London (05.04.17) – It is something we have known about for close on twenty years but has not been at the forefront of the CropGen mind for a long time. This week it was.

Chile is one of the world’s major agricultural producers, especially of fruits and vegetables – and, of course, of wine. Alert to new developments in plant breeding and agriculture, the country started as early as 1996 to produce GM-seeds: by 2013 it was the fifth largest producer worldwide of GM-maize, -canola and –soybean seeds (1).

The funny thing is that all those seeds are for export; it is strictly forbidden to cultivate GM-crops within the country which also lacks effective legislation governing the importation of GM-food products.

And so have matters remained but a serious drought, now running into its seventh year, may be beginning to encourage a change of regulatory view. The drought has stunted vegetation growth, ruined harvests and unleashed extensive wildfires affecting enormous areas of forests and grasslands as well the wine-producing region of Maule.

Although a bill to permit the growth of GM-crops has been before the Chilean Congress for a decade, it is said that politicians are too afraid of anti-technology groups to pass the legislation (2). Those groups “want Chile to follow Peru which, in 2012, imposed a 10-year moratorium on GMO foods, or Ecuador, where the constitution prohibits them”.

Gabriel Leon at the Universidad Andres Bello thinks that unlikely both because GM-seed exporting is such a large and growing business, and because there appears to be no pending relief from rising temperatures and diminishing rainfall. His view is that “drastic changes” in Chile’s agriculture are inevitable. But will they allow that ten-year old draft for GM-cultivation (or an update of it) to be passed by Congress?

Sources:

1. Francisco A. Laguna and Annapurna Nandyal (05.09.13). Genetically modified organisms in Chile. Translegal (https://translegalllc.wordpress.com/2013/09/05/genetically-modified-organisms-in-chile/)

2. Eduardo Thomson (27.01.17). Fined for planting GMO seeds in a country that’s a global power. Bloomberg (https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-01-27/seven-year-drought-ratchets-up-long-running-gmo-debate-in-chile)

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  A funny thing about Chile