EXCERPT: The actions of CTNBio [A REGULATORY BODY WITH MASSIVE CONFLICTS OF INTEREST AMONGST ITS MEMBERS] over the last three months have been the center of much controversy. Soon after President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva signed off on the biosecurity bill, the committee liberated a number of GMO varieties. This created a storm of protest and, in the middle of last month, the government decision prohibit CTNBio from issuing rulings until the biosecurity law is published.
Brazil ministries fight genetically modified corn imports
Thursday, May 12, 2005
By Alastair Stewart
Brazil's Environment and Health ministries are contesting the decision of the country's biosecurity commission, or CTNBio, to authorize imports of genetically modified corn from Argentina to make up a shortage in production.
The ministries argue that CTNBio President Jorge Almeida Guimaraes didn't have the power to allow the six varieties of GMO corn be imported for animal feed without holding a vote among the commission members or conducting an environmental and health impact analysis, said an Environment Ministry spokeswoman.
A ban on GMO corn imports could spell trouble for Brazil's massive chicken and pork industries. The country will need to import up to 2 million metric tons of corn in 2005 due to a decline in planting area and a severe drought in the south of the country. Traditionally, Brazil imports come from Argentina, but around 55% of Argentina's produce is GMO and the chance of contamination of non-GMO shipments is great, traders said.
Under a new biosecurity law passed earlier this year, CTNBio has the power to rule whether GMO varieties are safe for use in Brazil. However, these rulings can be challenged at the biosecurity council.
The two ministries will take their complaint to the newly formed National Biosecurity Council, which is composed of 11 ministers and chaired by Presidential Chief of Staff Jose Dirceu, said the spokeswoman.
Guimaraes's approval was published on April 4, ending a effective four-year embargo on corn imports from Argentina because of the GMO issue.
The first cargo of Argentine GMO corn, of 27,000 tons, was unloaded at the northeastern port of Recife last Tuesday.
The CTNBio, in its decision, said there is no indication that GMO corn has any damaging effects when used as animal feed. The ruling also showed that the corn should be separated during unloading, transportation, stocking and processing of the grains.
"This simply isn't enough," said the Environment Ministry spokeswoman.
The actions of CTNBio over the last three months have been the center of much controversy. Soon after President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva signed off on the biosecurity bill, the committee liberated a number of GMO varieties. This created a storm of protest and, in the middle of last month, the government decision prohibit CTNBio from issuing rulings until the biosecurity law is published.
Should Argentine GMO corn be barred, chicken and hog farmers could look to Europe and the U.S. for suppliers, although the amount imported would drop dramatically.
An increase in Brazilian corn production has allowed the government to avoid the GMO import problem over the last four years. Indeed, Brazil became a major corn exporter as European and Asian buyers sought out its non-GMO production.
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