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GMO bill to go before Brazil's Congress soon

(Tuesday, July 29, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- Reuters, 07/15/03: SAO PAULO, Brazil - A bill that could allow the sale of genetically modified foods and crops, currently banned in Brazil, should go before Congress for a vote in July, the Agriculture Minister said.

Jose Amauri Dimarzio, secretary of the ministry, made the announcement at a seminar on transgenics in Brasilia on Monday. But it is still unclear whether the final form of the bill would uphold the ban or lift it.

Brazil is the last agricultural producer of its size to ban the commercial use of genetically modified crops. But in early 2003, the new government issued a decree granting temporary amnesty to sell GM soybeans until 2004, as part of a plan to bring Brazil's rampant black market in GM soy under control.

"(Putting the bill to vote) by the end of July addresses the needs of the producer because he is already beginning the period when he buys supplies (for next crop)," said Carlos Sperotto, vice-president of the National Farm and Livestock Confederation (CNA), who attended the seminar in Brasilia.

"He has to know if he is going to buy one type of supply or another," said Sperotto, referring to the different products such as herbicides and seeds used in GM farming.

Sperotto said producers should wait until the publication of the new law until they negotiate with Monsanto (nyse: MON - news - people) for the payment of royalties for the firm's GM Roundup Ready soybeans.

The government said earlier this year that it would uphold the current ban on GM planting. But the Agriculture Ministry has also said there is a need for clear legislation regulating the use of GM crops.

Monsanto's RR soy is believed to be the most common GM seed illegally planted in southern Brazil as it is said to be easily smuggled in from across the border with Argentina and Paraguay, where it is widely used.

Monsanto has been negotiating with exporters and producers over the payment of royalties that the company has not been able to collect in Brazil because of the ban.