Argentina to develop GM crops, despite criticism

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Soybean, Gm

There are no concerns that GM products have a negative impact on
health, a government offical was keen to stress this week.

Genetically modified (GM) food products have not been proven to be dangerous and Argentina should continue to promote their development in order to cut costs and improve the nutritional value of foods, a government official said on Tuesday, a Reuters story reports. Agriculture Secretary Marcelo Regunaga said it is important to distinguish between the scientific and ideological debates surrounding GM products. "In the scientific debate, up to today, there have been no concerns that GM products have any kind of negative impact on health," he said in a speech at a seminar on biotechnology hosted by a local university. Argentina, a major world producer of grains and oilseeds, is second only to the United States in the production of genetically modified products, which reduce costs for farmers by reducing the amount of preparation needed before planting. However, some environmental and consumer groups believe GM products are a threat to human health and the environment. "The ideological debate, put forth by nongovernmental organisations, does not, at the moment, have any scientific evidence," he said. Regunaga added that science has shown that in terms of natural resources, the use of GM products has a "clear and positive impact on the environment," helping to protect it by limiting the amount of chemicals used on soil. But Emiliano Ezcurra, the coordinator of the biodiversity campaign for the Buenos Aires office of global environmental group Greenpeace said Regunaga's argument doesn't add up. "That up-to-date (scientific) knowledge doesn't take into account long-term effects," Ezcurra said. "And the evidence concerning the increase in the use of herbicides, the increase in insect resistance is well-documented as having negative environmental effects." "We are spreading Round-Up everywhere in Argentina, I mean 10 million hectares. Monsanto last year opened a new factory for glyphosate production, so there is no number showing a reduction in the use of agrochemicals, on the contrary," he said. U.S. biotechnology giant Monsanto's Roundup Ready soybean seeds, which are resistant to the company's best-selling Roundup Ready glyphosate-based weedkiller, are the top-selling GM soy seeds in Argentina. Despite criticism, Argentina is dedicated to encouraging the development and use of biotechnology products in farming because of the potential to save on costs and for improving the vitamin content of GM foods. The government set up a commission in May to deal with research and development of products, testing, approval and trade negotiations. "Biotechnology is the present and future of agriculture in Argentina and the world. Development in the new millennium is directly linked to the development of biotechnology," Regunaga said.

Related topics: Science

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