Brazil lifts ban on modified seeds

By Alan Clendenning, AP Business Writer

SAO PAULO, Brazil, August 12, 2003 -- CropChoice news: A federal judge Tuesday lifted a ban preventing U.S. agricultural giant Monsanto Co. from selling genetically modified soybean seeds in Brazil.

Monsanto welcomed the ruling by Judge Selene Maria de Almeida, but the company's victory could be short-lived. Two other judges who serve on her appeals panel could reverse the decision, effectively putting back in place the ban approved in 2000.

Monsanto wants the seeds legalized to recoup lost profits from widespread illicit use in Brazil of its Roundup Ready soybean seeds.

Brazilian growers use seeds smuggled into Brazil from neighboring countries, then grow more on their own land. The Brazilian government rarely enforces the law, and experts estimate 17 percent of the country's soybean crop are grown from the seeds.

Brazil harvested about 52 million metric tons of soybeans during the 2002-2003 season, making it the second largest producer after the United States.

The judge agreed with Monsanto's position that there are no legal or scientific reasons to ban genetically modified seeds, and that Brazil's robust agricultural industry could suffer if growers are not allowed to use the seeds.

Environmentalists, including Greenpeace, oppose the use of genetically modified seeds because of suspicions they could harm the environment.

Monsanto in June warned about 250 exporters that buy Brazilian soybeans and 150 importers that the company would soon start monitoring exports of crops grown with the illicit seeds.

The move came as the struggling St. Louis-based company is shifting its business focus from manufacturing herbicides to developing and selling genetically engineered seeds around the world.

It has complained bitterly for years about Brazilian farmers using Monsanto's technology without paying for it. Monsanto has also been lobbying the Brazilian government to legalize genetically engineered crops.

Monsanto shares rose 40 cents Tuesday to close at $21.89 on the New York Stock Exchange.


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