Brazilian legislation permits the cultivation of one type of genetically modified (GM) soy and another single type of GM cotton, pursuant to rulings by the National Biosafety Commission (Comissão Técnica Nacional de Biossegurança) (CTNBio), an agency housed in the Ministry of Science and Technology.
Following a long legal battle, the Monsanto GM soy, known as Roundup Ready (RR), began to be planted in Brazil in 1998. GM cotton, known as Bt, has been legally planted in Brazil since March of 2005 (Bt stands for bacillus thuringiensis which is a foreign gene added that protects the cotton crop from the pest known as bollworm (A. lepidoptora)). At the same time, it is legal in Brazil to import GM corn for animal feed, but not for human consumption or planting.
The CTNBio has ruled that there are no limits on the percentage of GMO in GM soy grown in Brazil although there must be labelling informing consumers of their presence.
As for GM cotton, the CTNBio gave special permission for its cultivation after a shortfall in cotton seeds in 2004 and cases of contamination.
At the moment, the CTNBio is examining requests for authorization of eleven more GMOs.
João Paulo Capobianco, the secretary of Biodiversity and Forests at the Ministry of Environment says the fact is that the Brazilian government has not defined its position on GMOs.
"As for labelling, the Ministry is in favor of total information. Any exporting country, including Brazil, should have detailed information on labels," he declared.
However, there are different opinions in the government on labelling, says Capobianco. For example, there is a movement to have generalized rather than detailed labelling. Thus, a product would be labelled "may contain GMOs," rather than "contains GMOs."
Meanwhile the NGO Greenpeace has stepped up its campaign against GMOs, saying that Brazil faces a serious problem with the contamination of native species of cotton that have been cultivated for thousands of years.
"There is a danger of losing biodiversity," says Gabriela Couto, of Greenpeace.