Cuba Commits To Large-Scale Genetically Modified Crops To Reduce Food Shortages/ 14ymedio

Soybean plantation. (Pixabay)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 19 November 2016 – Cuba expects to grow genetically modified (GM) corn and soybeans beginning in the Spring of 2017, according to a long article published in the government newspaper Granma this weekend, which details the island’s advances in this area.

“On successfully completing all the tests required by Cuban regulatory bodies, in the spring of 2017 we can expect the introduction of [genetically modified crops…] on large areas of land,” said Mario Estrada, Director of Agricultural Research at the Center Of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CIGB).

The major sum of money the government spends in importing food (some two billion dollars a year) is not only unsustainable, but clearly insufficient. In 2014, imports of grains whose genetically modified versions are expected to be grown, exceeded some 500 million dollars, which accounts for up to 75% of what Cubans eat.

GM crops are the object of strong controversy worldwide because of the genetic modification of organisms, but Granma says that criticisms come from “experiences related to the misuse of technological innovations, lack of information, poor training and the abusive practices of certain seed-producing companies worldwide.”

“We are currently working on obtaining new hybrid transgenic lines of corn which, on the scale of a small experimental plot, show potential yields of nine tonnes per hectare, very close to the levels reached by the world’s leading countries in this production,” explained Mario Estrada.

In addition, experiments with “transgenic soybeans resistant to herbicides, which in experimental areas of the Cubasoy company showed a yield of up to 2.8 tonnes per hectare, much higher than the usual reached there,” he added.

The official newspaper notes that controlled production of genetically modified crops is supported by the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Royal Society of the United Kingdom, the Food and Drug Administration of the United States, the European Food Safety Authority and the Academies of Science of several countries. “Genetically modified crops have helped mitigate the food shortage crisis stemming from global population growth and the impact of climate change, making it the most rapidly adopted technology of cultivation in the history of agriculture,” the article added.

As of 2009, the years in which the corresponding safety licenses were received, Cuba has been testing the first production of modified corn on some 900 hectares belonging to Cubasoy, in the province of Ciego de Avila. Although the result was more than double the yield of the traditional crop, it was lower than expected, which was the reason for suspending the application of the advances.

At present, there is a search ongoing for “new transgenic hybrid lines of corn,” with much higher yields, which, if they pass all the controls, will be applied starting this coming spring.