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Brazzil - Agriculture - January 2004
 

US Company Ads Vex Brazilians

Using emotionally-charged ads in the Brazilian media, American-
based company Monsanto is trying to get the consumer to
believe that transgenic production promotes food and environmental
security, citing the benefits that biotechnology can bring. The
commercials are getting a barrage of criticism.

 

"Imagine a world which preserves nature, the air, the rivers. Where we can produce more with fewer pesticides, without destroying the forests. Imagine a world with more food, with more nutritious food, and people with better health. Can you imagine it? Ah, but you never imagined that GMO's could help us do this. Have you ever thought of a better world? You should think like we do. A Monsanto initiative with the support of the Associação Brasileira de Nutrologia."

From a Monsanto ad campaign

The Campaign for a Brazil Free of GMO's now publicly manifests its opposition to the propaganda Monsanto has produced on Brazilian TV, radio and press regarding GMO's. With emotional appeal, Monsanto is trying to form public opinion based on a nonexistent relationship between transgenic production and the conservation of the environment. The commercial tries to get the consumer to believe that transgenic production promotes food and environmental security, citing the benefits that biotechnology can bring.

Let us analyze a few points of the advertising.

1. The commercial implies that transgenic production can help to "preserve nature, the air, the rivers." It is important to establish that there are two types of transgenic plants that are being produced commercially today. The first class makes up 75 percent of all transgenic plants. These plants are herbicide-resistant. In other words, with proper care, the farmer can spray as much herbicides over the fields as he needs, and all the plants except those that are transgenic will die. It is important to note here that Monsanto, which produces the seeds for these plants, also produces the herbicide to which these plants are resistant.

The second type makes up 17 percent of transgenic plants. These plants receive genes from a bacteria in the soil and then produce toxic insecticides. An insect eats part of the plant, then dies. The other 8 percent are a combination of these two technologies.

Up until now, no tests have shown that GMO's benefit nature, air or water. Quite the contrary. These plants tend to need a greater quantity of herbicides, thus contaminating even more nature. The second type of GMO's also kills beneficial insects, thus disturbing the balance of nature.

2. The propaganda goes on to insinuate that transgenics can produce more with less chemicals. According to studies done in the US, genetically modified soy beans produce 5-10 percent less than conventional soybeans. Concerning other types of plants, production has been less or at most equal to that of conventional crops.

As noted above, there has been no less use of chemicals in transgenic production. It is also relevant to note that the use of glyphosate (the main component of Monsanto's herbicide Round-Up) has tripled in the state of Rio Grande do Sul—exactly during the period when the cultivation of these illegal transgenic plants began to spread (1998-2001).

It is equally unacceptable to say that transgenic plants help to prevent deforestation. Most cultivation of GMO's (soy, corn and cotton) are export commodities and require vast areas of land. Large farmers continue to buy forest lands throughout Brazil in order to increase their production of soy.

3. The commercial implies that GMO's make for healthier food and healthier people. Concerning this claim, no country in the world has properly evaluated the effects of GMO's on people's health.

As if this were not enough, Monsanto is soliciting Anvisa (the Brazilian Food and Safety department) to increase by 50 percent the Maximum Limit of Residues (MLR) of glyphosate on its soybeans. In addition, Monsanto has refused to do environmental impact studies since 1998 when the Justice Department ordered the company to do so. At the same time, Monsanto is fighting against a law which would require companies to label products which contain GMO's.

If Monsanto is so sure about the safety of transgenic plants, why do they refuse to do impact studies to evaluate the risks. Why are they trying to change Brazilian laws without doing any evaluations?

Good for Babies

4. We find it disturbing that in their TV ads Monsanto presents images of pregnant women and children, implying that GMO's are good for mothers and infants. In 2002, the Studies of the Royal Society of the United Kingdom recommended that special attention be given to transgenic food destined for babies because of the risks GMO's have: "Babies fed with a bottle might become undernourished if they are fed infant formula made with GMO's as there is inadequate regulation and regimented tests for transgenic foods" (Daily Telegraph, February 5, 2002)

5. Besides being deceitful, Monsanto is producing propaganda for products prohibited in the country. In spite of Provisionary Measures 113 and 131 which authorized the commercialization of transgenic soy, the sale of transgenic seeds continues to be prohibited by the Justice Department.

All this being the case, we urge the Brazilian authorities to suspend Monsanto's deceitful advertising and oblige the company to pay for ads which will correct their misinformation and present clearly the facts concerning transgenics.

 

This material was written by activists from Campanha por um Brasil Livre de Transgênicos and supplied by Sejup, which has its own Internet site: http://www.oneworld.net/sejup

 


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