

There is a situation in the works here that the government is hiding and supporting: the island is an important center for eight companies, seven of them multinationals, who develop the first generations of genetically modified seeds to distribute to the United States and around the world. The possessions of these corporations include public and private farms, mostly on the best cultivable lands on the south of the island, where in the last century the empire of his majesty, the sugarcane, was in charge, held up by great landowners who wanted the land for themselves.

The majority of these lands take up more than the limit of 500 acres, which is the maximum permitted by the Constitution of Puerto Rico, while they receive attractive benefits from the government and they enjoy the Ley de Promoción y Desarrollo de Empresas de Biotecnología Agrícola de 2009 (Law for the Promotion and Development of Agricultural Biotechnology Companies, 2009) [es], custom-made to favor them.

march_against_monsantoIn the face of this murky scene, a diverse movement on the island which has been fighting for food sovereignty for years has confirmed its participation in the next global march against Monsanto, planned for May 25 at 2:00pm, Eastern U.S. time.  Among them are the Puerto Rican Organization of Eco-Organic Agriculture [es], who just created an alliance with Vía Campesina/Coordinadora Latinoamericana de Organizaciones de Campo (Latin American Coordinator of Field Organizations) [es], which will make possible the participation of Puerto Ricans in international debates.

This is a call to the whole world. The meetings in Puerto Rico are taking place at The Department of Food [es], a multifaceted initiative dedicated to ecological agriculture.  Demonstrations are expected in more than twenty countries and 100 cities in the United States.

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