GENET archive


APPROVAL: Bayer wins Brazil GM corn approval due to change ofvoting rules

                                 PART I
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TITLE:  Bayer wins Brazil GM corn approval
SOURCE: SciDev.Net, UK
AUTHOR: Marina Ramalho
DATE:   23.05.2007

Bayer wins Brazil GM corn approval

[RIO DE JANEIRO] The Brazilian technical commission on biosecurity
approved the genetically modified corn seed 'LibertyLink' last week (16
May), but environmental activists are accusing the commission of
ignoring public safety concerns.

LibertyLink corn is produced by German company Bayer CropScience and is
tolerant to glufosinate ammonium pesticide, used to kill harmful
grasses. Bayer first requested the licence in 1998.

This is the third genetically modified (GM) seed whose plantation and
commercialisation is allowed in Brazil.

Monsanto's 'Roundup Ready' soybean and Bollgard cotton -- a GM cotton
variant resistant to insects -- were approved in 2004 and 2005 respectively.

Seventeen members of the biosecurity commission voted for the corn
authorisation and four voted against it. The commission is composed of
scientists, government and public representatives and gives technical
advice to the government on biosecurity issues.

The commercial approval was granted on the condition that the government
monitors the amount of glufosinate ammonium used per hectare, as well as
the pesticide's impact on soil microorganisms.

The commission will also establish rules for how transgenic and non-
transgenic corn can coexist.

The higher level National Council on Biosecurity, made up of 11
ministers, still needs to ratify the decision and has 90 days to
announce a decision.

Environmental institutions criticised the decision. In a press release
(16 May), Greenpeace said Brazil is one of the world's centres of corn
genetic diversity and large-scale contamination would cause
"uncalculated" economical damage to farmers and to the country.

They accused the biosafety commission of dismissing safety concerns
raised by the public, and of not being transparent when evaluating
companies' requests for licences.

A legislation change, sanctioned in March by the president Luiz Inácio
Lula da Silva, reduced the number of votes the commission needs to
sanction approvals from the original 18 votes to 14. Without this move,
Bayer would not have won approval for LibertyLink.

André Abreu, Bayer technology manager in Brazil, told SciDev.Net that
the company has carried out local and international studies on farming
LibertyLink corn, which show that it is safe in terms of human and
environmental health.

Eleven other requests for GM seeds authorisation are currently awaiting
the biosecurity commission's approval.

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                                 PART II
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TITLE:  CTNBio approves GM corn by force
AUTHOR: AS-PTA, Brazil, translated for GM Watch by Ralph Miller
        Portuguese version available at:
DATE:   18.05.2007

CTNBio approves GM corn by force

Last Wednesday (05/16) the CNTBio approved the commercial release of
Bayer's GMO corn, by 17 votes to 5. But without recent changes the
government made to the law, the approval would not have been possible as
the number of necessary votes for an approval would have been 18. Now a
simple majority of 14 out of 27 is enough.

Right at the start of the meeting, the Commission's president made clear
what the the day's objective was: "I may be subject to a penalty if I
don't put to the vote" the commercial release of the corn. There was an
evident nee to give the biotech market concrete answers.

Members of the Commission questioned the lack of data regarding the
corn's environmental impact, the absence of internal norms to evaluate
the requests for commercial release, and the fact that CNTBio ignored
the contributions made during the public consultation when the release
of the GM corn was debated. The decision had already been made.

CTNBio also circumvented the rules required by the Biosafety Edict by
not appointing someone to be in charge of analyzing the proposition and
making a report to the Assembly who should have submitted an overall
view together with the votes of the commissions for health and the
environment. The representatives of the multinationals and the farmers
present were keeping an eye on things.

All the scientific arguments brought up by CTNBio members showing the
risks and the issues regarding GM corn that had not been studied, were
solemnly disregarded by the Commission's pro-biotechnology majority.

When questioned about the problem of approving the corn without
previously establishing a plan on how to monitor what happened post-
commercialization or rules for coexistence between GM and non-GM crops,
the Commission's president immediately said there was no point in
creating these norms, as nothing had been released. First one has to
release the GM crop.

Besides, the president Walter Colli continued, monitoring post-
commercialization would only be useful for finding "eventual problems
[with GMOs] that he couldn't see" might exist. This sentence, perfectly
captures what CNTBio is: a Commission whose legal remit is to evaluate
the risks and impacts of GMOs, but which has a majority of members,
starting with its president, who do not believe any such problems exist.

In view of all the irregularities committed by CNTBio, the Federal
Public Prosecutor has already stated it will take the case to Law, in
order to appeal the decision.

CNTBio behaves with such a lack of propiety that the day after it
approved the release of Bayer's Liberty Link corn, its members held a
meeting to take steps to create new rules for evaluating applications
for the commercial release of GMOs.

It was interesting to observe the same people who the day before had
voted in favour of approving the release of the GM corn, afterwards
insisting on the necessity of prior studies before a GMO could be
released. If these rules that are being created had been in effect the
day before, Bayer's GM corn could not have been approved.

At CNTBio's next meeting in June, these rules for commercial release
will not have been completed and everything indicates that it will be
Monsanto's turn to be rewarded by the government through CNTBio's
"technical" decisions (approving Monsanto's Bt MON 810). The worst of it
is that probably the same thing will happen to other requests for
commercial release that are on the Commission's agenda. This way the
Commission makes it seem like it's trying to achieve strictness in its
decision making, while approving requests without any regard to such rules.

Another high point of the meeting was the letter of resignation
submitted to the Commission by the representative of civil society, the
environmental specialist Dr. Lia Giraldo. She drew attention to the
Commission's irregularities, such as the lack of conflict of interest
declarations by several of the Commission's members, and declared that
many of the members had already made their minds up on how to vote
[before the Commission's deliberations] and considered biosafety
questions to be merely stumbling blocks to the advance of biotechnology.
In her view, the Commission "is incapable of carrying out the duties the
law requires."

Official bodies such as IBAMA (Brazilian Environment Institute) and
Anvisa (National Agency for Sanitary Vigilance) may submit an appeal
against CNTBio's decision, and the National Biosafety Commission may
assemble the eleven ministers that compose it to decide on the social
and economical aspects of the release and on the eventual technical
disagreements between the CNTBio and IBAMA and Anvisa, as well as the
relevant body of the Ministry of Agriculture.

In the meantime, the planting of any GM corn continues to be forbidden
in the country. Once released, the contamination of non-GM varieties
will be overwhelming.

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