June 3, 2003 -- CropChoice news, via AgBioView: Brazil has
postponed the application of new rules requiring that
labels identify GM goods, after neighboring Argentina
expressed alarm over the requirements. Brazil is Argentina
s main trading partner and some 13 percent of the $11.4
billion of food Argentina exported last year went to
Brazil, according to the Organization of American States'
Argentine producers say the rules were stricter than
those in Europe. "They've gone too far in including
animal products... Argentine dairy products would have
to carry a label saying this product comes from animals
fed on GMOs", said Roberto Domenech, undersecretary
of food at the agriculture department. "This hasn't
been seen anywhere in the world. "
First we have to see how Brazil deals with this domestically
and then how it deals with Argentina, because in Brazil
there is also a high percentage of GM soy, said Victor
Castro of the Argentine Association of Seed Producers.
In Brazil, there was no reaction to the rules. Over
one month after the government decreed that all GM soy
must carry consumer warning labels, Brazil's producers,
cooperatives and traders were buying and selling without
any GM labels or any increase in GM-free certificates.
For now, the measure has not altered anything in the
commercial process of the cooperatives, said Rui Polidoro,
president of the Rio Grande do Sul Federation of Agricultural
Cooperatives (Fecoagro), which has seen no labeling
or increase in segregation of soybeans in the No. 3
soy producer state.
Cooperatives said there was no apparent increase in
interest in certifying soy as GM-free, either. Antonio
Sartori, owner of the Rio Grande do Sul brokerage Brasoja,
said nobody was certifying crops as non-transgenic because
there was no financial compensation. The buyer doesn
t want to know, so the producer prefers to deliver the
soy as transgenic and ready, said Sartori.
Brazil's agriculture ministry and grower associations
were quick to point out deficiencies in the regulations.
Agriculture minister Roberto Rodrigues said, It is difficult
to discriminate between GM and non-GM beans. We don't
have enough laboratories to inspect all of the lots
and are even less prepared to certify producers. Federation
of Cooperatives of Grande do Sul President Rui Polidoro
said, "We have only three or four [test] kits,
and with that number we have no hope of segregating
the state's soybeans. "
The regulations do not specify who is responsible to
shoulder the cost of inspection and certification. The
price of tests for detecting transgenic content ranges
from $127 for the simplest to $330 for sophisticated
test kits. Brazil's National Agriculture Federation
estimated the cost of testing this year s soybean crop
at $276.8 million. According to one estimate, passing
that cost on to consumers would make it impossible for
Brazil to remain competitive in the global soybean market.
Grower associations estimate that the majority of soybeans
harvested in Brazil this year would have been labeled
as having transgenic content in order to eliminate the
risk of fines. This might have eventually ended in requiring
that all those soybeans be exported, as a measure pending
in the legislature would ban selling any biotech soybeans
Legalizing commercialization of GM crops may be the
only viable way out of Brazil's biotech soybean dilemma,
because grower associations in Rio Grande do Sul have
already stated their intent to plant Roundup Ready soybeans
again this fall, with or without government approval.
Compiled from reports by Reuters and Food Chemical