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2-Plants: Brazil seems to move closer to RR soy approval



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                                  PART I
-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  Brazil drags heels on green light for GM soybeans
SOURCE: Reuters, by Peter Blackburn 
DATE:   November 7, 2001

------------------ archive: http://www.gene.ch/genet.html ------------------


FEATURE - Brazil drags heels on green light for GM soybeans

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil - Consumers may soon have serious cause for concern, 
if agricultural powerhouse Brazil allows sales of genetically modified (GM) 
crops. Supplies of staple foods such as soybeans may never be the same 
again. Brazil, a leading world producer of soybeans, coffee, sugar, beef, 
corn and orange juice, is one of the world's last bastions blocking the 
advance of GM crops despite fierce lobbying from powerful multinationals 
such as U.S.-based Monsanto.

Brazil's soybean fields are already riddled with beans grown from modified 
seeds smuggled in from neighboring Argentina. Some analysts estimate the 
amounts at up to 60 percent in the key southern crop areas. But if Brazil 
were to permit the widespread cultivation and sale of genetically modified 
soy, which might still take many months due to the country's labyrinthine 
legal system, the global balance between modified and unmodified beans 
might change forever.


LUCRATIVE EUROPE MARKET KEY FOR BRAZIL'S SOY EXPORTS

This could have an enormous impact on exports of soybeans from Brazil, the 
world's second largest grower, as it would very likely lead to losses in 
the lucrative European market, where safety-conscious consumers often 
prefer to buy non-GM foods. "Europe is the principal buyer of Brazilian 
soy," said Cesar Borges de Souza, former president of the Brazilian 
Association of Vegetable Oils Industries (Abiove). "Europe's preference for 
conventional soy means that they will look to Brazilian products first. So 
in market terms, this is a big advantage even if they are not paying an 
explicit premium for conventional soy," he said.

More importantly, perhaps, a pro-GM stance from Brazil would put it on a 
much more equal export footing with the hemisphere's other main producers 
Argentina and the United States - both of which plant more than half their 
crop with GMO (genetically modified organisms) beans. According to U.S. 
Department of Agriculture forecasts, Brazil should grow 41.5 million tonnes 
of soybeans in 2001/02, compared with 75.1 million tonnes in the United 
States and 27 million in Argentina - together, nearly 80 percent of global 
output.

If Brazil's government were to adopt a pro-GM policy, modified beans would 
also dominate world soy exports as the top three producers would account 
for an expected 52 million of a total 57 million tonnes of exports forecast 
for next season.

Brazil's non-genetically modified soy commands a premium over GM material 
especially in health-conscious markets such as Europe and Japan - and some 
U.S. processors with customers in Europe will spurn their obvious source of 
supply and pay extra for non-GM beans. The European Union purchased more 
than half of Brazil's total soybean and soymeal exports of more than 22 
million tonnes between January and September this year.

"Brazil is exporting more and more soybeans compared with the U.S. and 
Argentina because people want GM-free food," said Mariana Paoli, campaigner 
at Greenpeace Brazil, which wants a moratorium on the development of GM 
food crops until their safety has been properly researched by their 
standards.


FARMERS LURED BY LOW COSTS, SEED SMUGGLING RIFE

Apart from the premium paid for their produce in Europe, Brazilian farmers 
are attracted by the savings offered by GM soybeans as they require less 
application of herbicides, and less fuel to power machinery for routine 
field operations. The financial rewards may have already moved the GM issue 
in Brazil beyond the power of the courts and the government. Some of 
Brazil's soybean fields, especially in the south, are said to be rife with 
GM seeds smuggled across the land and river borders from Argentina, where 
the use of GM technology is widespread among the country's farmers.

In Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil's southernmost state bordering Argentina and 
Uruguay, GM soy accounts for some 60 percent of planted area: double the 
levels seen last year, according to Brazil's Seed Producers Association 
(Abrasem). "Profit margins for the certified seed producers are shrinking. 
It is a life or death issue for the seed industry," said Abrasem's director 
Joao Henrique Hummel, adding that the illegal traffic had crippled 
conventional seed suppliers.

Annual production of registered seed had slumped to 100,000 tonnes in Rio 
Grande do Sul from 300,000 tonnes just three years ago, he said. Rio Grande 
do Sul is Brazil's third-largest soy-growing state after Parana and top 
grower Mato Grosso. Industry sources have said the government is either 
turning a blind eye to the smuggling, or simply unable to prevent it.


MONSANTO, GOVERNMENT, CONSUMERS LOCKED IN LEGAL BATTLE

The legal battle over genetically modified crops has raged in Brazil for 
years. The wrangle between the government, which is broadly in favor of GM 
farming, and consumer lobby groups has been dragging through the country's 
courts for years as each new incident emerges to revive the issue once 
again. Last year, Brazil barred several shipments of Argentine corn and 
wheat to its southern ports while laboratory tests for GM material were 
conducted. Brazil imported nearly all its eight million tonnes of wheat 
from Argentina in 2000-01.

Early this year, more than 1,000 impoverished farmers stormed a biotech 
research center owned by Monsanto in Rio Grande do Sul to protest GM crops, 
pulling up fledgling corn and soybean plants at the company's experimental 
farm. In July, the Agriculture Minister was reported to be poised to give 
Monsanto the green light to market and sell GM soybeans. But he was forced 
to beat a speedy retreat when reminded that the issue was still subject to 
a legal injunction. The government favors GM farming techniques, which it 
says should cut costs, raise productivity and help keep Brazil as a leader 
among the world's food exporters.

For its part, Monsanto has been lobbying hard in government circles to 
secure authorization to sell its soybean varieties, which have been bio-
engineered to withstand the company's Roundup Ready herbicide, on the 
Brazilian market. While Roundup Ready soybeans are the furthest along the 
bureaucratic trail towards approval for sale, Monsanto is still completing 
a five-year environmental impact study in Brazil, which was ordered by the 
local courts in 1998. Analysts say a ruling on the GM issue may emerge 
later this year and even if it goes against Monsanto, appeals could still 
be lodged in Brazil's Supreme Court - which would drag the process out for 
many more months.

Anti-GM campaigners say a decision in favor of Monsanto might include new 
reference terms for studies into the impact on the environment, human and 
animal health, as well as food labeling, safety, and the segregation of GM 
and traditional crops. "It's a very slow process. Approval certainly won't 
be in time for this year's harvest, possibly for 2002 or 2003," said Flavio 
Roberto de Franca, analyst at grains and oilseeds consultancy Safras e 
Mercado. "But the question seems to be when, rather than if, approval will 
be given," he said.


                                  PART II
-------------------------------- GENET-news --------------------------------

TITLE:  Congress may clear GMO sales in Brazil - paper
SOURCE: Reuters
DATE:   November 8, 2001

------------------ archive: http://www.gene.ch/genet.html ------------------


Congress may clear GMO sales in Brazil - paper

SAO PAULO, Brazil - Brazil's Congressional Commission on Biotechnology will 
soon present a proposal for a law that could break a lengthy legal deadlock 
over genetically modified crop sales, a financial paper said yesterday. The 
office of Congressman Confucio Moura, the commission spokesman, said 
details of the bill were still being worked out but Moura expected to 
present it to Congress this week. Moura's office could not confirm or deny 
details of the bill presented in the Valor Economico financial paper. If 
approved, the paper said, the bill would give the government's advisory 
body on biotechnology, the CTNBio, total authority over assigning 
environmental impact studies for GM crops that biotech companies hope to 
sell in Brazil, such as Monsanto Co.'s Roundup Ready GM soybeans.

A 5-year environmental study - ordered by the court in 1998 - remains the 
main obstacle blocking the sale of Monsanto GM seeds in Brazil, despite 
repeated efforts by the company and the government to reverse the court 
injunction. "These studies will be made only if the CTNBio determines (they 
are needed)," Moura told Valor. "In some cases, GM organisms do not offer 
the least risk."

But consumer groups remain staunch opponents to the sale of GM crops and 
foods in Brazil. For almost half a decade the government and Monsanto have 
warred with environmental activist Greenpeace and local consumer groups 
IDEC and Procon in the courts over the GM status of Latin America's 
agricultural workhorse.

Brazil is one of a few large agricultural producers in the Western 
Hemisphere to still ban the sale of gene-altered foodstuffs from its 
grocery shelves, as well as GM animal feed and grain. Moura's office was 
unclear on how the bill, if approved, would affect the existing injunction 
on Roundup Ready sales before Monsanto completes the impact study.



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