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In Latin America, a Growing Backlash Against Genetically Modified Food

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Genetic Engineering page and our Millions Against Monsanto page.

LIMA, Peru - Are genetically modified crops "Franken-foods" or the answer to global hunger and climate change?

That is the dilemma dividing Latin America, where vast quantities of GM crops are grown. Ecuador's constitution actually prohibits them and Peru recently voted for a 10-year moratorium.

Outside the US, no region has a greater expanse of agricultural land sown with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) than South America.

Together, Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay have roughly 120 million acres of GM crops, principally soybean, but also significant amounts of corn.

Advocates say they increase yields, allowing the world to feed a growing population, and will even help farmers adapt to climate change.

But critics have long warned of the dangers, both to the environment and human health, as well as the way so-called GMOs can make farmers dependent on the corporations that provide the seeds and complementary products.

Environmentalists are concerned that GM crops could trigger new allergies, or could cross-pollinate with nearby non-GM crops, allowing their manipulated gene sequences to enter wild plants, with unknown but potentially far-reaching results.

The latter happened in 2003 in Mexico - where corn was first cultivated by humans and which still has an unrivaled diversity of wild and domesticated maize - when UC Berkeley scientists discovered DNA from GM corn had entered into local crops.

"The impact has been brutal, not just because they are GMOs but because of the herbicides that they need," Carlos Vicente, of the Argentine branch of Grain, a nonprofit that advocates for small farmers, told GlobalPost.

"It is all about Monsanto selling more seeds and agrichemicals and hooking the farmer," he added, in a reference to the St. Louis, Missouri-based corporation that has largely spearheaded the GM revolution.
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