[RIO DE JANEIRO] The Brazilian technical commission on biosecurity approved the genetically modified corn seed 'LibertyLink' last week (16 May).
LibertyLink corn is produced by German company Bayer CropScience and is tolerant to glufosinate ammonium pesticide, used to kill harmful grasses. Bayer first requested the licence in 1998.
17 members of the biosecurity commission ― scientists, government and public representatives who gives technical advice to the government on biosecurity issues ― voted for the corn authorisation and 4 voted against it.
A legislation change, sanctioned in March by the president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, reduced the number of votes the commission needs to sanction approvals from the original 18 votes to 14. Without this move, Bayer would not have won approval for LibertyLink.
The commercial approval was granted on the condition that the government monitors the amount of glufosinate ammonium used per hectare, as well as the pesticide's impact on soil microorganisms.
The commission will also establish rules for how transgenic and non-transgenic corn can coexist.
The higher level National Council on Biosecurity, made up of 11 ministers, still needs to ratify the decision and has 90 days to announce a decision.
Environmental institutions criticised the decision. In a press release (16 May), Greenpeace said Brazil is one of the world's centres of corn genetic diversity and large-scale contamination would cause "uncalculated" economical damage to farmers and to the country.
They accused the biosafety commission of dismissing safety concerns raised by the public, and of not being transparent when evaluating companies' requests for licences.
André Abreu, Bayer technology manager in Brazil, told SciDev.Net that the company has carried out local and international studies on farming LibertyLink corn, which show that it is safe in terms of human and environmental health.
Eleven other requests for GM seeds authorisation are currently awaiting the biosecurity commission's approval.
LibertyLink corn is the third genetically modified (GM) seed whose plantation and commercialisation is allowed in Brazil.
Monsanto's 'Roundup Ready' soybean and Bollgard cotton ― a GM cotton variant resistant to insects ― were approved in 2004 and 2005 respectively.