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8-Misc: Brazil court foils Monsanto again on GM soybeans

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----------------------------- GENET-news -----------------------------

TITLE:  Brazil court foils Monsanto again on GM soybeans
SOURCE: Reuters, by Reese Ewing 
DATE:   June 30, 2000

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Brazil court foils Monsanto again on GM soybeans

SAO PAULO - U.S. biotechnology giant Monsanto Co. has taken another 
blow in Brazil's courts after a judge upheld a ban against the sale 
of the company's transgenic soybeans without a prior study on local 
environmental impact. The ruling came late Wednesday from the 
regional federal court in Brasilia, which upheld an injunction 
slapped on Monsanto last year after a lawsuit brought by a leading 
local consumer protection group, IDEC.

IDEC and the international environmentalist group Greenpeace cheered 
the court's decision, saying it was "another important victory for 
IDEC and society." "Once again the court recognises that the 
government and Monsanto are disrespectful of Brazilian law, putting 
people's health and the environmental balance at risk," said IDEC 
official Marilena Lazzarini.

Monsanto has been struggling since 1998 to obtain government approval 
for its genetically modified (GM) Roundup Ready variety of soybeans 
to be sold in Brazil. According to Monsanto's Brazil unit, the 
regional federal court in Brasilia may soon issue a definitive 
ruling, rather than merely upholding the injunction. "We are 
disappointed that the court did not reach a final decision," said 
Gustavo Leite, director-general of Monsanto Brazil. "We are confident 
the court will reach a final decision when it reconvenes in August 
that will permit the sale of Roundup Ready in Brazil." Agricultural 
giant Brazil, the world's No. 2 soybean producer, is the only GM-free 
country in the western hemisphere.

In 1998 the government's National Biosafety Commission (CTNBio) found 
the herbicide-resistant Roundup Ready soy clear of any health risk 
for human or animal consumption, and the Agriculture Ministry tipped 
its hat to Monsanto. But last August a federal court granted the IDEC 
an injunction and ruled that Monsanto would have to conduct a one-
year environmental impact study of its GM seeds in Brazil before the 
ban on sales could be lifted.


If Brazil eventually gives the green light to GM grains such as 
soybeans, corn and cotton, the gains made by farmers in lower costs 
and increased production may be offset by industry losses in exports 
to finicky buyers, analysts say. Brazil's reputation for producing 
conventional soybeans and shunning genetically-tampered crops and 
other foodstuffs has won it some exclusive clients in Europe and 
Asia. Many European markets have placed import restrictions on GM 
produce from the United States and have bought from Brazil instead, 
touting the goods as GM-free to health-conscious consumers.

On Today CTNBio is due to rule on the safety of importing GM corn for 
use as animal feed. Approval could pave the way for a major 
government policy shift on GM foods. The commission is widely 
expected to approve the imports of GM corn, one of the few 
agricultural commodities where Brazil's production is insufficient to 
satisfy domestic demand.

Brazilian farmers may be skirting the GM ban and tapping the black 
market for illegal seeds smuggled in from neighbouring Argentina, the 
world's second largest GM soy planter after the United States. 
Brazil's Association of Seed Producers (Abrasem) has informally 
estimated that contraband varieties may account for 10 percent of 
national production and as much as 30 percent of soybean crops in the 
key southern growing states whose climate is best suited for 
Argentine seeds.


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