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TITLE:  Brazil burns soy in battle over biotech foods
SOURCE: Reuters
DATE:   March 5, 2002

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


Brazil burns soy in battle over biotech foods

SAO PAULO, Brazil - Agents in Brazil burned 21 tonnes of illegal 
genetically modified soy this week, police said as the battle over 
bioengineered foods heated up in Latin America's largest agricultural 
power. The destroyed genetically modified soy was part of a larger batch of 
more than 55 tonnes whose recent confiscation has led to the arrest of at 
least 15 farmers in two southern states. Another batch of the genetically 
modified soy was burned last October in Brazil, one of the world's largest 
agricultural producers to have banned planting genetically modified seed. 
Federal prosecutors indicted the farmers, from the soy states of Rio Grande 
do Sul and Parana, for possession of illegal genetically modified soy, but 
have offered pre-trial deals to those who cooperate and turn over the black-
market beans.

"I have recommended to the court that the charges against eight farmers in 
Rio Grande do Sul be suspended. All have agreed to turned over their GM 
seeds and cooperate," public prosecutor Paulo Mazzotti Girelli told 
Reuters. He added that officials would test the farmers' crops after 
harvest to determine if they also would be confiscated. Girelli said all 
the estates were larger farms, but he gave no exact size. Brazil's Seed 
Producers Association (Abrasem) said recently that more than half of the 
soy crop in Rio Grande do Sul, country's No. 3 soy state, may be the 
illegal genetically modified variety sown from Monsanto's leading GM 
Roundup Ready beans smuggled across the border from Argentina.

In the state's municipality of Julio de Castilhos alone, Girelli charged 
seven farmers for possession of more than 55 tonnes of contraband 
genetically modified soy. The government recently stepped up operations to 
curb the thriving biotech black market by sending agents into the soy-rich 
southern states to test for illicit soy, but it also has pushed for 
legalizing genetically modified crops in Brazil's Congress. Accusations and 
protests by opponents have become near weekly events in the face of the 
government's efforts to open Brazil's farming market to multinational 
biotech companies like Monsanto.

The congressional Committee on Genetically Modified Foods was about to vote 
on a bill tomorrow that would permit genetically modified foods and crops 
in Brazil when raucous protests in the assembly led to a shoving match 
among committee members that delayed the vote until next week. A GM-Free 
Brazil, a group composed of 50 nongovernmental organizations, is planning 
to demonstrate again at the committee vote on Wednesday, said Greenpeace GM 
specialist Mariana Paoli.

 

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