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Brazil's agriculture minister says market will decide on transgenic crops

(Thursday, Oct. 23, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- BBC, 10/21/03: Rio de Janeiro: Agriculture Minister Roberto Rodrigues has said that the power to decide on transgenic products should be left to market trends.

"As long as there is demand for transgenic foods, producers will continue to plant them," Rodrigues said during an interview just moments ago.

"Today there is a market for transgenic foods and for non-transgenic foods; there is a market for everything. If the market indicates that it no longer wants a given type of product, no-one will produce it because there will be no buyers. I believe that in the future the market will determine the demand for transgenic products," the minister said during an interview following the seminar "Agribusiness: The Brazilian Economy's Engine," which is taking place today and tomorrow in Rio de Janeiro.

The minister recalled that Argentina, where 98 per cent of the soya bean crop is the transgenic variety, was the country that had the greatest increase in soya exports during the past few years.

According to Rodrigues, today's market is indicating that it wants greater clarity. "The market wants accurate labelling. People want to know what kind of soya they are consuming, and that is what we have to given them," the minister said.

According to Rodrigues, an inter-ministerial meeting to be held tomorrow at the Planalto Palace [Government House], with President [Luiz Inacio] Lula [da Silva] present, should "settle" matters concerning the proposed law on biosafety and transgenics that will be submitted to the National Congress.

"There is a consensus among the ministers and the situation will be resolved very quickly," he said. Rodrigues denied any opposition to the proposed law by Environment Minister Marina Silva.

"Minister Silva is not against the proposed law. She wants the same thing we all want: strict regulations on labelling and for the principle of precaution to prevail, a measure that has already been adopted in Europe," Rodrigues said.

Minister Rodrigues also said that producers who want to plant transgenic soy this season must hurry and sign the terms of commitment as established in the Provisional Measure that approved the planting of transgenic soya for this harvest season.

Among other conditions, the terms of commitment require the producer to promise not to sell transgenic soya bean seeds for the following season, and to assume responsibility for subsequent environmental problems that may arise from planting this crop.

"Any farmer who does not sign these terms of commitment - and this deadline is almost over - will not obtain permits to sell their grain and will face a series of penalties and financial constraints, such as the suspension of their rural credit," the minister threatened.