Brazil’s State Firm Embrapa Creates 14 Transgenic Species. Seeds Are for Sale.

In a special program, "Soybeans – A Big Business," broadcast on Friday, January 20, by Brazil’s state-owned Radio Nacional, the deputy head of research and development at the Embrapa (Brazilian Agricultural Research Company) Soybean Unit, João Flávio Veloso, affirmed that the company’s involvement with transgenic species for agricultural use is prompted by a "strategic consideration."

In his view, it is important for the government enterprise to have its own genes in order to give "support to this type of biotechnological development, to keep in step with the growth of Brazilian agriculture."

The Embrapa head also pointed out that the government’s investments in transgenic soybean research hold out the "possibility of biotechnological independence in the future, in the genomic sphere, to keep Brazilian soybeans competitive on the international market."

Among the other reasons he indicated for Embrapa’s efforts along these lines is the fact that there are farmers in Brazil interested in transgenic soybeans.

As for the "novelty" of the upcoming harvest, with its high percentage of transgenic soybeans, Veloso believes that this reflects an attitude of "curiosity."

In future harvests, according to the researcher, transgenic soybeans will have to "prove their worth," chiefly meaning that they will have to show profits.

One of the dangers he foresees in this process is the possibility that royalty payments will wind up being very expensive for farmers, who will be forced to make an economic assessment.

In the long run, the head of research at Embrapa’s Soybean Unit said he does not believe that one day 100% of the soybeans in Brazil will be transgenic.

That is why the company never "concentrated its research program exclusively on transgenic species," although, at the moment, it has 14 transgenic species of its own, "already licensed and ready to fill farmers’ orders." The species are of the type resistant to glyphosphate herbicides.

The "great divide" that, according to Veloso, marked Embrapa’s entry into transgenic soybean seed research was in 1996, when it signed an agreement with the multinational corporation, Monsanto, for the "development of transgenic varieties."

Embrapa currently has agreements with other foreign companies, including one from Japan, as well as eight partnerships with domestic seed producers. For the varieties it discovers, the company receives around three percent of what the seed costs in the form of royalties for "the right to use Embrapa’s genetic research."

Agência Brasil

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