Costa Rica’s National Biosecurity Technical Commission on Monday evening granted a local subsidiary of multinational biotechnology company Monsanto permission to grow genetically modified (GM) corn in the country.
The weekly El Financiero reported that the permision was granted by a majority vote, which now allows Monsanto to plant one or two hectares of GM corn.
The decision was confirmed by Alejandro Hernández, a member of the commission representing the Ministry of Science and Technology, and by the NGO Coecoceiba.
The ruling allows Monsanto to grow corn for obtaining seeds or for research purposes, but not for consumption or marketing in the country, as all seed to be produced will be exported.
The request was filed by the U.S. company Delta & Pine Land seed Ltda (D&PL) last November, which led to public protests and demonstrations by ecologist and university groups.
Monsanto – also a U.S. company – bought D&PL in 2006, and keeps a local office in the northwestern province of Guanacaste.
In addition to opposition from environmental groups, a letter against GMOs was sent by the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences and the Faculty of Biology at the University of Costa Rica (UCR), and the Costa Rican Agronomy Engineers’ Association.
In December, Luis Felipe Arauz, dean of the UCR’s Agricultural Sciences Faculty spoke before the commision, stating that “there are risks involved in GM contamination of native corn.” He presented projections based on mathematical models that take into account aspects such as wind, pollen production, and others, to prove it.
Currently there are 443.1 hectares of biotech crops in Costa Rica, of which 394.3 are of cotton, 44.6 are soybeans, 3.2 are pineapple and 1 is banana. They belong to Semillas Olson, D & PL Semillas, Bayer, Semillas del Trópico and Del Monte, according to data from the government Phytosanitary Service.