Labeling Transgenic Food Is the Law in Brazil. But Nobody Obeys It

Greenpeace protests against Bunge in Passo Fundo, Brazil The multinational food giant, Bunge, has 60 days to inform the public in Brazil what kind of transgenics it uses and the quantity of transgenics used in each of its food products. In a civil action suit, Brazilian federal judge Regis de Souza Araújo also ruled that the federal government should ensure that the company complies with the ruling.

According to a law passed in 2003, companies that use at least 1% of genetically modified organisms in their food products are required to state as such on their food labels. In this suit, the judge went so far as to say that Bunge should label its products no matter how much transgenic material they use.

Though this is a clear victory for environmentalists and consumer groups, many are still suspicious of the decision. Gabriela Vuolo, a coordinator for a Greenpeace campaign in Brazil, considers the suit a victory for the consumer, but has doubts about its implementation.

"Now we need to know how this decision is going to be implemented, because actually this law concerning labeling products was supposed to be implemented beginning in 2004. But today we still do not see one label in the supermarket that has information about transgenics, even with the 1% stipulation," said Vuolo.

Vuolo goes on to point out that besides the resistance of companies who do not want the labels, fearing consumers will reject their products, there is a lack of political will on the part of the government to actually enforce this law.

The state government of Paraná created a law about labeling last year, but complains that there is a lack of support on the part of the federal government to help with the enforcement.

"Anvisa (Agency for Sanitation) inspects only the products that are already there in the supermarket. All processes before that – the soy that leaves the farm, that goes through the silos, is processed and becomes a product – is under the Ministry of Agriculture. But the Ministry of Agriculture does not do the inspections, nor do they let anyone else.

The governor of Paraná, for example, asked for authorization from the Ministry of Agriculture to let his state do the inspections. But his request was denied. So you see, the federal government doesn't do anything, nor let anything be done.

"Soy cooking oil is the more serious issue because we use this in the kitchen almost every day. The majority of people do not know from where this oil comes. And most companies have not made the commitment not to use transgenics, as is the case with Bunge and Cargill, who make Soya, Liza and Primor, the biggest brands of oil in the market," said Vuolo.

Brasil de Fato

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