August 1, 2000
Brazil Enmeshed in GM Controversy
BRAZIL--Brazil is staying staunchly genetically modified (GM) free, even amidst highly visible disagreements and a divided government. On July 6, Brazil's federal court ruled that not enough is known about genetically modified (GM) crops to call them safe. However, the president's cabinet signed a note stating that Brazil "cannot be left out of this technology." It is said that Environment Minister Jose Sarney Filho was strong-armed into signing the note, although he later stated that he still would not approve transgenic crops withoutfurther research.To add to the country-wide GM controversy, more than 20,000 chicken farmers gave away starving chickens to local housewives. This action was in protest of Brazil's rejection ofmuch-needed corn feed from Argentina because of a fear that it would lead to GM contamination. Brazil's National Biosafety Commission(CTNBio) stated in early July [after this incident] that GM corn used for animal feed poses no health risk. However, the final decision to use GM feed still rests with the Agriculture Ministry. In related news, CTNBio halted genetically modified (GM) crop research July 13 at one of four local units of Monsanto Co., a U.S.-based producer of GM farm products. The unit, Sementes Monsanto, had its license revoked after the company failed to report a break-in late last year.According to CTNBio regulations, a company has five days to report burglary or vandalism, since these events may lead to a higher risk for GM contamination. This is not the first time Monsanto has been less than forthcoming in Brazil. Also in 1999, the company failed to inform CTNBio of a break-in at its experimental farm in the state of Rio Grande do Sul until more than six months after the incident.If it chooses to, Sementes Monsanto can reapply for certification, a process that can take several months. GM research at other Brazilian units of Monsanto will proceed as usual. For additional information, visitwww.thecampaign.org.
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