Transgenic Alarm in Nicaragua

Transgenic Alarm in Nicaragua

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By Giorgio Trucchi

The Nicaraguan chapter of the Central American Alliance for the Protection of Biodiversity, denounced in a press conference the massive presence of food contaminated with Transgenic Organisms in the food distributed by the World Food Program (WFP) and Project Concern International, to children , pregnant women, taking refuge in the needs of the most vulnerable sectors of the world.

The Nicaraguan chapter of the Central American Alliance for the Protection of Biodiversity¹, made up of nine organizations that work in different sectors related to the environment, human rights, sustainable agricultural production, health and the defense of consumers and workers of food, along with representatives of the Municipal Governments of the cities of Jinotega and Siuna, denounced at a press conference the massive presence of food contaminated with Transgenic Organisms in the food distributed by the World Food Program (WFP) and Project Concern International, to children, pregnant women, taking refuge in the needs of the most vulnerable sectors of the world.

In a press release delivered to the media present at the event, it is reported that “Considering the magnitude of the problem posed by GMOs in food aid, since December 29, 1993, the Convention on Biological Diversity entered into force , which set the guidelines for other international agreements and commitments such as the Cartagena Protocol on Safety and Biotechnology. This was carried out in order to protect genetic resources and humanity from the risks of organisms derived from biotechnology.

The representatives of the mayors of Jinotega and Siuna and members of the Alliance for the Protection of Biodiversity -Nicaragua- decided to denounce these organizations, since the problem constitutes a violation of our national legal framework. Additionally, the recommendations of the Central American Parliament and the Central American Council of Human Rights Ombudsmen have not been heeded, because food with GMOs continues to be distributed.

According to Lic. María Centeno, representative of the Jinotega Mayor's Office “We have met with the Municipal Development Committee and with teachers who work in different communities. For some years now, the presence of GMOs has been reported in the diet given to school-age children and pregnant women. This year, as an official of the Jinotega Mayor's Office, which is officially responsible for environmental management and within this is the protection of biodiversity, with the help of the Humboldt Center we sampled cereals, yellow corn and soybeans donated by the WFP and a high percentage of transgenics was discovered and this raised great concern for the food security of the Jinotega children.

We consider that the help that the WFP gives is beneficial, but what we are asking this organization is to replace this food contaminated with transgenic with Creole corn and cocoa, to make our national drink that is pinolillo and that is buy from local producers.

It is not possible - Centeno continued - to facilitate the trade to transnational companies that monopolize the seed, inputs and drugs for the reactions that transgenics give.

We cannot put the health of the population at risk and, above all, that of children and pregnant women.

Today we come to show the results of the analyzes that were made in GENETIC-ID, a laboratory recognized internationally as an authority in genetic analysis, with address in the State of Iowa, United States.

A sampling was made in different schools in the Jinotega area and in all of them the presence of transgenics was 100 percent.

We call for respect for the international conventions where the Nicaraguan Government has been the architect and we also ask that the Law for the Prevention of Risk of Genetically Modified Organisms and the Law of Biological Diversity, which are enclosed in the National Assembly".

Also the Vice Mayor of Siuna, in the Nicaraguan mining area, Lic. Evaristo Luna, denounced the presence of transgenics in the WFP food aid programs.

“As of 2004, the PMA arrived in our municipality to support educational programs through the donation of food for students. With the passing of time we realized that many children began to suffer from digestive problems, diarrhea, vomiting and some forms of allergies. We contacted the Humboldt Center to see if it was possible to do an investigation on the composition of these foods that were being given to the students and indeed a high presence of transgenics was discovered. There is a lot of concern about what is happening and we ask the WFP to change the food that it gave us with typical foods, buying them locally. At the moment we have not had an answer ”.

“It is important to clarify - added Alina Lago, a teacher at a school where contaminated food was distributed in Siuna - that we are not rejecting WFP aid, because we recognize that there are very high levels of poverty in our municipality and that aid has brought improvements in the academic performance of boys and girls. What we ask is that this food be replaced with local products. Why bring corn from abroad and not buy it in our municipality? "

The Alliance for the Protection of Biodiversity - Nicaragua Chapter - presented a public statement in which it stated that “from the public complaint made in 2004 about the presence of GMOs, the commitment to carry out systematic information, monitoring and , in our countries, studies and proposals aimed at improving the policies and regulatory aspects of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).

Faced with this commitment to human life and biodiversity, the Central American Alliance for the Protection of Biodiversity developed and executed a strategy for Central American GMO Monitoring in 2005, which for Nicaragua was its second GMO monitoring experience and period (…). Importantly, monitoring was emphasized with regard to food aid and processed products.

Between the period of 2005 and 2006, the monitoring process was carried out in Nicaragua by selecting the territories of Siuna and Jinotega (Food aid) - Matagalpa, Sébaco, Managua and León (Commercial products), selected under criteria such as: places without monitoring history , high vulnerability index in their food security, presence of Food Aid Programs, strategic distribution point of the product to be monitored, interest of Municipal Authorities in monitoring, among others.

For the selection of the sample, the research was oriented by the No collection of grains or seeds, only corn flour, this because of not having the Field Tests for verification in the field and the transport of the samples is much faster .

Cereals based on corn, soybeans and mixed cereals were selected in the case of Food Aid. In the case of products processed for commercial purposes, the corn flours with the highest consumption in the country were selected. The samples were sent to the GENETIC-ID laboratory.

Monitoring Results In Food Aid

The channels, distribution periods and content of food aid were investigated in Jinotega, identifying in this process the Food Program called "Food for Education", which carries out an average distribution of 950 Kgs for a total of 60 days in the institutes schoolchildren. This food aid is donated as "Food Donors by the People and Government of the United States" and is delivered through the Project "Project Concern Internacional PCI Nicaragua", and distributed through the territorial delegations of the Ministry of Education.
In Siuna, the collection of Food Aid was prioritized, since the winery of the World Food Program (WFP) is in charge of regional distribution in the North Atlantic Autonomous Region.

Like the results of 2005, where 100 percent of the Food Aid collected was positive with the presence of the Bt Mon GA21 corn gene, in 2006 100 percent of the Food Aid collected was positive with GM contamination, of which 87 percent belonged to communities in the Department of Jinotega and 13 percent to the Department of Siuna.

In Productive Processes

Gruma Centroamérica was investigated and it was identified that LLC, GRUMA is a corn flour producing subsidiary based in Costa Rica, 100 percent owned by GRUMA and has operations in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua, it produces sold corn flour under the MASECA brand.

In Matagalpa, Jinotega, Sébaco, Managua and León, the main distribution centers for products such as MASECA and SABEMAS were investigated, which are corn flours with a high demand rate from consumers.

In all cities, 100 percent of the analyzed products were positive with the presence of transgenics.

Considering the results, where the presence of GMOs is verified, both in food aid and in processed products, the Alliance for the Protection of Biodiversity makes public:

-That the World Food Program (WFP), contrary to those resolved by the Central American Parliament and the Central American Council of Human Rights Ombudsmen, continues to distribute imports of food with GMOs, which harm the health, security and food sovereignty of the sectors vulnerable;
-Denounce that the Government of the United States of America distributes through the “Programmed U.S. Food Aid ”and Project Concern International, food aid contaminated with GMOs, taking refuge in the need of the most vulnerable sectors of the world;
-That the mode of introduction through imports is carried out without any type of control;
-Denounce that the corn flour processing and distribution companies (COMAL, MASECA and SABEMAS) are distributing food contaminated with GMOs, destined for direct human consumption, denying consumers the right to choose.

Due to this situation, the Alliance demands the Government of Nicaragua and political actors:

Compliance with the Resolutions of the Central American Parliament and the Central American Council of Human Rights Attorneys.

The urgent approval of the projects for the "Law for the prevention of risk of Genetically Modified Organisms and Biological Diversity", as part of a set of control standards required by the country regarding GMOs.

That the presidential candidates include the Protection of Biological Diversity and the establishment of zones free of GMO crops in their government plans.

That within the framework of the Cartagena Protocol, the Government of Nicaragua, in the absence of a sufficient National Regulatory Framework, notify through the "Center for the Exchange of Information on Biotechnology Safety", that imports destined for use as human food , You have to request prior consent and the Government reserves the application of the Precautionary Principle ”.

In light of these points, the Alliance decided to provide support to municipal governments for the preparation of a municipal ordinance regarding GMOs in their territories, presenting the results of the monitoring to teachers and municipal governments where it was carried out, to organizations linked to consumers, with food processing cooperatives and with food security and sovereignty.

In addition, monitor and report the effects of GMOs on public health and the environment at the regional and national levels.

¹Centro Humboldt, Nicaraguan Center for Human Rights (CENIDH), Information Center and Health Advisory Service (CISAS), National Federation of Agricultural Cooperatives (FENACOOP), Liga de Defensa del Consumidor de Nicaragua (LIDECONIC), Programa Campesino a Campesino, Mesoamerican Information Service on Sustainable Agriculture (SIMAS), National Union of Associated Producers (UNAPA), International Union of Food Workers (IUF)

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