|Dissension in the ranks:|
March 4, 2005
Brazil Passes Law Allowing Crops With Modified Genes
By TODD BENSON
SÃO PAULO, Brazil, March 3 - In a significant victory for large biotechnology companies like Monsanto, Brazil's lower house of Congress has overwhelmingly approved legislation paving the way for the legalization of genetically modified crops.
After months of delays and heated debate, legislators passed a biotechnology law late Wednesday night by a vote of 352 to 60. The bill had pitted farmers and scientists against environmental and religious groups. Besides lifting a longstanding ban on the sale and planting of gene-altered seeds, the legislation also clears the way for research involving human embryonic stem cells that have been frozen for at least three years.
The bill, which was approved by the Senate in December, is expected to be signed into law by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in the next two weeks. Mr. da Silva, whose own Workers' Party is packed with environmentalists who fiercely oppose genetically engineered crops, issued temporary decrees twice in the last two years allowing the planting of modified soybeans, even though it was technically illegal to do so.
Until now, Brazil was one of the last of the world's major agricultural producers not to have granted blanket permanent approval to the planting of genetically modified crops. Even so, farmers have been flouting the ban for years, sowing modified soybean seeds that have been smuggled across the border from neighboring Argentina.
Agricultural specialists estimate that about 30 percent of Brazil's soy crop is already grown with genetically engineered seeds.
Perhaps China does not intend to pay any royalties to any company for their GM foods.