Venezuela Outlaws GMOs, Moves Toward Organic Agriculture

While it could be reversed by the new majority government, Venezuela is the latest country to ban cultivation of GMO crops, passing the Seed Law at the end of 2015.

Not only does the law forbid GMO seed imports and cultivation, it ensures national sovereignty over indigenous seeds by prohibiting patents, and the transition to sustainable agriculture. A central body called the National Seed System will enforce the law, focusing on protecting traditional seeds and rooting out agricultural violations.

Seed Bank in Venezuela:

Venezuela Seed BankCredit: Tamara Pearson/Venezuelanalysis

Called one of the most progressive seed laws in the world, it commits the country to agroecology and is a product of direct participatory democracy – hammered out between lawmakers and a broad-based grassroots coalition.

Among the goals are:

  • Transition from conventional monoculture and chemical-based agriculture to an "agroecological system" that protects biodiversity and the environment.
  • National sovereignty over food production: producing enough indigenous seeds to meet national needs to avoid having to import food.
  • Prohibits privatization of seeds.
  • Separate policies to support small and large farmers.

Recently, 21 of 28 EU countries and Russia banned GMO crops; instead, Putin wants the country to become a world leader in organic agriculture. Thanks to lobbying from Monsanto and pro-GMO organizations like The Gates Foundation, Kenya will likely reverse its ban on GMOs – put into place in 2012 because of health concerns.

In December, Taiwan banned GMOs in food served in schools, taking GMO soybeans, tofu, soy milk and corn off the menu – which comprise a large part of the diet. The country rejected GMO salmon as soon as the US approved it and requires all foods with GMOs to be labeled.

Monsanto on Buying Spree

As Monsanto and its peers are increasingly locked out of countries through laws like these, they still see a way to profit – by buying up companies that produce heirloom seeds. They are also buying patents for these traditionally used seeds, so "no matter where you buy certain seeds, they get money from it," says Maddy Harland in Permaculture Magazine.

Monsanto’s goal is to control the world’s seeds – one way or the other.

In the US presidential race, Bernie Sanders strongly favors organic agriculture. He co-sponsored legislation to nationally label foods that contain GMOs and recently called for "the courage to take on huge food and biotech companies who are transforming our agricultural system in a bad way."

"We need legislation and efforts designed to protect family-based agriculture, not factory and corporate farming," he says. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, supports GMO agriculture, calling out Americans for not understanding its value.

List of seed companies owned by Monsanto, and those that are not:

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