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Brazil to allow export of GM soy despite domestic ban

(Monday, March 10, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- Financial Times, 03/07/03: Rio de Janeiro -- Brazil's decision to permit the export of some six tons of genetically modified soy beans whose cultivation is banned in the country was praised Friday by non-governmental organizations opposed to trangenic crops.

"It was an extraordinary decision that will allow those who already planted genetically engineered soy beans to sell their crop, but it will prevent the next crop from being contaminated," Flavia Londres, technical coordinator with the group For a Transgenics-Free Brazil, told EFE.

Londres said her organization, which represented other groups such as Greenpeace, Action Aid and Ecological Center at meetings with members of President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's Cabinet in the past two months, had lobbied in favor of the decision.

At the end of a Cabinet meeting Thursday, Lula, as the president is known here, announced that he would fully enforce Brazil's ban on geneticaly modified, or GM, crops.

The government, however, will work out a special regulation to allow farmers who planted GM seeds to sell their harvest this year, Lula said.

The measure will benefit thousands of farmers who illegally imported GM seeds from Argentina and are preparing to harvest their crops this month.

Officials expect that the transgenic soy crop will total some 6 million tons, or 12 percent of the 49 million ton soy harvest forecast for this year.

Brazil is the world's second-largest producer of soy beans, after the United States, while Argentina is No. 3. Both Washington and Buenos Aires permit GM crops.

"This is a very serious social and economic problem given that scores of farmers planted transgenic soy beans," presidential spokesman Andre Singer said, explaining that the government would not order the destruction of the banned crop.

Lula's administration, which took office Jan. 1, blamed the previous government of Fernando Henrique Cardoso for allowing the illegal cultivation of GM crops.

"There was a lack of oversight during the prior administration," Singer said.

Londres said Brazil has much to gain from the ban on transgenic crops since the European Union as well as China - two of the largest soy importers in the world - have banned the sale of GM soy beans.