Brazil Soy: The Seeds of Discord

    There is a growing movement in Brazil against genetically
    modified soy, which was liberated
    for planting. Critics of the
    government say that the Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture is
    being
    transformed into an arm of American Monsanto,
    the company responsible for the genetically modified grains.

    by:
    Adital

     

    After many meetings and polemics, the Provisional Measure that permits the planting of genetically modified soy
    was signed on September 25. The measure, valid for all of Brazil, left environmental entities indignant with the
    government’s position.

    Not even pressure from the Minister of the Environment, Marina Silva, and other environmental organizations, was
    sufficient to impede the acting president, José Alencar, from signing the Provisional Measure. Conama (National Environmental
    Council) approved a motion in support of the Minister of the Environment’s position and another motion rejecting the measure.

    The motion was sent September 25th morning to the President’s Palace via fax. According to Francisco Iglesias of
    the Potiguá Friends of Nature Association, and members of the council, Conama is against the liberation of GMOs
    (genetically modified organisms) because there have not been sufficient studies that prove their applicability and security. "If we are
    filled with doubt regarding the effects that GMOs could generate, why approve the Provisional Measure?" questioned Iglesias.

    For Iglesias, the government is approving the measure based on political party principles that hurt national
    sovereignty. He defends an environmental impact study as a condition for any decision on GMOs.

    The Measure

    The Provisional Measure which permits the planting of GMOs will apply to the entire country, but limits the
    planting of genetically modified soy to the 2003/04 harvest. The genetically modified seeds not planted or marketed by
    December 31, 2004, according to the Provisional Measure, will have to be incinerated. The farmers also will have to sign terms
    of commitment, responsibility and adjustment of conduct to guarantee that the planting follow norms established by the
    government.

    Among the anticipated norms is one that prohibits farmers from marketing genetically modified seeds in states other
    than those in which they were produced. This item, in practice, limits planting to Rio Grande do Sul.

    The Provisional Measure also prohibits planting of genetically modified soy in conservation units and
    environmentally protected areas and on indigenous lands.

    Farmers who do not follow the directives of the Provisional Measure will pay a fine of R$16,000 (US$ 5,300),
    according to Law 10.688 of 2003, which regularized the planting of genetically modified soy in the 2002/03 harvest. The rural
    producers will have a deadline of 30 days to sign the agreement.

    Farmers who do not sign the document and do not follow the directives of the Provisional Measure will be impeded
    from obtaining loans and financing from official credit institutions, as well as impeded from having access to fiscal benefits
    from the government. In addition, producers who cause damage to the environment or to third parties—by contamination due
    to the crossing of genetically modified seeds—will be held responsible for indemnification or total reparation.

    According to Frei Sérgio Görgen, the provisional measure is completely indefensible because it does not touch on
    questions like segregation, tracking and labeling of genetically modified products, in addition to not establishing controls over the
    residual percentage of glifosato permitted in soy, and gives no guarantees to the farmers who want to continue planting
    conventional or organic soy.

    For Frei Sérgio, the Ministry of Agriculture is being transformed by the minister Roberto Rodrigues into an auxiliary
    arm of the interests of Monsanto (company responsible for the genetically modified grains) in the country. He affirmed also
    that if the government does not take appropriate measures by the end of the year, the entire country will be contaminated by GMOs.

    The Justice Ministry announced on October 3 the creation of a symbol (an yellow triangle with a black capital letter
    T inside) that will be used in all labels of food manufactured with transgenic products. According to the DPDC
    (Departamento de Proteção e Defesa do Consumidor—Protection and Customer’ Defense Department), the new symbol is a way to
    standardize a practice, which until now was left to the manufacturer’s good will. The measure should be adopted after a
    period in which the public will be able to make suggestions to change the logo.

     

    Comments may be sent to Adital (Agência de Informação Frei Tito para a América Latina—Friar Tito
    Information Agency for Latin America) adital@adital.org.br

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