U.S. Looks To Spread GMO’s to Cuba As Russia Will Build A New Airport There

Posted: March 4, 2015 in Econ 101, Everyone Loves Cuba, Free Trade, Society and Culture, Technology and Energy

SEE ALSO:  China Approves Imports of DuPont Pioneer Soybean (GMO)

SEE ALSO:  Cuba Presents Child Education Program in Russia


Ag leaders connect with Cuba

By: TOM MEERSMAN , Star Tribune

February 27, 2015

Cargill-organized delegation travels to Communist nation to explore trade opportunities.

A delegation of 75 top U.S. agriculture leaders organized by Minnetonka-based Cargill Inc. will arrive in Cuba this weekend on a trade mission to explore the potential for increased business between the two countries.

Leaders said the trip will be a “learning journey” to understand what Cuba may need from U.S. farms, including corn, soybeans and rice, and what products the United States might receive from Cuba if less restrictive trade policies are adopted by both countries.

“It’s really about just having a good exchange with them on the state of the agricultural economy in Cuba,” said Devry Boughner Vorwerk, director of international business relations at Cargill, which has taken a lead in lobbying Congress to lift the trade embargo with Cuba.

Vorwerk and others started the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba early this year, weeks after President Obama announced he would pursue normal trade and diplomatic ­relations with Cuba following more than 50 years of restrictions.

The trip will begin with an orientation on Sunday, and a set of meetings with Cuban government import officials and others on Monday. The delegation will split into six smaller groups on Tuesday to visit Cuban farmers and agricultural cooperatives, Vorwerk said, to learn about their production capabilities, ­challenges and innovations. Wednesday will be a wrap-up day that includes discussions of the larger issues ahead.

The delegation includes two former U.S. agriculture secretaries, the governor of Missouri and leaders of several national crop, livestock and export associations.

Kevin Paap, a corn and soybean farmer in southern Minnesota’s Blue Earth County and president of the Minnesota Farm Bureau, said his organization has long urged normalized trade and travel between the U.S. and Cuba — and Minnesota could benefit from both.

Cuba is a small market with about 11 million people, he said, but Cubans need grain, agricultural technology and such livestock products as chicken and turkey.

“Any time you’ve got somebody that’s only 90 miles away and imports 80 percent of its food, they’re definitely a potential customer,” Paap said. “But it will take a while for Cuba to get in that position to be able to buy those products as their economy improves, and there’s going to be some challenges.”

Cumbersome rules

Cuba has received U.S. agricultural exports on a limited basis since 2001, under a complicated payment system that requires prepaid cash or letters of credit handled by banks in third countries.

Minnesota exported about $26 million in ag products to Cuba in 2012, and an estimated $20 million in 2013, mainly in corn, soybeans and soybean meal, according to state agriculture officials.

Dave Frederickson, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, said exports from the state to Cuba could grow to $46 million under some projections — not anywhere close to the trade volumes with Canada, Mexico or China, he said, but a significant bump nonetheless.

“Obviously it’s not going to happen overnight, but I think we’re seeing this rush to get to Cuba because everyone wants to be first through the door,” Frederickson said. “They want to make that personal connection.”

A Minnesota legislative committee is scheduled to discuss a bill Tuesday that would provide $100,000 over the next two years to help the state ag department identify and communicate “existing and emerging opportunities” in Cuba for farmers and food processors.

Cuban brand

Vorwerk said an increase in trade with Cuba would not be one-way, and it would not involve only commodities.

“It would also be innovations, technology and services,” she said. “There’s a lot that we could bring.”

What Cuba could offer is less clear, she said, and that’s part of what the delegation hopes to learn.

“We’ve heard and understood that Cuba has innovations in the livestock area, like animal health,” she said. “We’re interested in learning about that.”

Cuba is also known for its organic farms, and a Cuban brand for organic honey, fruits or vegetables might be attractive to U.S. consumers, ­Vorwerk said.

“Depending on whether they can get their yields up enough to actually export, they could have a market for some of these higher ­margin products in the United States,” she said.

Vorwerk said that fact-finding trips and people-to-people exchanges are important, but translating that to commercial trade deals will be difficult without ending the 54-year-old trade embargo and easing other restrictions.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., introduced the Freedom to Export to Cuba Act two weeks ago, and ­Vorwerk is optimistic that Congress will take up the measure this year. With Cubans paying high prices for rice imported from Vietnam and other food from Brazil, she said, it should be a “no-brainer” for the United States to lift its ­ineffective trade embargo.

“If the embargo did not exist, and the financing restrictions didn’t exist, we’d be shipping more there,” Vorwerk said. “Why are the Brazilian companies getting the benefit instead of our ag groups?”

SOURCE: http://www.startribune.com/business/294441011.html?page=all&prepage=1&c=y#continue


Let’s Say NO to Transgenic Ag in Cuba

July 23, 2013

Isbel Díaz Torres

HAVANA TIMES — Genetically modified crops continue to be introduced into Cuban farmlands in a secretive fashion, while domestic consumers and producers are practically left out of all debates surrounding the design of policies and strategies in this area.

A program broadcast on Cuban television some weeks ago, where two of the most renowned figures currently leading the debate around these technologies appeared, does not seem to guarantee that the island’s authorities are aware of the urgent need to cease the use and propagation, at production scales, of transgenic corn and soy, organisms which, outside the controlled environment of the laboratory, no farmer around the world has been able to contain.

The series of debates undertaken by a number of intellectual circles in Havana over a year ago served only to put the business of transgenic crops in the hands of the Cuban military. As we know, the Cuban Armed Forces have every freedom to do and undo what they please, without having to report to the common people or to civil, educational or research institutions.

While it is true that we don’t want the debate surrounding transgenic organisms to polarize people into those who are completely in favor and those who are completely opposed to the practice, something which would simply paralyze the flow and development of ideas and of science itself, it is also true that, without a moratorium that can allow us to delve more deeply into the issue and arrive at a basic consensus, all discussions will be fruitless.

A group of US intellectuals, who became aware of these circumstances while participating at a colloquium in Cuba, issued a public declaration on the issue. This Monday, a small group of Cubans issued another declaration, in support of that statement, which is being distributed to collect more signatures.

Below is the new declaration.


The undersigned have decided to support a recent initiative launched by US and Cuban intellectuals who, in a recent declaration, expressed their sincere concerns over the introduction into Cuba of agricultural practices based on the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

For some years now, Cuban State entities have been promoting the production of transgenic corn, soy and other crops, and have imported transgenic food products that are consumed by the island’s population as part of its daily diet, without informing the public of the nature of these products and the potential repercussions of their use.

Transgenic technology entails the re-establishment of a conventional agricultural model requiring large volumes of inputs, a model which is highly dependent on external decisions and which deprives the farmer of autonomy – something entirely incompatible with Cuba’s agro-ecological practices.

In addition to being unable to guarantee greater yields, GMO-based agriculture damages and causes the loss of agricultural biodiversity and favors the privatization and commercial control of crop seeds.

For over 20 years, Cuba has developed an ecological agricultural model whose full potential has not yet been tapped and which demonstrates the island’s capacity to produce its own technology and follow its own conceptions about food production. To do so, Cuba relies on an internationally recognized community of scientific specialists and limited but highly valuable practical experience.

The experience of other countries, where GMO technology hasn’t reduced hunger or poverty and has, rather, only helped exacerbate existing problems, displacing small farmers, ought to serve as a warning for Cuban authorities and farmers.

Cultural diversity has also suffered from the implementation of this extensive, GMO-based agricultural model, which has proven intolerant towards different ethnic practices wherever it has become hegemonic.

In addition, the World Health Organization has warned that the use of GMOs could spell “potential risks for human health and development”, for “the introduction of a transgene into the receptor organism isn’t precisely a controlled process, and could have varying results with respect to the integration, expression and stability of the transgene in the host.”

The more significant short, mid, and long-term repercussions of the use of GMOs that have been identified to date (contrary to the pronouncement of transnational companies, which do their own, private research), include: the emergence of new allergies and other immunological problems, resistance to antibiotics, the appearance of new food toxins, the reduction of fertility and endocrine complications.

Those who promote the use of GMOs are duty-bound to provide irrefutable proof that these organisms will not have negative consequences for human health or the environment, in the specific conditions of a given location. Such proof has not been produced in Cuba, which, in record time, approved the use of FR-Bt1 corn in the country, ignoring the recommendation of experts and the request for a moratorium in this connection.

For these reasons, we are opposed to the implementation of extensive, GMO-based agricultural practices in Cuba, and we call on the island’s scientific community, Cuban farmers and all citizens to join us in our initiative, and to demand their right to actively participate in decision-making processes related to matters that have a direct impact on their lives.

  1. Isbel Diaz Torres. Biologist. CUBA
  2. Jimmy Roque Martinez. Optometrist. CUBA
  3. Mario G. Castillo Santana. Historian. CUBA
  4. Ariel Hidalgo. Teacher. CUBA/EU
  5. Pedro Manuel Gonzalez Reinoso. Literature Promoter. CUBA
  6. Karel Negrete. Jurist. CUBA/France
  7. Julio Tang Zambrana. Historian. CUBA/EU

 SOURCE: http://www.havanatimes.org/?p=96858


Russia to invest $200m in major new Cuban airport

26 February 2015 | By Rod Sweet

Russian trade and industry minister Denis Manturov (Wikimedia Commons)

Russia is in talks with Abu Dhabi investors to build a major new airport in Cuba to serve as a hub for Latin America.

Russian trade and industry minister Denis Manturov (pictured) said discussions had taken place with Abu Dhabi’s investment company Mubadala to invest in the vast project, a UAE newspaper reported.

Manturov said Russia planned to invest at least $200m in the project, which could also include redeveloping a port and building a railway line.

“We are deeply involved in these negotiations,” the minister told The National.

“They have only one international airport and they are planning to use one of the ex-military bases to build a big airport hub for Latin America.”

A Mubadala spokesman said: “The company is regularly reviewing a number of different investment opportunities with its Russian partners.”

The revelation comes at a dramatic time for both Cuba and Russia.

After Fidel Castro came to power following the Communist revolution in 1959, Cuba has suffered under a United States trade embargo. But relations between the two countries appear to be thawing rapidly, with a second round of meetings to discuss the re-establishing of diplomatic ties scheduled for Friday, 27 February.

Before this, Cuba had already set out to develop its economy by attempting to become the centre of a new Caribbean trading network with the new Mariel deepwater container port, which opened last year.

Russia, meanwhile, with its economy battered by sanctions and the low oil price, has been seeking stronger ties with trading partners in the Middle East, Asia and Latin America.

See report in The National.

SOURCE: http://www.globalconreview.com/news/russia-invest-200m-major-new8cu8b8a8n-a8i8r8p8o8rt/


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