Genetically Modified Crops Heat Up Brazil’s Environment Meeting

The transposition of the São Francisco River and transgenic foods are the issues generating the most sparks at Brazil’s 2nd National Environmental Conference. The debates got underway Sunday afternoon, December 11.

After discussing and voting the internal rules of the Conference, the participants split up into five groups to discuss the nearly 3,800 proposals made at 27 state environmental conferences.

The groups are divided according to themes: biodiversity and forests; water and hydric resources; environmental quality in human settlements, mechanisms of sustainable development, and the strengthening of the National Environmental System (Sisnama) and social control.

The way laws on transgenic foods are being handled in Brazil is the most frequent target of criticisms voiced by the participants.

"Transgenics are free to be planted in the country," complains the national coordinator of agricultural policy in the Federation of Family Farm Workers (Fetraf), Gilmar Pastorio.

For the participants, the question is not limited to whether genetically modified foods are legal or not, but involves the choice of the technical model the country wants to follow. "We defend an economically sustainable model based on agroecology," he affirms.

Pastorio explains that transgenic cultivation leads to "an economy based on monoculture and eliminates one of the most important categories, family farming. It is impossible for family farming to compete with transgenic cultivation, because transgenic cultivation was developed for large properties and is exclusive," he explains.

There is also a concern over the impacts. "No environmental impact or public health studies exist that say what will happen to human beings, animals, and biodiversity ten or fifty years from now," he points out.

The delegation from Bahia came to the conference to defend the Labeling Law. "We are in favor of the Law, so that consumers will know what they are consuming," informs Iêda Dominhos, from the Recitec environmental consulting firm.

According to the Law, food intended for human or animal consumption that has been genetically modified or contains transgenic ingredients is required to bear a symbol on its label, a yellow triangle with the letter "T" in the middle, identifying the product as transgenic. The name of the transgenic substance or ingredient must also be specified on the label.

At the end of the meeting, each of the five groups will present its proposals for a floor vote, leading to a final report that will contain guidelines and proposals to be sent to the National Environmental Council (Conama).

Agência Brasil

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