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Parana state seizes biotech beans

(Friday, Oct. 24, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- EFE news service: The Brazilian state of Parana, which last week declared itself a transgenics-free territory, is holding some 800 trucks - some of them from Paraguay - carrying genetically modified soy, its government said Wednesday.

Authorities conditioned the release of the trucks on a certification by the drivers that they are not carrying GM products.

The government of Parana said most of the trucks had been impounded when the drivers stopped at agricultural inspection stations.

Local teamsters unions maintain that the number of detained trucks is nearly 1,500.

The detained soy shipments come from neighboring Brazilian states, including Sao Paulo and Mato Grosso do Sul, as well as from Paraguay, and were bound for the Parana port of Paranagua, through which most of landlocked Paraguay's exports and imports pass.

The legislature of Parana, a prosperous farming state in southern Brazil, last week approved a law banning GM products in its jurisdiction.

Gov. Roberto Requiao advised transgenic soy producers in neighboring states to seek alternative ports to Paranagua for their exports.

The Brazilian government recently gave the green light to the production of transgenic crops only in the neighboring state of Rio Grande do Sul - and only for one year - to avoid having to destroy millions of tons of GM seed illegally brought into the country from Argentina.

But Brazilian authorities suspect that transgenic soy is also being sown illegally in other states, including Mato Grosso do Sul.

President Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva's decision to allow the limited production of transgenics drew fire from lawmakers and environmentalists, who pointed out that the chief executive had always opposed GM products.

According to official estimates, this year's Brazilian soy crop should be around 51 million tons - or 26 percent of the world's total production - 6 million tons of which will be transgenics grown in Rio Grande do Sul.

In 2002, Brazil exported 36.7 million tons of soy and by-products, consolidating its position as the world's second- largest producer, trailing the United States and surpassing Argentina, both countries that permit the cultivation of GM crops.

Domestic sales of soy products in Brazil brought in $4 billion last year, while revenue from exports, particularly to Europe and China, amounted to $8 billion.