refusal to perform research on GMO products creates
doubts about their safety. Besides, what would be the problem in
labelling such products? Those who defend the release of GMO
products do not have the courage to state that they are in fact
defending the monopoly of ten transnational corporations that
control all GMO seeds in the world. What is at stake is whether our
country will be able to guarantee food security for its people.
AND FOOD SOVEREIGNTY
the electoral campaign in 2002, the Workers Party drafted the
document “Dignified Life in the Countryside”, a programme which
stated the party’s historical commitments for the countryside. The
chapter on GMOs puts forward the party’s commitment to the
principle of “precaution”, by which genetically modified
organisms (GMOs) would only be commercially released after extensive
research proved that it would not cause any harm to the environment,
to the health of consumers, or to small farmers. This document was
signed by the co-ordinator of the programme at the time and the
current Minister of Finance, Antonio Palloci.
these almost two years in power, President Lula has signed two
temporary measures allowing the planting and trade of GMO soy,
without any reliable research being performed to attest to the
safety of such organisms. Monsanto, the main beneficiary in the
trade of GMOs, which holds the patent for Round-up, has not
presented any results of the research performed on Brazilian soil
about the environmental impact and/or its influence on human health
even though legal proceedings to stop the planting of GMO soy have
been in motion in the Federal Justice Department for more than six
years. They have had enough time to produce the necessary evidence,
if they existed, for the release of the product.
of electoral and political alliances with PMDB (Party of the
Brazilian Democratic Movement) in Rio Grande do Sul, the Federal
Government found itself being forced to revise the provisional
measures, releasing the planting of GMO soy. As a consequence of
those alliances, it has opted to release GMO soy for consumption in
Brazil, without knowing its present and future consequences. The
government could have passed on the problem and released them for
export. But in the middle of the path, there’s a rock. Or rather,
the ominous Kandir Bill, which assures an exemption from state tax
as a subsidy and incentive for exports. Since the vast majority of
soy in Rio Grande do Sul is GMO, if it was exported it would receive
a tax exemption and of course the government in Rio Grande do Sul
would not collect any tax. So between changing the Kandir Bill,
which benefits the exporters, or pushing the PMDB Government into
bankruptcy, the government preferred to revise the temporary measure
and let the people pay the bill.
applauded the decision. And they had something to celebrate, since
the temporary measure recognises the existence of GMO soy, which had
been denied till then and that allowed Monsanto to charge royalties
from farmers. In the last Brazilian harvest, Monsanto collected R$80
million reais [roughly US$28 million dollars] and its stock has gone
up in the international market.
on, faced with protests against the release of GMOs, the government
tried to redeem itself by offering a bill determining that all
traded goods containing GMOs should be labelled. This is a right
guaranteed by the Consumer Code.
products containing more than 1% of GMOs should display a yellow
triangle symbol on the label. This law has been in force for a year.
According to the Minister of Agriculture more than 5 million tons of
GMO soy have been traded in the country. However, none of the
industries have obeyed the law.
controversy carried over into society. The temporary measures, as
the term suggests, should be temporary. In order to conduct a more
appropriate follow-up to this issue, the Civil House proposed a
Biosecurity Bill, which was debated with environmental groups and
rural social movements. The project aimed to preserve the safety and
the rights of Brazilians. It went to the Deputy Chamber, and there,
mysteriously, the very leader of the government, Deputy Aldo Rebelo,
not only did not defend the government’s project but also
distorted it by listening to the demands from large farmers and
Minister of the Environment, Marina Silva, reacted vigorously, but
the personal pressures coming from the Minister of Agriculture,
Roberto Rodrigues, who supports GMOs, were more successful. The
senators Osmar Dias (PDT-Paraná) and Ney Suassuna (PSDB-Paraíba)
buried the initial spirit of the bill. They removed the principle of
social precaution, releasing GMO soy immediately. They also gave
full power to a commission of 15 technicians and members of the
government, the so-called CTN-Bio, to commercially release those
products, without any previous environmental and health impact
study. They removed the demand for the labelling and prevented state
governments from passing laws that prohibited the planting of GMOs.
refusal to perform tests on GMOs creates great doubts about their
safety. Besides, what would be the problem in labelling those
products? Those who defend the release do not have the courage to
say that they are defending the monopoly of ten companies that
control all GMO seeds in the world.
is at stake is the ability of this country to guarantee food
security to its people, assuring that a vital sector of the
economy—agriculture—remains under the control of small farmers.
is at stake is our future. What needs to be clarified in this
process is, if Brazilians will have autonomy of food production, if
the government will protect food sovereignty or will become
dependent on multinationals. People, who do not produce and control
their own food, are not free people! The minimum we expect from our
government is to be conscious of its historic responsibilities.
João Pedro Stedile is a member of the National Board of the MST
(Landless Workers Movement) and a member of Via Campesina.