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Beware Brazilian Food

 Beware 
        Brazilian Food

In
the south of Brazil, some farmers have been illegally cultivating
genetically modified soy. In addition, Brazilians have been left
without measures to identify GMO’s or genetically
modified organisms in food products.
by: Mark
Wells

 

Brazilian
foods containing soy products are now suspect since President Luiz Inácio
Lula da Silva signed Provisionary Measure 131 authorizing commercialization
of genetically modified soy. Currently, some farmers are cultivating
the soy illegally in Rio Grande do Sul. To add to the situation, consumers
are faced with another difficulty: how to know if a given soy product
contains a GMO (genetically modified organism) or not.

One
of the articles of the measure demands that all products that use GMO’s
indicate as such on the label. However, specialists are saying that
this is not going to be an easy task. Carlos Sperotto, the president
of the Farmers’ Federation of Rio Grande do Sul—a group which will
benefit from the Measure 131—admitted that it will be impossible
to label the GMO soy because the total harvest is sold in huge volumes,
and GMO soy is harvested together with conventional soy.

Without
labeling, the consumer will have no way of knowing if the product contains
GMO’s. "If the farmers do not do the identification, then the government
should take responsibility for the risks. As it is, you are awarding
the producer who is breaking the law and you are penalizing the population,"
said Marlene Lazzarini, coordinator of the Institute in Defense of the
Consumer (Idec).

The
new measure stipulates a US$ 6,000 fine for those who do not do the
identification. Lazzarini announced that Idec will test all of the products
derived from soy. If a component of a GMO is found without identification,
the industry will be penalized. "So the industry will blame the
farmer who didn’t identify the product and the government will have
to resolve one more problem."

According
to Jean Marc von der Weid, the coordinator of the "Brazil Free
of GMO’s" campaign, the federal government gave in to the political
pressure exercised by large-scale farmers and by Monsanto, the U.S.
based company that retains the patent on Roundup Ready soy (which uses
GMO’s). Mr. von der Weid theorized that Monsanto has a geo-political
strategy to destroy Brazil’s conventional soy market, which is the world’s
largest exporter of conventional soy. "From their point of view,
if Brazil surrenders, the other countries resistance to GMO’s will also
give in."

Some
policy makers suggested that if the government allows the production
of GMO’s then at least this harvest should be exported. However, this
solution was vetoed as some said it would adversely affect the "Circulation
of Goods and Services Tax" of Rio Grande do Sul. According to the
governor, the state would lose nearly US$ 300,000.

The
genetically modified soy will be commercialized until January 31, 2004,
after which time the entire stock will be burned and the fields be cleared
of the soy before the 2004 crop. "This process of decontamination
guarantees that the next harvest will be conventional. This is a great
defeat for Monsanto," said Friar Sérgio Görgen, coordinator
of the MPA (Movimento dos Pequenos Agricultores—Movement of Small
Farmers." However, he noted that the federal government will need
to be rigorous in monitoring the fields. "Next year, the social
movements will have great difficulties in preserving conventional seeds."

The
use of GMO’s has yet to be properly evaluated in terms of health-risks.
In the U.S., no studies have been done to determine if certain diseases
or illnesses are a result of the consumption of GMO’s. As a precautionary
measure, European countries demand that products that contain GMO’s
be labeled as such.

According
to Rubens Nodare of the Federal University of Santa Catarina, the chemicals
used on soy plants may provoke allergies. This is because soy has three
types of allergenic proteins. Genetically modified soy can contain a
greater quantity of these proteins.

Besides
health concerns, there are environmental concerns. The Brazilian Constitution
stipulates that a thorough environmental impact study must be conducted
before allowing any sort of activity which may be dangerous to the environment.
"To allow for the commercialization in this country is not only
an affront to the consumer, but a break from the Federal Constitution,"
commented Ventura Barbeiro, an agricultural engineer.

Brief
History of the Juridical Battle over GMO’s

1995—Implementation
of the Law of Bio-security and the creation of the National Technical
Commission of Bio-security (CTNBio). Use of GMO’s must have the authorization
of this Commission.

1996—Monsanto
begins research with genetically-modified soy in Brazil

1998—CTNBio
approves of the use of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready soy in the south of
the country. The authorization was given without an environmental impact
study. The consumer watchdog group Idec obtained a court order barring
CTNBio’s authorization.

2000—Judge
Antonio Prudente extends the court order that prohibited the planting
of GMO’s. The Union and Monsanto try to appeal the decision, but their
appeal was denied.

2002—The
Union and Monsanto make a new motion which is sill pending vote in the
Federal Regional Tribunal. One of the tree judges has already indicated
she is in favor of the use of GMO’s in the country.

A
Few Facts about GMO’s

-Nearly
99 percent of all cultivated GMO’s are restricted to four countries:
United States, Canada, Argentina, and China.

-There
are already 30 countries which prohibit the cultivation of GMO’s.

-The
majority of countries require labeling of GMO’s on food products if
the GMO’s make up more than 5 percent of the product.

-Nearly
80 percent of Europeans do not want to consume products with GMO’s.

-What
is increasing in the world is not the cultivation of GMO’s, but the
cultivation of organic products. It is estimated that by 2005 nearly
one fourth of all agriculture will be organic.

-If
the Brazilian government permits the cultivation of GMO’s, five transnational
companies will completely dominate the corn, soy, wheat and cotton seed
markets. This puts at risk the country’s sovereignty, relying on the
good will of these companies.

-During
the Fernando Henrique Cardoso presidency, the government gave a low-interest
US$ 250 million loan to Monsanto for the construction of a factory which
produces Glifosato. Glifosato is the prime material of the Roundup herbicides,
generally sold with Roundup Ready genetically-altered seeds. The former
president therefore helped to lay the groundwork for the production
of genetically-altered seeds.

-If
the government had used the aforesaid money to construct domestic water
wells in the semi- arid Northeast, the problem of potable water would
have been solved for one million families.

 

This
material was supplied by Sejup, which has its own Internet site:

http://www.oneworld.net/sejup
 

 

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