lunes, marzo 29, 2010

PUERTO RICO: The Transgenic Caribbean

CIP Americas Policy Program
Puerto Rico is an important
platform for transgenic seeds.

Since the 1980s Puerto Rico has been for the biotechnology industry an important platform for experimentation with and propagation of its genetically modified (GM or transgenic) seeds. These research and development activities are on the verge of increasing substantially in scale, according to an article published in the local daily, El Nuevo Dia, on February 7, 2010. According to the article,

"Saúl Rosado, president of the Puerto Rico Seed Research Association, confirmed that in order to meet the growing demand for seeds, the subsidiaries of American and European multinationals are in the process of expanding their operations … Manuel Pérez, chief of the Maize Project of Monsanto Caribe confirmed that that company also had plans to expand on the island."

At present there are nine seed companies on the island, all members of the PR Seed Research Association. These include Monsanto, Syngenta, Pioneer, Dow Agroscience, and Bayer Cropscience. These companies have about 5,736 acres sown in maize, soy, sorghum, sunflowers, cotton, and other crops in the municipalities of Lajas, Sabana Grande, Juana Díaz, Santa Iabel, Salinas, Guyama, Isabela, and Aguadilla. The great majority of GM crops world-wide consist of maize, soy, and cotton.

The U.S.-based Monsanto, the largest seed company in the world and which controls 90% of the world GM seed market, has been in Puerto Rico under the name Monsanto Caribe since 1983, according to the Monsanto Puerto Rico web page. In the town of Juana Díaz, on the south coast of the island, the company has over 2,000 acres planted with soy, maize, cotton, and sorghum.

Monsanto Caribe has offices and over 325 acres planted in the municipality of Isabela, on the northwest part of the island on the south side of Highway 2. On the other side of the highway there is a University of Puerto Rico (UPR) experimental substation where a transgenic yucca for use in Africa is being developed with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This yucca is being genetically altered to increase its Vitamin A, iron, zinc, and protein content.

Dimuth Siritunga, professor at the Mayagüez UPR campus (RUM), is in charge of this project. He also directs the Gates Foundation's Biocassava Plus program. This program aims to increase the nutritional properties of manioc in Africa by means of both conventional plant breeding and transgenic biotechnology. The RUM is one of eleven institutions participating in Biocassava Plus, the principal being the Danforth Plant Science Center (DPSC), a non-profit institution located in the U.S. city of St. Louis. This center was founded in 1998 with a grant from the Monsanto Fund. Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant, is on the DPSC's board of directors.

"It seems safe enough to call Danforth Monsanto's not-for-profit research wing," says reporter Tom Philpott of the environmental online journal Grist.


Aura Alfaro, "Crean 'superyuca' en Mayagüez," El Nuevo Día, February 28, 2010.

Aura Alfaro, "Germina la innovación," El Nuevo Día, February 7, 2010.

Biocassava Plus,

Danforth Plant Science Center,

Monsanto Puerto Rico,

Tom Philpott, "USDA Research Chief Concerned About 'Safety of Organic Food'," Grist Magazine, March 2, 2010,

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