Corn is native to America, it is scattered throughout the world and has contributed substantially to the nutrition of humanity. The agricultural peoples of southwestern Mexico, which thousands of years ago naturally modified the teosinte (wild plant) to achieve its transformation into what we now know as the cultivation of corn (Miranda, 1998). On the other hand, of the total of 260 races of maize described for America, 132 originate from the Andean zone (Goodman and Brown, 1998).
Bolivia is considered as the center of origin of native corn and it is stated that 7 racial complexes have been classified in the country (high Andean, Amazonian, pearl, dark, mealy from the temperate valleys, pisankalla and mountain range), an aspect that confirms once plus the great wealth and genetic biodiversity of our country. However, we are on alert for certain measures and public policies that have made the introduction of transgenic corn from neighboring countries feasible.
In the 2015/2016 campaign, a prolonged drought affected agricultural and forestry production in different regions of the country and in the Chaco, the losses in corn production were alarming. In response to this, on August 2, 2016, the national government issued a series of supreme decrees to alleviate the difficult situation experienced by producers and other productive sectors affected by the drought. Supreme Decree No. 2857 facilitated the importation of corn from Argentina where the production of transgenics such as Bt corn (Bacillus thuringiensis) and RR (Roundup Ready) reaches 96% of the total cultivated, being foreseeable the entrance of transgenic corn to the country. This measure, although imported, violated the Political Constitution of the State and the laws derived from it: article 255 of the new constitution in its paragraph II, paragraph 8 that indicates “… food security and sovereignty for the entire population; prohibition of import, production and commercialization of genetically modified organisms and toxic elements that damage health and the environment ”; Law No. 144 "Community Agricultural Productive Revolution" and Law No. 300 "Framework of Mother Earth and Integral Development to live well", also refer to the restriction on the use and management of transgenics in the country.
There are various evidences based on studies and press releases that confirm the presence of transgenic corn in Bolivia. The press releases published in El Deber affirm that in the 2016/2017 agricultural season around 62,550 hectares of transgenic corn were grown in the department of Santa Cruz (08/14/2017), as well as the import of 87 tons of yellow corn Argentine transgenic in 2015 and that in 2016 this figure shot up to 98,0000 tons. Likewise, the publication of 09/29/2017 indicates that "producers reveal the use of smuggled transgenic corn seed" and the Chamber of Small Producers of the East (CAPPO) indicated that they planted 4,000 hectares of transgenic crops in the municipality of Cuatro Cañadas.
In 2017, CIPCA and PROBIOMA conducted a study based on the analysis of the CP4 EPSPS protein that was applied to samples of seed and corn grains collected in wholesale marketing centers and seed trading houses in the municipalities of Villamontes, Yacuiba, Camiri and the Charagua Iyambae, which confirmed once again the presence of GM Roundup Ready (RR) maize crops NK603 event in agricultural fields. In addition to being illegally cultivated transgenic RR corn, the product is cross-bred with hybrid corn and marketed as seed and grain in Mennonite colonies of Pinondi, La Vertiente, and agricultural product marketing centers. The study carried out also confirms that in the Colonia Menonita Pinondi (located in Charagua Iyambae) transgenic corn is marketed at a price ranging between 60 and 70 US dollars per 50 kg bag, without any control in this regard.
The presence of transgenic corn grown in the Chaco and specifically in the department of Santa Cruz, undoubtedly puts at risk the more than 18 native varieties of corn that have been cultivated for generations mainly in the Guaraní communities. They are in an imminent and silent threat of being genetically contaminated and therefore it would result in their total loss in the medium term, a situation that farmers in Mexico currently experience.
The native varieties of maize that are threatened and cultivated by the Guaraní families are classified according to their hardness, color and shape, for which the following are known: varieties of hard maize (avatiü or black corn,avatikuimbae or yellow corn,avatitivae or pearl corn), semi-hard varieties (avatirapua or spherical corn) and soft corn varieties (yellow oravatiyu tätävae). Each of the varieties has a specific use in the diet of the Guaraní families.
The entry of transgenic corn into the country also violates the food security and sovereignty of the native indigenous peasant peoples and nations. In Bolivia there are clear procedures to regulate the entry (for production, consumption or commercialization) of transgenics, which must be approved and authorized by the National Biosafety Committee, the responsible body in addition to evaluating the risks and avoiding negative effects on human health, the environment. environment, the economic and social well-being of the population and the impact on biological diversity.
On the other hand, it is important to mention that in 2005 the Vice Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment issued Administrative Resolution No. 135/05 which in its second article resolves: "Reject any request for the introduction of genetically modified corn to the national territory , to carry out field tests, sowing, production or deliberate release into the environment ”. This was because the company Dow AgroSciences Bolivia S.A. submitted, in August 2004, an application to carry out tests with genetically modified corn (resistance to the fall armyworm and the herbicide glyphosinate ammonium with Bt corn, event TC 1507). This request was rejected taking into account the technical recommendations that establish the high probability of genetic contamination of native and creole varieties of corn, given that Bolivia is the center of genetic diversity for this grain.
The current situation calls on the government entities responsible according to their roles to enforce the current regulations: the Ministry of Environment and Water (MMAyA) with its decentralized directorates such as the General Directorate of Biodiversity and Protected Areas, and the Ministry of Rural Development and Land (MDRyT) through SENASAG and INIAF institutions entrusted to carry out the authorization of the import of any plant material and / or seeds and the respective control in the national territory, among others.
Said bodies must take swift measures to eliminate the sources of illegal production and commercialization of transgenic corn seed and grain, and must promote the production of conventional corn seed, rescuing native varieties that are in danger of disappearing, also considering that Bolivia is in the list of the 16 megadiverse countries in the world. On the other hand, the danger of loss of native maize varieties also calls upon indigenous peasant peoples and their organizations to defend the peoples' own genetic material and traditional knowledge, food security. They must also comply with the provisions of several specific articles in national public policies such as the Political Constitution of the State (Arts. 16 and 225) and other laws such as No. 300, Framework Law of Mother Earth and Comprehensive Development for Living Well ( Art 24); No. 144, Law of the Community Agricultural Productive Revolution (Art.15); No. 3525, Law for the Regulation and Promotion of Ecological Non-Timber Agricultural and Forest Production (Art. No. 2), also in Supreme Decrees No. 0181 of Basic Standards of the System of Administration of Goods and Services (Art. 80) and No. 2452, Labeling of Genetically Modified Organisms (art. 2); and Administrative Resolution VRRNNyMA No. 135/05 (Art. 2); including the Cartagena Protocol on Biotechnology Safety, in force in the country since September 2003.
ByNestor Cuéllar Álvarez
Agronomist at CIPCA Cordillera.