The United States Department of Agriculture issued a report earlier this summer which summarizes the state of biotechnology policy in El Salvador. The report looks at such issues as the regulation of the development, import and consumption of bio-engineered foods. Here are some excerpts:
Currently there are no restrictions on imports of agricultural biotechnology products. The only law that regulated trade of biotech products is the Planting Seed Law that became effective in September 2001. Title IV of this law – Final and Transitory Dispositions, Chapter I, Article 30 stated that it was prohibited to import, conduct research on, produce or commercialize Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) seeds. Due to over three years of pressure from the private sector and to the rising food costs, the Government of El Salvador(GOES) has decided to abolish Article 30.
The other law that addresses biotechnology is the Environment Law, effective since May 1998. Article 21 of this law provides regulations for carrying out environmental impact studies to determine if GMOs are harmful to the environment and Article 68 provides guidance on procedures to create bio-safety norms. El Salvador also ratified the Cartagena Protocol [on Bio-Safety] and it has been in effect since December 25th, 2003.
El Salvador’s biotechnology regulatory system is still being developed....
El Salvador does not produce any genetically modified crops and there are no crops under development that would be in the market in the coming year. El Salvador does not produce biotechnology crops developed outside the U.S. that have not passed through the U.S. regulatory system. El Salvador, however, does import biotechnology products mainly from the U.S.; these are yellow corn, white corn, soybean meal, cotton and corn-soy blend...
Progress towards implementing biotechnology laws and regulations has been slowed by a
lack of access by the legislative branch to scientific information about biotechnology. Until recently, political party agendas affected the ability of the government to obtain approval from the National Assembly for new government policies. However, an agreement among center right political parties gave way to the abolishment of Article 30 of the Planting Seed Law which was the only impediment to begin the use of biotech crops in El Salvador....
There are no obstacles to marketing biotechnology products in El Salvador at this time. Being a densely populated developing nation, El Salvador must rely on imported food to satisfy local demand. The U.S. is the main trading partner for El Salvador and U.S. products are regarded as being of higher quality than others available in the market and also safe to consume.
Until recent increases in food prices, biotechnology was not a main priority of the government and consuming public, and food safety issues that could affect product marketing were more related to food borne diseases.
The opponents of global capitalism in the areas of food policy make a number of arguments, like the following points raised when El Salvador was debating its "Seed Law" in 2000:
In order to gain world control of food production, local and traditional producers must be driven out. The new market for the transnationals must be "opened up". There are various ways in which this done. Often, the World Bank and the IMF encourage or demand that countries not only buy genetically engineered seeds but also that they plant non-traditional crops for export instead of producing for their needs (often times the "owner" of the exports is a private transnational). This practice often ends in disaster such as in Mexico and Zimbabwe where both countries were "advised" to halt production of the local food staple. Another way of displacing the local producers is by "dumping". Dumping is the practice of "dumping" mass quantities of certain foreign staple food products on a community with the goal of stopping local food production which is meant to be consumed by the local communities and opening the "new market". Such is the case right now in El Salvador. According to the CDC, free genetically engineered seeds are being distributed to farmers in order to create dependency. In the case of El Salvador, this law would exacerbate the already grave situation which confronts the small and medium size farmers in this country.(Source: Centro de Intercambio y Solidarid, October 24, 2000.
For additional information about the bio-technology and trade debate, you may want to look this website from Public Citizen and these information pages from Penn State.