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6-Regulation: Rush in Brazil congress for biosecurity law



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TITLE:  Brazil: Rush in Congress for Biosecurity Law
SOURCE: Brasil de Fato / Brazzil Magazine
        http://brazzil.com/mag/content/view/103/2/
DATE:   6 Sep 2004

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Brazil: Rush in Congress for Biosecurity Law

The Brazilian government once again placed the issue of Genetically
Modified Organisms (GMOs) in the forefront. Currently, leaders are
frantically debating a proposal called the Law of Biosecurity.

According to the Minister of Agriculture, Roberto Rodrigues, the
proposal, presented by Senator Osmar Dias, should be voted on soon, and
then sent on to the Congress for a vote sometime before September 20th.
The deadlines are essential as the planting for the 2004/2005 season
begins in October.

Angela Cordeiro, an agriculture engineer and specialist in biosecurity,
says that government is trying to push through a vote rapidly for two reasons:

First, President Lula does not want to sign another provisionary measure,
because every time he does so, his image among the Left suffers;
secondly, the agro-industrial lobby is exerting great pressure for
approval of the use of GMO.

At the end of 2003, during a trip to the United States, President Lula
bowed to the pressures of agro-business producers and directed Vice-
president Josť Alencar to sign a provisionary measure to allow for the
planting of transgenics.

This same group said that they are satisfied with Dias' proposal which
allows for the commercialization of some transgenic products as well as
augmenting the power of the National Technical Commission of Biosecurity
(CTNBio) who will be entrusted with the debate over the use of GMOs.

CTNBio is comprised of ministers, workers, business people, farmers and
representatives of civil society. Their objective is to give advice to
the government in the formulation and implantation of policies related to
biosecurity. In the past, this commission has consistently been in favor
of GMOs.

According to Cordeiro, the proposed law favors large-scale farmers and
agricultural business as it gives them carte blanche to plant
transgenics, which GMO companies allege are cheaper to plant, but whose
environmental impacts have yet to be evaluated.

In article 30, the proposed law grants amnesty to all producers of GMOs
who obtained favorable decisions from the Justice Department or from
investigative governmental branches, such as Ibama (Brazilian Institute
of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources) or Anvisa (National
Agency for Hygiene) before the passage of the proposed law.

In Rio Grande do Sul, with so many confusing and contradictory lawsuits,
many farmers took advantage of the situation and began to produce
transgenic soy, without any time to study the impact of such planting on
the environment. This amnesty says to them, You are free from all
responsibility! said Cordeiro.

In article 17, the proposed law states that inspection of transgenics be
done by Ibama e Anvisa at the request of CTNBio. A goal of these organs
would be to control the activities of farmers and corporations who use GMOs.

So, large-scale farmers get the economic benefits, the government
controls political decisions, and the tax-payers flip the bill, commented
Cordeiro.

The right thing to do would be that businesses and farmers that use GMOs
finance research and inspection of their products. The proposal assumes
equipment and technology that the State does not have.

Today there is no one trained to do inspections. Imagine what will happen
if this law passes. According to Cordeiro, to evaluate if one seed is
transgenic or not costs between 3-5 dollars. Some seeds cost as much as
US$ 300.

The government will need to restructure Ibama and Anvisa to enable them
to do inspections. They will need to hire and train personnel for this work.

The investment is very high, and according to the government, will be
done before the approval of the use of GMOs. But this is impossible. The
public organs cannot be ready for this work with such short notice. There
is no technology nor personnel. If the law is passed, there will be no
way to control transgenics, affirmed Cordeiro.

In article 21, Dias' proposal states that there will be the formation of
the FIDBio Initiative Fund for the Development of Biosecurity and
Biotechnology for Family Farmers.

The objective of this fund would be to provide universities and public
organs with resources for projects which would benefit family farmers,
like studies about products with make up basic foodstuffs.

The resources of the fund would come from a tax imposed upon the
commercialization and import of genetically modified seeds and seedlings.

It is a fund for the poor. The government grants complete freedom to big
business, and gives a little bit of change for small-scale farmers,
commented Cordeiro.

According to her, social movements and scientists have already given the
government diverse proposals on how to better the Brazilian agriculture.
Many propose investing in organic production, which is cheaper and more
productive.

But these proposals have never been implemented. It is not transgenics
that will end hunger and poverty in Brazil, but a change in the logic of
agricultural production.




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