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Brazil says U.S. broke protocol on soy fungus visit

(Saturday, Sept. 6, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- SAO PAULO , Brazil (Reuters) - Brazil said on Wednesday that a U.S. Agriculture Department inspector broke world trade protocol when he conducted unauthorized tests on the spread of Asian rust fungus in the local soy crop and recommended trade restrictions.

Brazil is the No. 2 soy producer after the United States, and should take the top slot in the next few years. It ships relatively little soy to the United States, but U.S. growers are outspoken in opposition to imports of cheaper foreign soy.

U.S. producers have requested the USDA ban Brazilian soy imports, saying they could spread rust on the American crop, but the USDA refused to restrict Brazilian soy shipments, saying there was little risk of the fungus in shipments.

The U.S Embassy said on Tuesday it sent the U.S. inspector back to the United State after complaints over his actions.

Brazil's Agriculture Ministry said it had complained to the U.S. Embassy after a U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) researcher on a routine visit to soy farms in Brazil ignored international procedure and did not inform local officials of field tests he was conducting.

"The ministry has solicited clarification from Aphis, through the U.S. Embassy in Brasilia, on the real objectives of the visit of the researcher in Brazil," the Agriculture Ministry said in a statement.

In May, Brazil granted APHIS' Hossein El-Nashaar authorization to tour soy farms and crushing plants in the northeast state of Bahia with local officials to ensure that a load of 70,000 tonnes of soy meal destined for the United States was free of Asian rust fungus.

"This was the sole principal objective of the visit of the researcher to Barreiras, (Bahia)," said the ministry. A source at the ministry said El-Nashaar was collecting spore samples of the highly contagious Phakopsora pachiyrhizi, or Asian rust fungus, while in Bahia without informing Brazilian officials. The ministry said El-Nashaar surprised his local counterparts on Aug. 11 when he met with them and recommended quarantine measures for Brazilian soy shipments to the United States in response to the local spread of rust.

After the Agriculture Ministry informed the U.S. Embassy of El-Nashaar's actions, the embassy "explained that the visit had the sole objective of certifying the soy meal shipment and to obtain greater scientific information about Asian rust."

"The embassy dismissed the possibility that such a visit would have the purpose of carrying out a risk analysis," said the ministry statement. The ministry said such restrictions on agricultural trade recommended by El-Nashaar would require from the concerned country a formal request for a "risk analysis" which the United States never made.