|Puerto Rico. Photo by Ronny on Flickr|
Eight companies, seven of them multinationals including of course Monsanto, Bayer, Dow, Pioneer and Syngenta, are using the island to develop new GM crops for distribution to the USA and around the world. They are achieving this by ruthlessly manipulating the law in their own favour.
As a direct consequence of the damaging monopolies imposed by sugar corporations in the past and the danger of American landlords squeezing out smaller farmers, the Puerto Rican Constitution prohibits an agricultural corporations from owning more than 500 acres of land. Despite this, Monsanto alone has been able to lease 1,500 acres there: the company seems to have simply by-passed the law by re-inventing itself as several different companies which lease land under different names.
In 2009, the 'Business Promotion and Development of Agricultural Biotechnology Law' was passed to establish a “cutting edge” policy for the island to become a Mecca for GM companies “while advancing our mission to promote an innovation economy” (Economic development and Commerce Secretary). The law provides for fast-track permits, facilitation of the acquisition of buildings, and even financial incentives. Under this law, the government is bound to advise corporations on obtaining permits and to assist them in their activities within a year or face penalties. If this seems a biotech industry dream-come-true, that's probably because industry representatives succeeded in testifying at the 'public' hearings, actually behind closed doors, which went into the creation of the law.
Not only that, but the Puerto Rican government has given the multi-million-dollar global multinationals the same tax breaks that small local farmers get, and reimburses them £2.72 for each hour they pay field workers. The total subsidy from public funds granted to Monsanto alone in the last year is likely to be nearly half a million dollars.
The biotech industry is clearly manipulating farmers, laws and governments around the world with ease. It can't however, manipulate YOU the informed customer into buying GM food. Make sure it stays that way.
- Eliván Martinez, Monsanto's Caribbean experiment, The Center for Investigative Journalism, 21.11.11