Pesticide Action Network Updates Service (PANUPS)
November 23, 1998
A lawsuit filed by the Brazilian Institute for Consumer Defense (IDEC) has temporarily halted the Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture's approval of Monsanto's glyphosate-tolerant soybeans. The court has prohibited the Brazilian government from authorizing the marketing and planting of Roundup Ready soybeans until the case is resolved. IDEC's complaint is based on concerns about lack of regulations regarding food safety and labeling of genetically engineered crops in Brazil. The group also maintains that required studies of the potential environmental impacts of genetically modified soy have not been carried out. IDEC is asking individuals and organizations around the world to support their efforts by writing to the Brazilian government expressing their concerns about commercialization of genetically engineered crops and highlighting governmental and consumer opposition to these crops around the world.
Monsanto's heavy pressure on governments and farmers to adopt Roundup Ready soy poses a severe threat to sustainable agriculture and local ecosystems. The technology has been designed expressly to enable and encourage farmers to use even greater quantities of the herbicide Roundup (glyphosate), which has been implicated in reproductive disorders, genetic damage, liver tumors and developmental delays in mammals. Glyphosate-containing products have been shown to affect earthworms and beneficial fungi, to inhibit nitrogen fixation and to increase susceptibility of crop plants to disease. Compounding these problems are the social and economic impacts of increasing farmers' reliance on purchased inputs such as genetically engineered seeds and pesticides -- and the lost opportunities for farmers to strengthen their knowledge and skills in safe and sustainable agricultural practices.
Brazil is the one of the world's largest producers of soy, second only to the United States. At this time, Brazilian soybean growers are benefiting from the higher prices that some buyers in the U.S. and Europe are willing to pay for non-genetically engineered crops.
In early September, Monsanto was the first corporation to win safety approval for a genetically engineered crop from Brazil's National Technical Commission for Bio-security with the Commission's approval of Roundup Ready soybeans. According to Monsanto Brazil's president, Antonio Carlos Queiroz, the company will easily overcome the remaining legal hurdles, including IDEC's injunction, and start selling its genetically engineered soybeans in Brazil for the 1999/2000 season.
Monsanto Brazil is the multinational's largest money-maker outside of the United States. The company anticipates that it will double its annual revenue to US$1.5 billion by 20003 from a forecast US$650 million this year. Queiroz stated that within three years, Monsanto plans to control 50% of the Brazilian soybean market with Roundup Ready soy being grown on roughly half of the nearly 13 million hectares now used for production of soybeans.
Roundup Ready soy was approved two years ago in neighboring Argentina and now covers between 18% and 20% of soybean farmlands. Monsanto is anticipating controlling up to as much as 70% of Argentina's planted soy area in the upcoming 1998/1999 season.
Monsanto has also announced plans to invest US$550 million in a second manufacturing and formulation plant for Roundup in Brazil over the next four years. The company completed a US$60 million expansion of existing facilities in October. Queiroz stated that Monsanto has made a strategic decision to invest in Brazil. "We think Brazil has the largest agricultural growth potential in the world."
As part of its strategy, Monsanto bought Agroceres, a major Brazilian seed company, for US$60 million in November 1997. In June, it purchased Cargill Inc.'s seed operations in Latin America, Europe, Asia and Africa for US$1.4 billion -- a move that also increased its share of the seed market in Brazil.
IDEC is asking that letters be sent to Brazilian government officials stressing that Monsanto's claims that Roundup Ready soybeans are environmentally safe are not true and that this technology poses a threat both to ecosystems and to agriculture. Letters should also highlight that consumers around the world are saying "no" to genetically engineered food.
Letters should be sent as soon as possible to the following:
President of Brazil:
Ministry of Agriculture:
Source: Agrow: World Crop Protection News, October 2, September 18, and July 24, 1998; IDEC press release, November 12, 1998; "Monsanto to Double Brazil Sales," Reuters, October 29, 1998; Carolyn Cox, "Glyphosate, Part 2: Human Exposure and Ecological Effects," Journal of Pesticide Reform, Fall 1995.
Contact: Brazilian Institute for Consumer Defense (IDEC), phone (55-11) 3872-8790; fax (55-11) 3862-9844; email firstname.lastname@example.org.