The fiasco of the Brazilian delegacy in Canada

Periodical news & analysis of the Campaign For a GM-Free Brazil
Brazil, Rio de Janeiro, June 03, 2005
Bulletin #18

The fiasco of the Brazilian delegacy in Canada
Brazilian staff obstructs the negotiations at MOP2 and support a step back on the regulation of the international trade of GMOs

About 800 representatives from around the world were gathered for ten days in Montreal (Canada) for the second round of negotiations on the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (MOP2). They were from different backgrounds and sectors: government, trade, agricultural, civil society organisations, environmentalists etc. In 2006, it will be Brazil‚s turn, in Curitiba, capital of the State of Parana.

From 25th of May, to the 3rd of July, there were a „transatlantic‰ trade dispute over genetically modified food, as biotechnology now lies at the centre of debates on the future of world agriculture, on international trade relations, on how to protect biodiversity, on the role of multinational corporations, and on whether consumers can have confidence in the food they eat. Some of the major subjects to be discussed are risk assessment and risk management, handling, transportation, packaging, identification and documentation for all living modified organisms for food, feed or processing. Moreover, one of the most contentious issue being dealt is that of liability regulations to make companies accountable for the contamination and damage caused by GM products.

Representatives of different Brazilian ministries got together to discuss the subjects of the meeting‚s agenda and, indeed, to establish a strategy around the political position that should be taken by its delegacy. The ministries of Agriculture, Science and Technology, Industry and External Trade, the same ones that took part on the pro-GM lobby to vote the Biosafety Bill, were pushing for a proposal that may end up vulgarizing the Protocol, if accepted.

The issue of major concern regards to the labeling of the shipment for human food, animal‚s food or food processing. The same ministries, that also defended absolute power to the CTNBio (National Technical Committee of Biosafety) and have the same position of the agribusiness, pesticides and transgenics‚ great corporations and multinationals, fight for a regulation that means a step back on the negotiation. What they allege is that this type of shipment should simply carry a label saying, „it may contain transgenic material‰. They refuse to accept a system that would make it compulsory the complete labeling of transgenic material, arguing that this measure would implicate on financial losses. However, they do not take into account the fact that the Cartagena Protocol is about biosafety, not trade or business.

The thing is, a vague information like that might transform the Protocol into a non-functional regulation, as it would deter measures such as origin tracking, labeling, segregation, analysis and risk management from being implemented. An accurate information, which must be provided by the exporters, is crucial for the success of the biosafety rules‚ implementation. They must include all the transformation events of each GMO; the complete information of the gene that has been inserted; handling, storage, transportation and safety use recommendations; emergency measures in case of an accident and a summary of the risk assessment to which the product has been submitted.

However, the Brazilian delegation seems to be engaged on promoting a step back on the international regime of health and environmental protection. During the negotiations around the international rules for identification of the transgenic shipment exportations (on Thursday), Brazil refused to support the majority of the countries that claim for a clear rule of labeling for the all exporters dealing with GMOs. To make things worse, Brazil acted in a way to obstruct the negotiations, which finally were coming to an agreement.

One of the reasons that took the situation to this point is that only three of the 24 Brazilian official delegates are truly compromised with biosafety. The rest of the staff seems to be much more concerned with trade, business and profits. Sadly, this appears to be a summary of the Brazilian role at the Protocol.

Justice contests Biosafety Bill for the first time

A judge from the State of Pernambuco(Northeast of Brazil) declared the unconstitutionality of the Biosafety Bill and used the precautionary principle plus the potential contamination risks of GMOs for the environment to justify its decision against the legality of the Bill. According to him, the new law should be restricted to research and handling of genetic modified organisms. He said, „We can not mix together research and manipulation of genetic material with its consumption and even less with its commercialization‰.

The same judge also determined the suspension of 400 thousand tons of genetic modified maize to be imported from Argentina. The CTNBio had authorized the act in the beginning of April. However, his decision was already suspended by a superior instance and has two more rounds to go.

This episode occurred right after the publication, by the Independent, one of the prestigious British newspapers, of a secret research carried out by Monsanto, showing that rats fed on a diet rich in genetically modified corn developed abnormalities to internal organs and changes to their blood. They also had smaller kidneys and variations in the composition of their blood.

Although the research raised fears thathuman health could, indeed, be affected by eating GM food, it seems that the authorities care more about commercial interests than about the reasons why a company like Monsanto would hide the results of its studies.

GM-FREE BRAZIL – An international periodical news & analysis bulletin on the development of the struggle against GMOs in Brazil. Published by Assessoria e Serviços a Projetos em Agricultura Alternativa (AS-PTA). Editor: Sabrina Petry. The Campaign For a GM-Free Brazil is a collective of Brazilian NGOs and social movements. AS-PTA main office: Rua da Candelária, 9/6o / Centro, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil. Phone: 0055-21-2253-8317 Fax: 0055-21-2233-363 E-mail:

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