The transgenic crops that are grown in Uruguay – soy since 1996 and corn since 2003 – were introduced into our fields and our diet without any adequate debate within society about whether or not they were appropriate. The environmental impacts of GM crops on biodiversity, water, soil and health are well known. Nonetheless, the Uruguayan authorities have never carried out an evaluation of the impact that the introduction of GMOs has had on the life of farmers and the health of the population.
Seminars to Encourage Debate
While transgenic crops are spreading, traditional products are losing land and maiz criollo seeds are increasingly at risk. The “coexistence” decreed by the Uruguayan government in July 2008 allowed the market to operate in a completely free way, without paying any attention to the small-scale producers who wanted to continue to produce maiz criollo, whose seeds they have been preserving for generations.
In an attempt to avoid the possible impacts at a local level and protect the rights of communities, requests were made to establish GMO-free agricultural areas. However not one of these requests was granted in Uruguay. Another way to encourage debate about the GMO issue and to ensure that the population receives correct information is to demand the right to choose what we eat. With this objective, the Slow Food Canario Convivium organized seminars about labeling GM foods in 2011 and 2012. The initiative was supported by other convivia, the Universidad de la República, the Dirección Nacional de Impresiones y Publicaciones Oficiales de Uruguay and other organizations working on these issues.
A third seminar, to be held in 2013, will explore labeling systems to help consumers identify foods of transgenic origin. Proposals include an easy to understand “traffic light” system, using red, yellow and green colors to indicate a product’s status, or simply a T in a yellow triangle, as is done in Brazil to identify the presence of transgenic ingredients.
A Slow Camp
As well as the seminars, young people from Slow Food in Uruguay organized a four-day camp in San Luis in 2012, which brought together youth from different countries – not only Uruguay, but also Brazil, Argentina and Chile – so that they could coordinate their activities, exchange ideas and share meals representing an incredible variety of styles and flavors. During the gathering, information was shared about all the different initiatives sprouting up around South America to say no to transgenic foods.
Anxiety about transgenic food is growing in society. Organizing seminars, network gatherings and campaigns is a way to show our commitment to the defense of good, clean and fair products. GMOs are the most important of the concerns shared by the Latin American convivia, because our countries are among the leading producers.
This article has been published in the Slow Food Almanac. Click here to read the whole issue.