2 items on Brazil
1.End of Brazil GMO ban to curb rampant black market
By Reese Ewing, Reuters
SAO PAULO, Brazil ”” Brazil, with an agricultural potential rivaling the United States, is about to legalize genetically modified (GMO) crops, before its black market in the coveted farm technology gets any bigger.
Over the last decade, environment and consumer groups have successfully won in the courts against biotech seed companies, the scientific community, farming interests and even the government, thus keeping Brazil the world's largest food exporter still to ban GMOs.
But this prohibition is coming to an end.
"The ban on GMOs has hobbled Brazil agriculturally, undermined its advantages as a leading world producer and researcher," Ivo Carraro, executive director of Brazil's farm research cooperative Codetec, said.
So sought after is the cost-cutting technology on the black market that over a third of Brazil's massive soybean crop - the main farm export worth 10% of total trade revenues - is seen planted with pirated GMO seeds. And nearly all the country's cotton seed has been contaminated by GMOs.
"There is strong demand, industrially and scientifically, for biotechnology in Brazil," Jorge Guimaraes, president of Brazil's CTNBio biotechnology regulator, told Reuters.
In 2003, faced with cracking down on the entire No.3 soy producing state of Rio Grande do Sul and thousands of other producers in other states, the government of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva after taking office opted to push for legalization and regulation of GMOs.
A bill that defines a regulatory framework for commercial use of GMOs, and should clear the way for GMO soybeans first, is expected to pass a final lower house vote in the coming weeks, if not days, after the Senate approved it in late 2004.
"I'm certain that the black market will shrink once this new law passes and our seed industry will recover," Ywao Miyamoto, president of Brazil's Seed Producers Association Abrasem, said.
In anticipation of the new law, biotech seed companies are already ramping up their multiplication of GMO soybean seeds, which are based on Monsanto's Roundup Ready soy technology, for the October planting season.
Four companies - Codetec, the state crop research agency Embrapa, Monsoy (the local firm of Monsanto) and Pioneer - are currently harvesting 54 varieties of GMO soybeans, designed for all tropical and subtropical growing regions in Brazil, to be sold as seed.
"There should be about 5 million (40-kg) bags ready for sale by October," Carraro said, whose Codetec should account for 60% of these seeds. "I'm not sure that will be able to meet market demand initially though."
Agronomists estimate one bag will seed a little more than a hectare. Brazil has 22 million hectares planted to soy.
As the biosafety bill worked through Congress, the government began issuing yearly decrees that allow producers to sell GMO soy without prosecution, if they registered their black market biotech soy with the agriculture ministry.
In initial government estimates, registered GMO soy plantings grew 11% to 92,875 producers this season, but final numbers are expected to come in over 100,000 and there are believed to be still many unregistered GMO soy producers.
But the sale of GMO soy as seed has been strictly forbidden. Producers have had to rely on GMO soy from their previous crop. Monsanto and local GMO seed developers, such as Embrapa and Codetec, haven't been able to sell GMO soy seeds.
Since soy producers began planting GMOs about a decade ago, and more recently cotton producers, certified seed producers have seen sales of certified conventional seeds fall yearly to the internal black market.
It is now estimated that nearly all of the cotton seed on the market has been contaminated by some form of GMO variety. The government was recently forced to accept less than 1% GMO contamination in conventional seeds samples.
"Once GMOs are freed up, Brazil's seed producing industry and its crop research industry will recover and our scientists are likely to become important in the development of new biotech products," Carraro said.
Brazil's cotton producers have a lot to gain.
Currently, conventional growers in the cotton belt can spray crops as many as 16 times to control the pesky boll weevil, inflating production costs and stressing the surrounding environment with agrochemicals.
Current Bt varieties of cotton would vastly reduce their operating costs and level the playing field with U.S. producers, the world's leading producers, against which Brazil recently won a World Trade Organization subsidy challenge.
GMO soy varieties not based on Monsanto technology, GMO corn, cotton and other crops such as GMO papaya, eucalyptus and castor bean, some locally developed, are also in line to enter the Brazilian market but will take longer than Monsanto's RR GMO soy.
Periodical news & analysis of the Campaign For a GM-Free Brazil
Brazil, Rio de Janeiro, February 25, 2005
Deputies and the Biosafety Plan Bill
The new president of the Deputies Chamber, Severino Cavalcanti, and the Rapporteur of the Special Committee on Biosafety, deputy DarcÃsio Perondi, represent a difficult barrier to the struggle against the GMOs
The election of the new president for the Deputies Chamber, Severino Cavalcanti, that occurred last week, was not only a shame for the government and a defeat to the President's Lula Party (PT), but a potential threat to the control and regulation of genetically modified crops in the countrycampaign against the GMOs (genetically modified organisms). Therefore, it calls for an urgent mobilization around the final voting of the Biosafety PlanBill at the Chamber, expected to happen on the coming months.
The very first version of the Bill, elaborated within the Ministers Council, then forwarded to the Chamber, and after that to the Senate, was a well-founded document that even foresaw based on the "Precautionary Principle" on its very first version. It has been modified since its conduction to the Chamber, where the deputies kept just a trace of its original version, which was the part that foresaw the environmental license risk assessment before any GMO releases.
Afterwards, it went to the Senate, where its members ended up with the total modification of the Biosafety PlanBill. The most problematic clause establishes that the CTNBio (National Technical Biosafety Committee), which is the forum responsible for advising the government on biosafety issues related to evaluation and approval of GMOs in diverse areas of activity (human and animal health, agriculture and the environment) in Brazil and also for the elaboration of the National Code for Ethics in Genetic Manipulations, would be transformed in the only instance capable of decision-making on any case involving transgenics commercial releases crops and seeds, without interferences. Although called "technical" committee, CTNBio's decisions since its creation have been much more based on commercial and political interests than on biosafety aspects. Even a biotech corporation representative has seat in it, and votes like the Environment or Health Mministry representatives.
The thing is that a great deal most of Cavalcanti’s votes came from the agribusiness deputies, whose main interest is the approval of the Biosafety PlanBill the way it was adapted by the Senate. Thus, it is certain that it comes the time when representative of the big commercial farmers they will put all the pressure on Cavalcanti for the recently elected deputy to compensate their votes, by approving the document in the Senate’s way.
Catholic and counting with the support of some religious groups on the Congress, Cavalcanti not only promised to hurry up with the approval of the Biosafety PlanBill, but also jeopardized the article that refers to researches involving steem-cells-trunk.
Another threat to the campaign against the GMOs is Deputy Darcisio Perondi, Rapporteur of the Special Committee created to examine the Biosafety PlanBill. Last week he participated on a web chat to discuss biosafety, but he seemed more interested in defending the transgenics. Besides him, as a “technical adviser”, in his words, sits a CTNBio’s ex-president, known for its pro-GM positions and for biotech industries lobbing. Actually, it was impossible to know who was answering the questions posed by the participants. At some point, he even asserted that biotechnology is good for the environment: "Biotechnology is a powerful instrument to protect nature and the environment. It eliminates pollution and do not contaminate harvests (...). Rivers and surrounded areas now have their birds and fishes back. Producers and farmers do not have to go to hospital due to intoxication anymore", he said.
Perondi totally ignores the "Precautionary Principle" (that recommends precaution before GM’s potential impact on biodiversity and health are known, once there is no proof of their harmlessness) as he sates: "Uncertainty is the heart of Science. Developed countries invest in transgeniagenetic engineering. Five hundred millions tons of GMOs were consumed on the past ten years in the whole world. Until now, it has not been reported any health problems related to transgenics. Although it is clear that discussions and doubts may exist”. He just forgot to say that it could not be different, once all this GM consumption has not been monitored, nor even labeled.
Even facing speeches and political positions like these ones and, although there is an expectation that the Deputies Chamber will approve the Senate version of the Biosafety PlanBill, it is urgent a mobilization around the GM issue, not only to show resistance but also to guarantee that we will still have opportunity of acting to guarantee our alimentary food security.
Financed by major global food and agribusiness companies (Monsanto, DuPont Brazil, Syngenta Seeds and Dow AgroSciences), the guide “TransgÃªnicos, VocÃª Tem Direito de Conhecer” (“Transgenics, You Have the Right to Know”, in English), the first biotech corporations’ publication guided to consumerson the subject in Brazil, was released last Wednesday. The city chosen by the multinationals for the happening? Curitiba, capital of ParanÃ¡ State governed by Roberto RequiÃ£o a politician that struggles to make the State a “GM free zone”.
The guide was elaborated by the Brazilian NGO Conselho de InformaÃ§Ãµes sobre Biotecnologia (Council on Biotechnology Information, in English) and will be distributed attached to most of the daily newspaper from the country. It will also be sent to medical associations and to private and public institutions.
The manual is part of a marketing and millionaire campaign initiated last year by Monsanto, directed to the consumer, which main goal is an attempt of associating the GMOs to an image of “an ecological world”.
Differently from the way it is presented to the public, the guide talks much less about the transgenics themselves than about biotechnology as a wide subject. It does not relate researches around the effects of GMOs on health and biodiversity, but is explicit about defending royalty’s payment. It seems more concerned in demonstrating other aspects of biotechnology such as vaccine researches and medical treatments, than in going into deep on the discussion about security, once again stepping aside from its purpose, which should be the elucidation of genetically modified organisms, as a strategy of running away from the real polemics that involves the GMOs.
The guide can be found on the NGO website (www.cib.org.br) or downloaded at http://www.cib.org.br/pdf/cartilha.pdf