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TITLE:  Brazil activists target Monsanto
SOURCE: British Broadcasting Corporation
        http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/2961284.stm
DATE:   June 3, 2003

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


Brazil activists target Monsanto

Members of the million-strong landless movement in Brazil (MST) have
invaded a farm owned by biotech giant Monsanto in the central state of
Goias. It is the third protest of this kind against Monsanto property
this year, and the company has urged the government to take back the
land, warning that repeated invasions "damage the image of the country".
It has filed for a repossession order from a court but no decision has
yet been announced. There is torrid debate in Brazil over whether
genetically modified (GM) crops should be let in amid mounting pressure
on the government from the multinationals.


'Illegal'

Local newspaper reports say between 200 and 2,000 people invaded the 307-
hectare farm in Santa Helena de Goias on Monday morning. Monsanto says
the centre is used for research, training and seed-processing. The MST
says the centre is being used to grow and stockpile seeds, ready to flood
the market if GM is legalised in Brazil. "It's an illegal centre," said
one MST leader, Luiz Afonso Arantes. "They might be producing seeds just
for research, but they are also planting with the intention of
reproducing," Agencia Folha quoted him as saying.

The MST has expressed fears that if GM is made legal in Brazil, big
growers will force small farmers out of business. But in a statement,
Monsanto said: "Repeated invasions like this one, as well as compromising
the progress of science in Brazil, damage the image of the country on
international markets and threaten the development of national
agriculture." It said failing to crack down on land invasions jeopardised
international investment in Brazil. Brazil's new Workers' Party
government has expressed sympathy with the aims of the huge MST, but the
two have clashed over the pace of agrarian reforms.


GM leakage

There is furious debate over GM crops in Brazil. Many farmers argue that
by allowing them in, Brazil will lose lucrative markets for non-GM foods.
Others fear the creeping introduction of GM crops to Brazil, in part
through leakage from neighbouring countries. Earlier this year the
Brazilian Government agreed that a large soy crop in the southern state
of Rio Grande do Sul found to have been tainted by Argentine GM soy could
be sold, but said the moratorium on GM crops there would be reintroduced
next year.




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