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TITLE:  Brazil to Enforce Gene-Altered Crop Ban as Bush Seeks Change
SOURCE: Bloomberg, USA
DATE:   Jun 24, 2003

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Brazil to Enforce Gene-Altered Crop Ban as Bush Seeks Change

June 24 (Bloomberg) -- Brazil pledged to crack down on farmers who
violate a ban on planting gene-altered crops as U.S. President George W.
Bush pushes globally to end such prohibitions.

Farmers in southern Brazil are sowing modified soybeans for the 2004
harvest, said Jose Dirceu, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's chief of
staff. Brazil, the second-largest producer of soybeans after the U.S.,
has had an eight-year prohibition on crops that are engineered for such
traits as pesticide resistance.

"This is against the law and we plan to enforce it," Dirceu told
reporters in Brasilia. The government allowed the harvest this year of
crops from altered soybeans rather than paying growers compensation for
destroying the plants.

Brazil is running up against efforts by Bush to reverse a ban on gene-
altered food in Europe by arguing it exacerbates hunger in Africa. At the
same time, Brazil has pledged to China, the world's largest importer,
that its crops are safe and that it will enforce the prohibition.

Monsanto Co., the world's biggest producer of gene-altered seeds, is
trying to force Brazilian farmers to pay royalties for illegally planted
soybeans. The U.S. company on June 11 said it told Brazilian soybean
importers and exporters that it will notify customs officials in Europe
and Japan of unlicensed shipments from the present harvest.

Bush and Lula discussed Brazil's policy on such crops during a meeting at
the White House on Friday, and the government plans to issue a statement
on Europe's ban, Dirceu said.

'Concrete Proof'

Lula told Bush the government is debating whether to reverse the ban and
is seeking the advice of farmers and experts, Dirceu said. The Brazilian
congress is debating a bill that would end the prohibition, and today the
government planning ministry held a seminar on gene-altered crops.

Some growers already are making their own decision to skirt the ban,
Dirceu said. Seeds are smuggled from Argentina and Paraguay, where the
crops are allowed.

"We have concrete proof that some farmers in southern Brazil are planting
gene-altered crops" for the next harvest, Dirceu said.

The U.S. last month filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization
in Geneva, saying the European Union's ban on genetically altered food
has cost American farmers $1 billion. The European Union in 1998 put a
moratorium on new approvals of such food, citing health concerns, and
Bush yesterday said the ban is worsening hunger in Africa.

"Because of these artificial obstacles, many African nations avoid
investing in biotechnology, worried that their products will be shut out
of important European markets," Bush said yesterday at a conference in

Divided Over Use

The Brazilian government is divided over the use of gene- altered crops,
with Agriculture Minister Roberto Rodrigues claiming they would reduce
farmers' costs by a fifth because of their resistance to pests and bad

Brazil expects soybean sales abroad to rise to $8 billion this year, up
from $6.1 billion in 2002, a critical part of Lula's push to stimulate
the economy with exports.

"It would really benefit Brazil by lowering production costs," said
Joaquim Machado, government affairs director for Latin America for the
Basel, Switzerland, company Syngenta AG. "The farmer would be the
principal beneficiary."

A reluctance to acknowledge that a large portion of Brazil's soybean crop
contains gene-altered beans almost cost the country $900 million of
annual soybean sales to China.

Some analysts estimate that as much as 40 percent of Brazil's soy crop
comes from gene-altered seeds.


European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

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