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Brazil has a good thing goin' with non-GM beans

(March 5, 2002 – CropChoice news) – Brazil’s environment minister told federal judges there that neither his nor the Health Ministry supports government court appeal to overturn an injunction that has prevented the planting and sale of transgenic crops for the last four years. The letter came after one of three judges voted last week to overturn the injunction.

Meanwhile, Brazilian crushers are investing heavily to prove their soyameal exports are free of GM organisms. Approximately 4.5 million metric tons of soyameal, or 45 percent of all exports, will be certified as non-GM in the 2002-03 marketing year (February-January), up 12 percent to15 percent on the year before, according to certifiers and crushing groups.

But clients in Europe and Japan increasingly demand proof their imports are GM-free in order to meet local labeling standards. As a result, local crushers like Incopa in the south and Caramuru in the north will certify large portions of their export produce this year, while multinational firms Cargill Ltd. and Bunge Ltd. have pumped money into projects.

Brazil only certifies a small portion of its soybean crop. But this figure could expand rapidly in 2002 if China imposes regulations demanding all imports be certified GM-free.

Certifiers said they had testing capacity to meet the possible explosion in demand, but some were unsure if Brazil had the capacity to segregate exports in the short term. According to SGS, Brazil will also certify 800,000-1 million tons of soybeans in 2002-03, with a large portion going to crushers for processing. However, certifiers would have to test a further 3 million tons of soy if Brazil were to maintain soybean exports in China at 2001 levels. "The testing is not a problem. But systems need to be set up at Paranagua port and at the silos, which will take time," said SGS.

However, Augusto Freire, business director at Genetic Id, Brazil's no. 2 certifier, believes the segregation problem could be side-stepped. He noted a number of crushers that certify have warehousing capacity in the south and could send soybeans instead of soymeal through certified channels. He added that Cargill and Bunge receive around 1.5 million tons of soybeans in the northeastern state of Bahia, where there are virtually no GMO beans. "Further north there would be little need of segregation," he said. Brazil's is the world's second soybean exporter, with sales pegged at 17.7 million tons for the 2002-03 season, according to Abiove.

The main certification agencies in Brazil, SGS and Genetic ID, are forecasting an increase in the volume of certified products this year as a result of increased demand and a larger harvest. Estimates of the amount of GM-free soy bran to be produced vary from 2,500mil m tons to 4,500mil m tons, and of soybeans, 800mil m tons.

One company, Caramaru, based in Sao Simon (Goias) is investing R$3million in a soy lecithin production plant, as the certified product can fetch prices up to three times more than the non-certified. The increased incidence of genetically modified product showing up in various areas is giving impulse to the activities of the companies that grant certification.