Cuba's New Threat Could be U.S. GMOs

Genetically modified foods (GMOs) are already in Cuba; The country has been importing them for decades, even though most Cubans don’t even know what they are. “That is the truth, but there is no record of that. Personal communications of authorities and researchers have helped to get to that conclusion,” Isbel Diaz Torres, a biologist and Havana Times reporter tells And just like the U.S., Cuba doesn’t label GMOs either, so consumers have no idea if they’re consuming them. Now with improved relations between Cuba and the U.S., big American biotech and food companies are eying the island as a new market. “There is a new threat: to be invaded with U.S. transgenic crops. After the toughening of European nations regarding GMOs and the saturation of North America market, U.S. companies started to look at China and Latin America, including Cuba,” adds Torres, who is a member of the environmental group El Guardabosques. Big corporations have already teamed up to create the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba in hopes to re-establish the country as a big market for exports. Under the current sanctions, companies can legally export to Cuba, but financing and trade restrictions limit their ability to serve the market competitively. Easing those sanctions could mean big money and business for them. Last June, authorities in Cuba said they have no plans to let U.S. companies in or introduce the use of transgenic seeds to the Cuban market. “To date we haven’t even considered working with Monsanto,” Manuel Rodriguez, CEO of the Cuban Ministry of Agriculture Company, told the Havana Times. “The policy of the country thus far is to not negotiate with anyone to produce transgenic seeds.” Even though Cuba has been struggling for years to improve its poor agricultural output as well as its deficiency in farming, it has only run some tests with transgenic crops in 2011, and has no plans to resume them. “A GMO program was established at some point. It advanced a little and it was stopped,” Rodrigues told the Havana Times in June 2015. German Bayer and Swiss Syngenta (NYSE:SYT) are the only two big biotech companies in Cuba now, leaving Monsanto (NYSE:MON), DuPont (NYSE:DD), and Dow Chemical (NYSE:DOW) – three of the biggest players – out. “Cuba is just too unsure yet as a market,” Christi Dixon, Monsanto’s spokesperson, tells “We don't yet know what the changes in Cuba will hold for agriculture.” Monsanto’s Chief Technology Officer Robb Fraley told back in January that China and various African countries have been adopting the technology in recent years. “We’re seeing new countries every year look at the technology and the science,” he says. “The reality is the demand for food between now and 2050 doubles.” As of 2014, GMOs are grown, imported and used in 70 countries around the world with each of these countries having their own certification process, according to Megan Westgate, director of the Non-GMO Project says that her biggest fear is the power that these biotech companies have over policy. “Monsanto, DuPont and Dow Industries own almost half of the world’s seed supply. That’s a lot of control for just a few corporations to have over something that every single human being depends upon for their survival.” Westgate adds that a lot of countries have bans on GMO production as well. “A lot of countries are waiting to see how this technology is going to pan out,” she said, “whereas in the U.S., we have as many crops nearly as the whole rest of the world combined.”