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Brazil clears GM soy rules; Consumer effort pushes for global GM moratorium

(Thursday, Oct. 14, 2004 -- CropChoice news) -- Two GMO articles below.

1. Brazil clears GM soy rules
Food Navigator, 12/10/04:
Ending months of delays the upper house in Brazil has cleared the biosafety bill, paving the way for new rules to regulate the planting and sale of genetically modified (GM) crops in the country.

The American Soybean Association reports that the Senate voted in favour of the bill by a margin of 53-2 with three abstentions. The bill now returns to the lower house, which cleared the original proposal in February.

Last year Brazilian President Luiz Inácio ‘Lula’ da Silva granted a temporary authorisation for GM soy plantings while a bill on the planting of controversial GM soy in Brazil went through the parliamentary process.

A key competitor with the US, Brazil is a leading global supplier of soybeans, and total soy business for the country represents a hefty 32 per cent of Brazilian farm trade. About 75 per cent of its yearly crop is shipped to Europe, where health conscious consumers have been the most resistant to GM. However the seed producers association Abrasem estimates that Brazilian farmers planted almost 6.4 million hectares with GM soybeans last season.

According to the ASA the most controversial changes to the bill relate to who will have the ultimate say over the approval of biotech crops in Brazil.

“The new text effectively puts these decisions in the hands of a body of scientists called the CTNBio [Brazil’s regulatory committee on biotechnology], which had originally been lined up for a more advisory role,” reports ASA.

Anti-GM groups argue this change takes the decision out of the hands of elected representatives. “The CTNBio will end up having more power than ministers, imposing its decisions on the health and environment ministries,” said Ventura Barbeiro of Greenpeace’s genetic engineering division.

Defenders of genetically modified soy crops claim that farmers are attracted by savings offered by these crops, that need less application of herbicides and less fuel to power machinery for routine field work.

2. Consumer effort pushes for global GM moratorium

10/10/2004 - Evidence that the consumer backlash against GMOs is far from dying down comes as consumer groups consolidate to launch a global effort to push for a moratorium on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in seeds, crops and foodstuffs.

Yesterday in Bangkok, Thailand Consumers International, a worldwide federation of consumer organisations, launched a campaign to stop the spread of GM crops until ‘internationally agreed regulations are in place and there are clear benefits to consumers, farmers and the environment.’

Now in their tenth year since commercialisation in North America, GM crops continue to be planted on an ever increasing global area. Yet in the European Union, the area planted to GM crops is negligible, compounded by a moratorium on the regulatory approval process for the use and planting of these crops that only turned around earlier this year.

Many people in the EU perceive that there is little current or future demand for GM crops and their derivatives. And the EU now has a tough set of labelling rules, some of the strictest in the world, for the presence of genetically modified organisms in food products that easily alert consumers to any GM material in a food formulation.

The CI signalled with regards to existing GM foods it will focus on four areas – aiming to ensure that all GM foods are subjected to rigorous, independent safety testing; are adequately labelled, and traceable back to their origin; and that producers are held liable for environmental or health damage which they may cause.

The campaign kicked off in Thailand, where, according to the CI, farmers and consumers are ‘deeply concerned at the unregulated introduction of GM papaya’ from a research facility into the open environment.

CI reports that although the authorities have ordered the destruction of the unauthorised GM papaya, scientists ‘fear that that contamination has spread’. Thailand’s exports, they continue, have ‘already suffered’ - one large European importer cancelled an order for papaya, stating that European consumers did not want GM foods.

Moving on from GM labelling rules, Europe is now tackling the controversial subject of seed thresholds. At a hearing last week the EU’s incoming farm chief Mariann Fischer Boel told members of the European Parliament that GMO seed thresholds should be set at the lowest possible level, a position favoured by green groups.

"My clear view is that (GMO) residues should be as low as possible, taking into account all the interests at stake in setting a limit," she said, set to start work in November when the current EU Commission is replaced. "If we want to continue with organic production in the long term, we have to pay attention to that."

Last month, the current Commission failed to agree over the latest version of the seeds proposal. The proposal that was discussed would have allowed maize and rapeseed, the only two GMO crops authorised, to contain 0.3 per cent GMOs before being labelled as biotech. A 'detection level' of 0.1 per cent, is the lowest level technically feasible.