Brazil gives in

Decides to lift ban on genetically modified crops

Published: Thursday 31 March 2005

Efforts rendered fruitless brazil, the world's largest food exporter with a ban on genetically modified (gm) crops, has decided to legalise these. The step is aimed at checking their expanding black market in the country. The move defeats years of efforts of environmental and consumer groups that have won several court cases against gm crops, defeating biotech seed companies, scientists and other groups.

"The ban hobbled Brazil agriculturally and undermined its advantages as a leading world producer and researcher," says Ivo Carraro, executive director of Brazil's farm research cooperative Codetec. Despite the ban, the gm technology was very popular among Brazilian farmers, who found it highly economical. Over a third of the country's soybean crop, its major agricultural export item, came from gm seeds. Brazil's other major agricultural produce, cotton, was also heavily contaminated by gm seeds.

A bill defining a regulatory framework for commercial use of gm crops was recently passed by the country's lower house. Brazil's Senate had already approved it. "I'm certain that the black market will shrink and our seed industry will recover," says Ywao Miyamoto, president of Brazil's seed producers association Abrasem. Even before the bill was passed, the government had issued orders allowing the sale of gm soy on the condition that the producers register their black market gm soy with the agriculture ministry.

Encouraged by this newfound acceptance, biotech seed companies have already started harvesting gm soybean seeds, based on Monsanto's Roundup Ready soy technology, for the October planting season. The companies Codetec, Monsoy (Monsanto's local firm), Pioneer and Embrapa, the state crop research agency, are harvesting 54 varieties of gm soybeans. gm soy varieties that are not based on Monsanto's technology, gm corn, cotton, papaya, eucalyptus and castor bean are also in the pipeline.

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