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3-Plants: Illegal (GM-)crop trading in Brazil and Argentina

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TITLE:  A) Brazil GM soy ban cultivates seed smuggling
        B) Argentina illegal seed prevalent in crops
SOURCE: both Reuters, interviews by Robert S. Elliott
DATE:   A) September 28, 1999
        B) September 30, 1999

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A) Brazil GM soy ban cultivates seed smuggling

Genetically-modified (GM) soybeans illegally sown in Brazil are
being smuggled from Argentina and the United States as farmers
crave their cost- cutting advantages, a leading official said
Tuesday. "In Brazil there are transgenetic soybeans sown, so the
seed had to come as contraband from Argentina or the United
States," Victor Castro, general manager of the Argentine Seed
Producers Association (ASA), told Reuters. "Brazilian technicians
are saying there are some 800,000 hectares planted (with illegal
seed), though it is impossible to measure it," Castro added.

The Brazilian Association of Seed Producers says all of the
contraband seed is of the "Roundup Ready" variety produced by
U.S. biotechnology giant Monsanto Co.. Castro estimates farmers
save 20 percent on their fertilizer costs using the genetically
modified crop, which also taxes their land less. "Evidently there
is a great effort by producers to not lose competitivity and
maintain the best technology to save on costs," he said. "If they
are saving $25 to $30 per hectare...producers make an imperious
decision," Castro said.

Gene-soy has been planted in Argentina since 1996 and is expected
to dominate 80 percent of the crop in 1999 according to ASA. The
percentage is expected to increase in 2000 and there is no
ceiling on how much land can be dedicated to gene-soy, despite
what ASA identified as public aversion to "science-fiction

But in Brazil there is a ban on the seed after environmental
group Greenpeace won an August court decision that forced
Monsanto to launch a one-year study over the impact of the genes
on the local eco-system. Brazil and Argentina are the second and
third largest soybean producers on the planet, pumping out
roughly 50 million tonnes combined per year. Castro said illegal
seed is being carried into Brazil in suitcases or via shipments
earmarked for one use -- such as manufacturing oils -- and
diverted to another.

"It's difficult to manage. The Argentine-Brazilian border, for
example, is very wide," he said. Seed smuggled from Argentina
would be planted in Brazil's southern soy areas centering on Rio
Grande do Sul state -- the country's third largest grower which
borders Argentina -- as it would benefit from similar growing
conditions, Castro said. 


B) Argentina illegal seed prevalent in crops

BUENOS AIRES, Sept 30 (Reuters) - Argentina's weighty soybean and
wheat crops are infiltrated by seed illegally sold by farmers
reaping a profit while dodging the tax man and labeling
requirements, a top official said. "Twenty-five to 30 percent of
the soybean and the wheat crops are sown with illegal seed, which
farmers sell to their neighbors in competition with seed
producers or merchants," Adelaida Harries, president of the
National Seed Institute (INASE), told Reuters late Wednesday.

Argentina is the globe's third largest soybean producer and its
1998/99 crop is foreseen at 18 million tonnes. In wheat the
agriculture-rich country was the world's fifth largest exporter
of the grain and its offshoot, flour, in 1998. The nation's
farmers are allowed to hold over seed multiplied from the
previous harvest and use it to till their own fields. Soybean and
wheat seeds can be multiplied for about three seasons without
losing potency, while corn and sunflower seeds from earlier
harvests tend to lose their already precarious vigor sitting in
storage between planting campaigns.

The brush with the law arises when farmers sell their retained
seed on the black market for a healthy profit instead of using it
to sow their own property. The illegal item is dubbed the "brown
bag." "The seed has no guarantee of quality and identity, there
is tax evasion involved, and royalties aren't paid on the
purchaser rights of the seed variety owners," said Harries.
Farmers avoid paying for seed inspection labels costing $0.17 to
$0.50 a bag, plus value-added and income taxes, she said.

The almighty peso drives farmers to work off-the-books deals at a
time when commodities prices are hanging low and cutting into
profitability, Harries said. A bag of transgenic soybeans that
normally sells for $50 can go for $22 per "brown bag" in the
underground economy, she noted. "It's a question of price,"
Harries said.

Gene-soy is expected to dominate 80 percent of Argentina's
mammoth bean crop in the 1999/2000 season led by the Roundup
Ready product issued by U.S. biotechnology giant Monsanto Co..
The crop is expected to cover 7.5 million hectares, meaning
600,000 tonnes of legal seed should be used, Harries calculated.
"This year only 40 percent of the crop is inspected seed," said
Harries. "Of the rest, 25-30 percent is legal use of held-over
seed, while 30 percent, or about 200,000 tonnes, is illegal seed
being sold amongst producers," she finished.

With wheat it's much the same story. "Wheat coverage via
inspected seed and what is sold commercially is about 50 percent,
followed by 20-25 percent legally held-over seed and 25-30
percent seed sold between farmers," Harries said. To work against
illegal seed dealings INASE has a "man on the street" in key
growing zones to monitor production and enforce control, she
said. "Our commercial programs include visiting producers to make
them conscious of all the problems involved with using
unguaranteed seed," said Harries. "It's an attack on
technological development, because the seed purchasers who cannot
cover their royalties refrain from investing in (seed)
improvement programs, and within a few years they stop providing
farmers improved varieties," she said.

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-| Co-ordinator
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