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  • Brazilian ministry protests approval of GM cotton


[RIO DE JANEIRO] A ruling made last week in Brazil has authorised the planting and sale of a strain of cotton that is genetically modified to resist attack by insect pests.

The decision, taken by the national technical commission for biosafety (CTNBio), was met with objections from the Ministry of Environment.

A statement issued by the ministry on 18 March says the decision goes against the precautionary principle, and contravenes Brazilian environmental legislation and the Cartagena Protocol on biosafety — an international agreement that seeks to protect biodiversity from the potential risks of introducing genetically modified organisms.

The ministry says CTNBio's decision was based on unpublished studies, adding that the risks of growing GM cotton have not yet been assessed in a Brazilian setting.

CTNBio issued its approval for the US-based Monsanto company's GM cotton 'Bollgard' to be planted and sold, less than a month after Brazil's National Congress approved new biosafety legislation (see Brazil says 'yes' to GM crops and stem cell research).

The legislation, which allows Brazilians to grow and sell GM crops that have been approved by CTNBio, has yet to be signed by Brazil's president Luiz Inácio da Silva.

Previously, the responsibility for approving GM crops was shared between CTNBio and the ministries of agriculture, health, and environment.

CTNBio ruled in favour of allowing the GM cotton by 11 votes to one, on 17 March. The single objecting vote came from the Ministry of the Environment.

In an identically split vote, CTNBio also approved the import of 370,000 tons of GM corn from Argentina, to be used as chicken feed, on 22 March.

Jairon Nascimento, executive secretary of CTNBio, told SciDev.Net that both decisions were made according to the council's normal operating procedures.

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