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Brazil AgMin publishes rules for GM-free soy zones

(Friday, Oct. 17, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- Reuters: SAO PAULO - Brazil's Agriculture Ministry published on Friday rules for establishing GM-free zones, which should appeal to states that want to maintain a ban on genetically modified soybeans.

A federal decree recently lifted a long-standing ban on GM soy planting and sales on the national level but the state legislature of Brazil's No. 2 soy state Parana this week passed a bill reinstating a ban locally on GM soy until 2006.

The ministry's modification to the decree legalizing GM soy should appeal to Parana's government, which said it wants more conclusive evidence that the technology does not pose health or environmental risks.

The new regulations published by the ministry in the official federal register on Friday said states that wish to establish GM-free zones must define the growing regions and prove that only conventional soybeans are grown in them.

So far, only Parana's government has expressed interest in establishing GM-free soy zones. Soy market sources, however, estimate that about 10 percent of Parana's output is already GM soy and many state farmers oppose the state ban on GM.

The soy crop of Rio Grande do Sul, the No. 3 soy state, was believed to be 80 percent GM, even before the general ban was lifted. The government of the state has been outspoken in favor of planting GM soy.

It is unclear where the state governments of Brazil's soy-rich center-west lie on the issue, but producers tend to overwhelmingly prefer to have the option of planting GM. The governor of No. 1 soy state Mato Grosso is the world's largest soy producer, Blairo Maggi.

Parana's Paranagua port is in negotiations with Chinese importers to provide GM free soybeans in exchange for rather large minimum import guarantees from China.