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