Bolivian farmers urge rethink on Mother Earth law

Soy farmers in Bolivia are urging leftist President Evo Morales to reconsider a ban on genetically modified seeds contained in a package of environmental regulation called the Mother Earth law.

The Andean nation is a small producer of soybeans compared with its giant agricultural neighbors, Brazil and Argentina, but output and exports of the oilseed have jumped in recent years due to improved crop yields and bigger plantings.

Production should reach 2.4 million metric tons this year, of which about 80 percent would be exported, industry groups say.

Virtually all Bolivian soy uses GM seeds and the law signed by Morales earlier this month has rattled growers in the lowland east, historically a bastion of opposition to the Aymara Indian president — a vocal advocate of organic farming methods and Pachamama, which means Mother Earth in the Andes.

The legislation, which former coca farmer Morales has called a means “to live in equilibrium and harmony with Mother Earth,” also calls for limits on the expansion of farming into new areas and assigns a spiritual value to land beyond its social and economic function…

Agricultural leaders are holding talks with the government to call for changes to the GM ban and express broader concerns about the legislation. A second meeting between farm groups and officials was due to take place on Wednesday.

“We want them to understand the potential consequences of the measures contained in the Mother Earth legislation and to make changes or clarifications either in the implementation of this law or through a new law,” Fernando Asturizaga, an advisor from the Anapo farming association said.

Soy exports brought in about $800 million last year, making the oilseed the country’s third-biggest foreign currency earner after minerals and natural gas, according to the Bolivian Foreign Trade Institute…

“It’s like running the 100-meters but shooting ourselves in the foot first. We’re giving our neighbors too many advantages,” said Marcelo Traverso, president of the APIA agricultural suppliers’ association.

“It’s a big step backwards that’s going to have serious economic repercussions for the Bolivian farmer.”

I’m not offering a detailed response, but, even a casual look at the question provokes support for equitable opportunity I try for on most issues. As long as we’re not discussing war and peace, or gangster lobbyists. I can’t support organic farming interests – in power, in government – ordering all farmers to conform to their methods. Just as I don’t support the opposite among the existing farm community in the United States.

Of course, I support limits on pesticides and practices which spread beyond individual farms. But, that’s a 2-way street. Just as I support reasonable hooks in GM seeds to inhibit wildfire spread of new genes, I won’t support a ban on self-limiting GM products.

In sum, I guess my attitude is like my feelings about abortion. Don’t approve? Don’t have one. Don’t deprive someone else of the right to make up their own mind.