By Heather Carr
Last week, Lima, the capitol of Peru, became a GMO-free zone. Several other municipalities in Peru have already declared themselves free of transgenic and genetically-modified organisms.
Earlier in the month, Peru's congress passed a bill prohibiting the import of genetically modified organisms for cultivation, breeding, or any transgenic production for the next ten years. The bill is awaiting the signature of the president.
The GMO-free sentiment rose up because of a regulation announced in April which was intended to "eliminate errors, control the use of genetically-modified organisms, and make sure they don't come into the country if they are found to be a risk," according to Rafael Quevedo, Peru's Minister of Agriculture.
It's difficult to determine if GMOs pose a risk. Biotech companies patent the GM plants and have the right to refuse to let universities and independent groups test the seeds for risks to human and animal health and the environment. Some studies have been done, but not to the extent they really should have.
Peru is one of the world's largest exporters of organic food, with more than $3 billion each year in revenues. The agricultural sector would risk losing access to organic markets as well as the premium paid for organic goods if GMOs contaminated their fields.
Biodiversity is also a significant concern for Peru. Field crops can cross-pollinate with wild plants and the resulting cross might have less than desirable characteristics.
Image by cubanjunky, used with Creative Commons license.