GM debate rages

Published: Thursday 15 May 2003

A recent draft measure by the new Brazilian government to control the country's rampant illegal transgenic soya trade has created a storm among those for and against genetically modified (gm) soya. There is widespread support as well as antagonism towards such varieties of the crop in Brazil (see: Down To Earth, April 30, 2003).

The country's agriculture minister, Roberto Rodrigues, opened the floodgates recently when he said: "Brazil cannot miss the train of history and deny new technologies." But the new government has stated that it would maintain the ban on gm soya. It also proposed a scheme, Measure 113, to control illegal cultivation of transgenic soya crop.

Under Measure 113, gm -contaminated soya would be segregated and labelled. gm soya would then be sold until January 2004, after which it would again be banned. But enforcement of the proposed rule looks to be a daunting task. For one, Brazil lacks the infrastructure to separate gm varieties from conventional ones in a soya harvest estimated to be 50 million tonnes -- the second largest in the world after that of the us. Further, food processors in the country have never previously been labelled for gm contents and there is no viable standard for testing the genetic integrity of a silo of soya.

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