The Ministry of Natural Resources and Agriculture hosted an all day National Conference today at the George Price Centre where the topic of interest was GMO’s or no GMO’s. The issue of Genetically Modified Organisms, known as GMO’s is a very debatable subject evoking very strong opinions on both sides of the fence. More recently, there has been some controversial public discussion on the issue of the introduction of GMO’s in the Jewel. Robert Harrison, Chief Agriculture Officer explains,
“The Ministry of Agriculture realize that in recent, there has been a lot of controversy in GMO and the introduction of GMO corn and soybean. So, we thought that we needed to provided our stakeholders with more scientific information on the issue of bio-technology and bio safety. We invited an expert from FAO and an expert from the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation and Agriculture, IICA to talk about biotechnology and bio-safety. The forum today also provided the opportunity for those that are pro introduction of GMO into the country and an opportunity for the against, why we must not have or introduce GMO into the country”.
Harrison says, it is not for the Ministry to take up a position but rather to act as the source of information for the public at large.
Mr. Roberto Harrison: “This is a private initiative in a sense because the two commodities of interest are corn and soy bean, again, we will provide the platform for scientific information that the public at large knows to…get informed of how biotechnology is used to improve…maybe, the commodities or crops that are being grown. We do realize and are very cognizant that bio-safety plays a key role in modernizing one’s agricultural sector. So, from that perspective, at least in this case, we are not the pro or against, but rather the source of information to the public”.
We did speak, however, to Miriam Deshield, Representing a number of concerned citizens, who says that introducing GMO’s into the country can have serious repercussions.
“I think I represent a lot of people in Belize who are not happy about consuming GMOs, and a large number of people who would like to be able to grow products that are free of them and the big list of contaminating. If you use living modified organisms or GMOs implanting that you lose the ability t grow something that isn’t genetically modified’.
On the other hand is John Carr, Secretary of Belize Grain Growers Association. He is one of the main advocates for the introduction of GMO practices in Belize’s Agriculture.
“You find yourself in some hypocritical situation because all of the food that we are standing here that Belizeans buy everyday are crops that have GMO products in them because this food comes from the United States. So, we are buying that and using it every day. But for certain reason, there seems to be a move by certain people that they don’t want us to grow it here. I just have a hard time understanding here why we eat it every day that’s produced in another country, but we cannot grow it in our own country. It seems like it’s a very hypocritical way of thinking. I feel that Belize is a very special place and we have a responsibility to produce food when we use GMO products , we increase our production, we produce a better product , we produce it cheaper and would enable us to compete with our competitors in the world market for grain ”.
Though the discussions of the day evoked much fevered debate, the discussion ended in common courtesy with coffee and some snacks. (end)