In a very near future it will be hard to talk about transgenic soy without mentioning Brazil. In three or four years seed suppliers should start producing Brazilian genetically modified (GM) soy. The product is the result of a partnership between the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa), connected to the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply of Brazil, and the multinational company BASF.
The German chemical company supplied the ahas gene and Embrapa introduced it into the soy genome. The result was GM soy that is resistant to herbicides in the imidazolinone class, and in a few years' time, it should be ready for sale to farmers.
The person in charge for the research at Embrapa is Elíbio Rech, who has been working for the institution for 26 years and has post-graduate degrees in the area of molecular biology and genetics from Nottingham and Oxford Universities, in England.
Rech believes that after having been on the market for about three or four years, Brazilian GM soy should have a share of between 10% and 20% of the global market, bringing to Brazil some millions of dollars in royalties.
Brazilian soy will be one of the alternatives to the Monsanto international dominion, as the company is currently the only supplier of GM soy to Brazilian farmers. The company has half of the global GM product market worldwide.
The process that generated Brazilian soy was patented in 1997 and, according to the researcher, other countries have already shown interest in importing the technology. That is, Brazil may sell on the foreign market both GM soy seeds and the technology for their production.
The method, which uses the bioballistics process, is currently patented, according to Rech, in over ten countries. The research used funds of US$ 7 million supplied by BASF.
The German multinational chose Elíbio Rech and the Embrapa to develop the GM soy after an evaluation of several researchers and institutes worldwide. The product is resistant to the herbicide produced by BASF.
The Embrapa researcher, in reality, started working with the theme even before the partnership with the German multinational, which started in 1990. Bioballistics as a form of production of GM soy seeds was already the object of his study in England, between 1986 and 1990.
Apart from his postdoctoral studies, Rech also did his doctoral studies in the area, also in England, at Nottingham University. Before that he took a master's degree in Phytopathology at the University of Brasília (UnB) and graduated in Agronomic Engineering from the same institution. The study in England was an Embrapa bet on Reach, who has been working for the company since 1981.
When he returned to Brazil, in 1990, the researcher helped develop masters and doctoral courses in the country turned to the technologies he learnt in Europe. Today, Elíbio Rech is the leader in soy research, as well as in other areas, at the Gene Transfer Laboratory at the Embrapa Genetic Resource and Biotechnology unit.
Born in Rio de Janeiro, the researcher is now about to become the man who placed Brazil and one of its main public companies in the forefront of the global GM soy market. In 2006, GM production generated revenues of US$ 6 billion and occupied an area of 100 million hectares worldwide.
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