GMOs and Peru: The Debate Comes to a Head
June 15, 2011
This analysis was prepared by COHA Research Associate Carrie Burggraf
The use of transgenic or genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is an increasingly prevalent practice throughout the world that has pitted complex policy issues against one another. On one side of the debate is the ability of GMOs to feed the world’s increasingly large and diverse population and to allow developing countries to economically advance via transgenic crops. The other side of the dispute focuses on the unknown health and environmental risks posed by GMOs, along with potential monopolistic practices in which large multinational corporations (MNCs) involve themselves.
In Peru, the debate over the introduction of GMOs into the country has been very public, involving a plethora of participants such as scientists, chefs, farmers, restaurant owners, politicians, and far-ranging members of civil society. Several Peruvian cities, including Cusco, Lambayeque, Huánuco, Ayacucho, and San Martín, were the first to declare themselves “GMO-free zones.”[i] Lima, the nation’s capital, soon joined these cities as the newest GMO-free zone in late April.[ii] Lima’s move came just days after President Alan García and former Peruvian Minister of Agriculture Rafael Quevedo had signed Supreme Decree 003-2011-AG on April 15.[iii]
The decree, which was actually drawn up two years ago, set up an agency to regulate the research, production, and trade of GMOs.[iv] Rafael Quevedo, who has since resigned from office due to intense criticism surrounding his stance on GMOs, claimed that the order was merely “a regulation which tries to eliminate errors, control the use of genetically modified organisms, and make sure they don’t come into the country if they are found to be a risk.”[v] However, many citizens felt that the decree paved the way for a flood of transgenic products into the country, which could hurt its rich biodiversity and its growing market for high quality organic products. The immediate backlash against the signing of the decree indicated that there, indeed, existed widespread support for a GMO-free Peru. Such indications were soon confirmed, as Peru’s Congress recently repealed the decree on June 8 by a 56 to 0 vote, with two abstentions.[vi] The bill has placed a “10-year moratorium on the entrance of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) for cultivation and breeding or any other type of transgenic products.”[vii] However, the transgenic battle in Peru is far from decidedly won, as the moratorium simply puts the heated spar on a temporary hold.