The Brazilian government is using public money to act as a traveling salesman for Monsanto's GM seeds in China.
Brazil's agriculture minister and a representative of Embrapa, the Brazilian publicly owned plant breeding company, will travel to China, courtesy of the Brazilian taxpayer, to promote Monsanto's new GM soy.
The move follows China's request to a delegation including Glauber Silveira, the president of Aprosoja, for non-GM soybeans to supply the better-off sector of the Chinese population.
China is the main buyer of Brazilian soy, so its preference for non-GM may prompt a turnaround in Brazil's precipitous rush to GM production. That rush was driven not by farmer or consumer demand but by the fact that Monsanto controls the seed market and withdrew non-GM seed varieties from sale.
Transgenic soybean motivates minister's trip to China
Valor Econômico, 30/04/2013
[Slightly edited Google translation from the Portuguese]
[Brazilian] Agriculture Minister, Antonio Andrade, travels on Friday to Beijing to negotiate terms for the commercial release of new types of transgenic soybean that are both herbicide tolerant and resistant to pests whose aggressiveness have increased the damage in Brazilian production. Andrade will also ask the Chinese authorities for the resumption of beef imports, suspended by the Asian country since the announcement, in December 2012, of an atypical case of "mad cow disease" in Paraná.
For soybeans, the strategy will be to show how this is a [Brazilian] State matter by engaging Embrapa, a Brazilian publicly owned company. The "shield" will serve to cool the growing rejection of Chinese GM technology, the government believes. China has not granted commercial registration of new transgenic varieties. Among them are the Cultivance, developed through a partnership between Embrapa and BASF multinational, and Intacta RR2, owned by the American company Monsanto.
As a result, the varieties have not yet been commercially launched in the Brazilian market. The RR2 was approved in Brazil in August 2010, and is already released in 12 countries and the European Union, according to the company. The delay on the green light for import [into China] worries growers, who are prevented from planting the new seeds on grounds of rejection by China, the largest market for Brazilian soy.
The cultivar of Monsanto, for example, promises to harvest nearly 60 bags of 60 kilograms per hectare - on average, Conab provides a harvest of 49.3 sacks in 2012/13 - in addition to ensuring resistance to Helicoverpa armigera caterpillar, whose damages exceed R$2 billion in increased costs and lost productivity. Behind the scenes, it is reported that the multinational could plant 10% of the planted area in Brazil with RR2, or 2.7 million acres.
Two weeks ago, the president of Aprosoja Brazil, Glauber Silveira, and Senator Maggi ... were in Beijing to discuss the issue. And, according to the report, the Chinese are resistant to the new GMOs. "It became clear that there was a corporate interest in conventional soybeans," says Silveira. "We were told that the majority of the population is less sensitive to the differentiation of transgenic from conventional. They buy the cheapest. But a portion of the Chinese population who are better placed financially have a preference for non-GM products." In this context, importing companies showed interest in creating a specific market for conventional soybeans, even if they have to pay more.