World Environment News

Brazil to create council to regulate GM foods

Date: 31-Oct-03
Country: BRAZIL

The bill proposes the creation of the National Council on Biosafety (CNBS), comprising representatives from 12 ministries and charged with formulating and implementing national policy on biotechnology.

It will have the final word on whether or not genetically modified crops can be planted, ministers said in a conference.

"(The bill) addresses those in favor of transgenics," Chief of Staff for the president Jose Dirceu told journalists. "All those in favor of transgenics now have no reason to remain in an illegal situation, nor to say that Brazil is behind (the rest of the world on the issue)."

The new law is supposed to settle the process by which biotechnology products are approved or rejected.

The government had delayed sending it to Congress as the pro-biotech Agriculture Minister Roberto Rodrigues, himself a farmer, debated with Environment Minister Marina Silva over the shape of the new regulatory body.

It is still unclear how difficult it will be for biotech seed companies like Monsanto Co. (MON.N: Quote, Profile, Research) to get clearance for products such as Roundup Ready Soybeans on the Brazilian market.

The existing National Council on Biotechnology (CTNBio) will be restructured to function as a consultative body to assist the CNBS in policy making. It will also have the power of veto of biotechnology being considered for use in Brazil.
The CTNBio will include 26 members of technical, scientific and professional expertise.

Brazil is the last major agricultural exporter that still bans GM crops. Earlier this year the government legalized by temporary decree the sale and planting of GM soybeans. At least two states declared themselves GM-free zones since then.

The heated battle over genetically altered soybeans in Brazil has threatened to disrupt the country's most important agricultural export, responsible for over 10 percent of the country's trade revenues.

© Thomson Reuters 2003 All rights reserved

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