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Brazil court rulings may block gene-altered cropes, Globo says

(Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- Bloomberg: Two Brazilian court rulings may block the government from allowing the production of genetically modified crops, O Globo reported, citing Judge Antonio Souza Prudente, author of the decisions.

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva may even face impeachment if he allows the use of genetically modified crops in defiance of the court rulings, Prudente said, according to O Globo.

Prudente, a federal judge in Brasilia, handed down the rulings in 1999 and 2000 in response to legal action by the Consumer Defense Institute, the newspaper said.

Lula is leaning toward legalizing the use of gene-altered seeds, Agriculture Minister Roberto Rodrigues said yesterday [See story below]. They are already used illegally for about 10 percent of the country's soybean crop.

Brazil May Allow Gene-Altered Crops, Farmers Defy Ban

Sept. 22 (Bloomberg) -- Brazil, the world's second largest soybean producer, likely will allow the use of gene-altered crops this year, backing down from a ban amid pressure from farmers, the agriculture minister said.

About 10 percent the 52 million metric tons of soybeans Brazil produces a year already is grown from gene-altered seeds, and President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is inclined to legalize their use, said Agriculture Minister Roberto Rodrigues. The government will announce a decision before the soybean planting season goes into full swing next month, Rodrigues said.

``The expectation is that the proposal will be approved,'' Rodrigues told reporters before speaking at a conference in New York.

Eliminating the ban would allow farmers in Brazil to boost profits and lower costs by using gene-altered soybeans, which are more resistant to pests and have better yields. The biggest agriculture association in Rio Grande do Sul, where a fifth of Brazil's soybean crop is grown, already recommended farmers defy the ban and plant gene-altered seeds smuggled from Argentina for the 2003-2004 season.

``Gene-altered soy is illegal, but we're planting anyway,'' said Antonio Wunsch, president of a farming cooperative in Tres de Maio in Rio Grande do Sul, where 500 members are planting gene- altered soybeans this year. ``I seriously doubt the government will try to go after us because it would be war.''

On Friday, Rio Grande do Sul state Governor Germano Rigotto said the government would lift the ban within days after meeting with Lula in Brasilia to lobby for permission to plant gene- altered crops.

About 80 percent of the 11 million metric tons of soybeans produced in Rio Grande do Sul were produced with gene-altered plants in spite of the ban, according to the state's largest farming association.

Divided Lawmakers

The Brazilian government has been divided over the use of gene-altered crops, with Rodrigues arguing they would reduce farmers' costs by a fifth. Environmental Minister Marina Silva has opposed their use. The two leaders of Lula's Worker's Party agriculture caucus in congress are divided.

Brazil has been running up against efforts by U.S. President George W. Bush to reverse a ban on gene-altered food in Europe that shut out production by many U.S. farmers.

At the same time, Brazil has pledged to China, the world's largest soybean importer, that its crops are safe and that it will enforce the prohibition.