When Indian activist Vandana Shiva began her speech at the University of Costa Rica’s agronomy auditorium Tuesday, you could still
here hear the drums and claps of hundreds outside waiting to get in.
Shiva, originally a theoretical physicist, has won several international awards for her conservation work, and is known worldwide for her positions against genetically modified crops and pesticides. She visited Costa Rica this week in support of the country’s growing movement against GMOs.
“I can see with so many young people here today that the fight against GMOs is strong,” she said during her speech at UCR. “Your voices need to be heard.”
Costa Rica’s history with GMOs started in 1991 when the Agriculture and Livestock Ministry approved a request from multinational biotech company Monsanto to begin growing genetically modified soybeans and cotton.
GMO activists remained relatively quiet about Monsanto’s presence until 2012, when the company announced its intentions to plant 35 hectares of genetically modified corn. Because corn pollinates using the wind, environmentalists feared that Monsanto’s seeds would mix with native seeds. Environmental groups began protesting, and the Ombudsman’s office filed a lawsuit. The project is now stalled awaiting a decision from Costa Rica’s Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court.
To promote their cause, a caravan of environmental groups brought Shiva to the Limón province Tuesday to meet with the area’s banana and pineapple farmers about the use of chemicals on their plantations. While there Shiva also met with presidential candidate José Maria Villalta of the Broad Front Party, who, as a lawmaker, strongly supported anti-GMO legislation.
The Villalta campaign released a statement about the meeting:
“For Villalta the meeting was a chance to better familiarize himself with the work of the activist in Latin America, while at the same time promoting the agricultural ideas of the Broad Front Party.”
In the evening, Shiva returned to San José where she was greeted by hundreds of people who turned out to hear her speak. The crowd was so large that the UCR auditorium could not fit them. After delivering her speech to the first wave of spectators in the auditorium, Shiva spoke again outside in the parking lot for a second wave of supporters.
Shiva spoke of the effect of GMOs in her own country, India, and urged the largely anti-GMO audience to continue their fight.
“Start planning the kind of actions you will need to take for the worst situation,” Shiva said. “You may need to show resistance. Together we can build a paradaise.”