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February 13, 2008

Brazil Approves Genetically Modified Crops

In a move which some rural groups say is environmentally risky, Brazil's National Biosecurity Council, consisting of 11 cabinet ministers, authorized the planting and sale of two types of genetically modified corn.

Among those authorized on Tuesday was a crop made by US biotech company Monsanto, called MON 810. Marketed under the names Guardian and YieldGard, the crop is pest-resistant, but it has been banned in France last week due to concerns that it could have an effect on insects, a species of earthworm and micro-organisms.

The second crop to be authorized was a type of corn made by the German group Bayer. It is resistant to one of Bayer's commonly used herbicides and is known as LibertyLink.

These authorizations were met with anger by Via Campesina, a Brazilian rural group. They claim that the council overstepped its boundaries by going against the recommendation of two governmental agencies: the health ministry's ANVISA health vigilance unit, and the environmental ministry's Ibama institute.

In their statement, Via Campesina said that the companies that engineered the corn had presented studies that were "completely inadequate and insufficient to guarantee the safety of these products in terms of human health." The group also noted their fear that the genetically modified crops would contaminate the natural crops with unpredictable outcomes.

This is not the first time Brazil has approved the production of genetically modified crops. In 2005, an insect-resistant cotton called Bollgard Evento 531 was authorized, along with a herbicide-tolerant soybean known as RR. Both are engineered by Monsanto.

The total corn production for Brazil this year is forecast to be 38.4 million tons, 5.8 percent more than for last year, AFP reported, according to official figures.

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