Awaiting a decision on legal reforms from the courts, anti-GMO activists in Costa Rica have taken the fight over transgenic crops to a grassroots level. The latest symbolic victory for those opposed to genetically modified organisms happened on July 25, when President Luis Guillermo Solís signed a decree naming native corn as cultural heritage, a designation managed by the Culture Ministry.
“This is a very important tool for us,” Fabián Pacheco, a member of anti-GMO group Bloque Verde, told The Tico Times. “Our traditional species of corn carry with them years of history and folklore. This will help us protect them.”
Anti-GMO groups first filed a request to designate corn as cultural heritage in 2012 in hopes of obligating the Culture Ministry to protect the genetic purity of native corn. Though the declaration does not specifically call for a ban on GMO corn, it demonstrates a growing discord within segments of the government regarding GMO proliferation.
Along with pushing for the cultural heritage designation, GMO opponents have also petitioned municipal governments across the country to declare themselves GMO-free. Seventy-four of Costa Rica’s 82 cantons have adopted some form of a GMO ban, but even with a ban municipal governments cannot block GMO projects approved at the national level.
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