ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

6 March 2002


2. in battle over biotech foods



March 4, 2002
Alastair Stewart

Sao Paulo - Brazil's Environment Minister Jose Sarney Filho has again come out in opposition to the immediate planting of genetically modified organisms on local soil before the environmental and health impact is assessed, opposing the government's official pro-GMO stance.

In one of his last acts before he leaves his post this week, Filho sent a letter to federal judges saying the Environment and Health Ministries do not support the government's appeal against an injunction that has blocked the planting and sale of GMOs for the past three years. The minister sent the letter after one of a three-strong panel of federal judges voted to uphold the appeal last Monday. The story explains that if the other two judges also rule to lift the injunction when the court reconvenes March 15, GMOs will be free to plant in Brazil.

Mariana Paoli, GMO specialist at Greenpeace, who is spearheading the Campaign for a Transgenic-Free Brazil, said, "The minister has come out in clear support of our legal battle. We congratulate him on his brave move."


2. Brazil burns soy in battle over biotech foods

Reuters, March 5 2002

SAO PAULO, Brazil - Agents in Brazil burned 21 tonnes of illegal genetically modified soy this week, police said as the battle over bioengineered foods heated up in Latin America's largest agricultural power.

The destroyed genetically modified soy was part of a larger batch of more than 55 tonnes whose recent confiscation has led to the arrest of at least 15 farmers in two southern states.

Another batch of the genetically modified soy was burned last October in Brazil, one of the world's largest agricultural producers to have banned planting genetically modified seed.

Federal prosecutors indicted the farmers, from the soy states of Rio Grande do Sul and Parana, for possession of illegal genetically modified soy, but have offered pre-trial deals to those who cooperate and turn over the black-market beans.

"I have recommended to the court that the charges against eight farmers in Rio Grande do Sul be suspended. All have agreed to turned over their GM seeds and cooperate," public prosecutor Paulo Mazzotti Girelli told Reuters.

He added that officials would test the farmers' crops after harvest to determine if they also would be confiscated. Girelli said all the estates were larger farms, but he gave no exact size.

Brazil's Seed Producers Association (Abrasem) said recently that more than half of the soy crop in Rio Grande do Sul, country's No. 3 soy state, may be the illegal genetically modified variety sown from Monsanto's leading GM Roundup Ready beans smuggled across the border from Argentina.

In the state's municipality of Julio de Castilhos alone, Girelli charged seven farmers for possession of more than 55 tonnes of contraband genetically modified soy.

The government recently stepped up operations to curb the thriving biotech black market by sending agents into the soy-rich southern states to test for illicit soy, but it also has pushed for legalizing genetically modified crops in Brazil's Congress.

Accusations and protests by opponents have become near weekly events in the face of the government's efforts to open Brazil's farming market to multinational biotech companies like Monsanto.

The congressional Committee on Genetically Modified Foods was about to vote on a bill tomorrow that would permit genetically modified foods and crops in Brazil when raucous protests in the assembly led to a shoving match among committee members that delayed the vote until next week.

A GM-Free Brazil, a group composed of 50 nongovernmental organizations, is planning to demonstrate again at the committee vote on Wednesday, said Greenpeace GM specialist Mariana Paoli.

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