The Brazilian government has decided to allow genetically modified (GM) soya that was grown illegally in the south of the country to be sold for both animal and human consumption.
The decision was made last week (26 March) by the president President Luiz Inácio 'Lula' da Silva and ministers, following lengthy debate over what to do with GM soya that was grown by farmers despite a government ban on the cultivation of GM crops.
The new legislation will permit the sale of GM soya only until January 2004. After this date, any remaining soya must be destroyed and warehouses thoroughly cleaned before the arrival of 2004’s harvest.
The government is insisting that the GM soya must be labelled, and that it must not be sold as seeds, but can only be sold in forms in which it cannot be planted.
The announcement follows the government's pledge in early March to maintain a ban on the sale of GM food, but also to find a way of permitting the disposal of GM soya grown illegally in southern Brazil (see Brazil faces dilemma of 'illegal' GM soya).
According to Jean Marc von Der Weid, co-ordinator of the campaign 'For a GM-Free Brazil', the government's decision is out of touch with public opinion. "The government refused to have any dialogue with civil society", he says.
A recent survey by the Brazilian Institute of Public and Statistical Opinion showed that, despite a low level of awareness of what GM crops are about, 70 per cent of Brazilians would prefer to consume products that are GM-free (see Brazilian public unaware of GM foods).
The organisation For a GM-Free Brazil, which is seeking to block the new legislation, has applied for an injunction to be issued preventing the government from selling the illegal soya on the grounds that this would be in conflict with existing legislation.
Link to text of new legislation (in Portuguese)