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2-Plants: Brazil state threatens to destroy Monsanto soy

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Brazil state threatens to destroy Monsanto soy
By Phil Stewart

SAO PAULO, March 18 (Reuters) - Brazil's major soybean producing state of 
Rio Grande do Sul is threatening to destroy genetically-modified soybeans 
grown on a test plot by the local unit of U.S. biotechnology giant 
Monsanto Co.. ``The soybean area will be destroyed by the end of the 
month if they continue in violation of state law,'' the state's 
Agriculture Secretary Jose Hermeto Hoffamann told Reuters.
Rio Grande do Sul, which aims to sell soybeans to European consumers 
opposed to transgenics, accused the multinational of breaking a new, 
March 3 state law by failing to provide an environmental risk analysis 
for the 435-hectare test plot. Hoffamann said Monsanto was reproducing 
enough seeds on the land to cover all of Rio Grande do Sul sales in 
anticipation of the federal government's expected final approval for 
planting of Monsanto's herbicide-resistant Roundup Ready soybeans in the 
coming months. Securing the environmental analysis before the end-March 
deadline may not be possible, he added.
``It will be very difficult for (Monsanto) to gather this information in 
time because it take some time to collect this kind of data,'' Hoffamann 
said. Monsanto says it aims to complete the paperwork, but failing that, 
it will take legal measures to protect its seeds. ``We will attempt to 
present the documents,'' said Rodrigo Lopes Almeida, Monsanto do Brasil's 
corporate affairs director. ``Monsanto will defend itself within the 
parameters of the law.'' Rio Grande do Sul is expected to turn out 22 
percent of the country's 30.92-million-tonne crop -- the world's largest 
behind the United States.
Brazil broke its ban on transgenics last September by approving the 
safety of Monsanto's genetically-modified soybeans, legally allowing them 
to be treated like any other crop in the registration process. Hoffamann 
said in an earlier interview that the state was seeking legal means to 
ban all transgenic crops before their registration. He added that the 
German joint venture AgrEvo had also been warned about the new state law 
and its effect on the company's test plots of transgenic corn and rice. 
``They have also been told they must provide these documents,'' Hoffamann 
Andre Abreu, who head's AgrEvo's biotechnology program in Brazil, said 
that it would be very difficult to provide an environmental risk analysis 
before the deadline. He also scoffed at the controversy over the test 
plots, which he said totaled less than two hectares and already had 
federal approval. ``All this fuss over nothing,'' Abreu said, adding the 
company had already waded through a four-month assessment with the 
federal government just to begin its research in Brazil. ``We think we 
have rights to keep (the plots) going and to conclude this research and 
to have fair time to comply with these demands,'' he told Reuters.

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