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' agricultural institute.
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 within Brazil.
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 News.