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PEOPLE: GMO soy maker likely to be Brazil's new Ag Minister



------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------
TITLE:  GMO soy maker likely to be Brazil's new Ag Minister
SOURCE: Morningstar - Dow Jones, USA
AUTHOR: Kenneth Rapoza
URL:    http://news.morningstar.com/news/ViewNews.asp?article=/DJ/
200703151739DOWJONESDJONLINE001148_univ.xml&Cat=ForMkts
DATE:   15.03.2007
--------------------------------------------------------------------------


GMO soy maker likely to be Brazil's new Ag Minister

SAO PAULO -(Dow Jones)- The president of Brazil's largest soybean seed
company, Odilio Balbinotti, will likely become Brazil's new Agriculture
Minister, according to political leaders with close ties to Balbinotti
in congress.

Balbinotti owns Sementes Adriana, the largest individual seed company in
Brazil and a licensed maker of Monsanto Co.'s (MON) Roundup Ready
soybeans, a transgenic soy seed.

Balbinotti is a congressman from the Brazilian Democratic Movement, or
PMDB, representing the state of Parana, the No. 2 soy-producing state
behind Mato Grosso. Sementes Adriana is based in Mato Grosso.

Balbinotti has largely received a hardy welcome from across Brazil's
agribusiness segments.

"He's an agribusiness leader that should give special attention to soy
and grains," said David Goncalves, a consultant for F.C. Stone in Sao Paulo.

"The clients I've spoken to today are happy to have him there,"
Goncalves said.

Michel Temer, president of Brazil's lower house of congress and leader
of the PMDB, said Balbinotti was invited to meet with Brazil's
president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, on Thursday to discuss his new post.

The Presidential Palace press office, however, said it wasn't confirming
Balbinotti as the country's new agriculture minister at this time.

Local press reports have been full with praise of Balbinotti from
agribusiness leaders across the spectrum, from sugarcane millers to farm
lobbies.

"He's someone who knows Brazil's biggest farm business. He knows soy. He
knows ranching. We have a lot of hope for this guy," said Antenor
Nogueira, president of the National Agriculture Confederation, or CNA.

Ironically, Balbinotti, who is from the soy and coffee towns of north
Parana, received two thumbs up from anti-transgenic soybean governor,
Roberto Requiao, in Parana.

"Lula asked Requiao for his opinion on Odilio and we gave it. We think
he'd be a good fit," said Benedito Pires, a spokesman for Roberto
Requiao, Parana's governor.

"If he runs his office as he runs his business, then Brazilian
agriculture seems to be in good hands," Steve Cachia, a market analyst
for agribusiness brokerage firm, Cerealpar, said about the possibility
of Balbinotti becoming Brazil's top farmer.

If approved, he would be replacing temporary Agriculture Minister, Luis
Guedes Pinto. Pinto stepped in for outgoing sugarcane farmer and
agribusiness consultant Roberto Rodrigues in mid-2006.

Balbinotti left north Parana in 1980 for south Mato Grosso, what was
then considered Brazil's new farm frontier. Today, Mato Grosso is
Brazil's top producer of soybeans, cotton and the No. 2 cattle-ranching
state behind its southern neighbor, Mato Grosso do Sul.

Soy farming has made Balbinotti a millionaire. He owns one of the most
modern private biotechnology labs in Latin America. He also owns about
25,000 hectares of farm land, well above what his counterparts in Parana
own. Parana farmers tend to own under 400 hectares.

But there is another side to the would-be minister that could take him
out of the running. He is currently being investigated for falsifying
documents and consumer fraud in Mato Grosso. He says the charges are
unfounded. That has some people in the market saying he is off to a bad start.

"He knows his stuff, but he is not as charismatic as Roberto Rodrigues
and he is being investigated for fraud in Mato Grosso. That's somewhat
of a problem," said a consultant from a leading agribusiness firm.

Balbinotti said in a press statement that he would release a note about
the investigation later in the week.

So far, all signs currently lead Balbinotti to the Agriculture
Minister's post in the days ahead. This would give him the reins to one
of the world's biggest farming markets outside the U.S., demanding the
attention of thousands of farmers currently coming out of two
consecutive years of serious financial crises.


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