A recent article from Food Commision "Cuba's Food Production Revolution" starts with the 2006 documentary by Faith Morgan and says "An internet search for Vivero Organipónico Alamar brings up swathes of glowing articles. There is little doubt that it, and other farms like it, represent truly innovative and sustainable alternatives to the intensive, commercial, oil heavy agriculture that dominates much of the world. That said, Cuba still imports a massive 70% of its food. In 2008, Cuba spent $2.2 billion on food imports including $700 million on rice and beans and $250 million on powdered milk................
That said, Cuban food production continues to increase. Reuters recently reported that Cuban rice production increased by 44.6% from 2008 to 2009, from 207,500 to 300,000 tonnes. Since Raul Castro took over as president from his brother Fidel in 2008 the state has increased what it pays for crops; decentralised agricultural decision making and distribution; and leased 50% of vacant state lands to 100,000 individuals and private and state co-operative farms. Investment continues in agricultural alternatives to fossil fuelled farming. State run Cuban national newspaperGranma International reported in May that the production of bio-pesticides saved the Cuban economy $15 million annually.
Part of the state’s strategy to increase food production also includes the development of genetically modified (GM) crops. Cuban developed GM corn has been planted across an area that totals over 1,000 hectares across 14 provinces. The objective for the corn was to develop a variety that is resistant to the palomilla moth. According to Granma International, the corn has been developed under strict measures of biosecurity and subjected to rigorous eco-toxicologic studies.
I asked a young Cuban academic if he was concerned about the biodiversity implications of planting GM crops. He told me: “No. The main problem with GM crops in other parts of the world is their development and ownership by multi-national companies. In Cuba that won’t be a problem.”
Cuba’s embracing of GM seems less likely to sit as well with environmentalists as its organic production methods. It does not quite fit with the slightly romanticised image of Cuba presented by Morgan’s film. It can perhaps be seen as symptomatic of an intensely pragmatic and very Cuban approach to food production that will certainly be watched with interest by the rest of the world."