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The controversy goes on

Federal government is going to decide on the production of transgenics

AE Preliminary court ruling prohibits the planting of transgenics in BrazilAE

A working group made up of representatives of none ministries, coordinated by the Civil Office of the Presidency of the Republic, is to present, this month, suggestions for the government to take a definitive decision on the production of transgenics in Brazil. “There isn’t any ideological position against genetically modified organisms (GMOs), but their commercial production can only be implemented after the conditions of biosecurity, environmental safety, public health and livestock raising have been guaranteed”, explains João Paulo Capobianco, the secretary for Biodiversity at the Ministry of the Environment (MMA).

The controversy over transgenics has stretched out for six years, and there was a risk of the authorization for their production being decided by the Courts. Still under the Fernando Henrique Cardoso government, nongovernmental organizations appealed against the decision of the National Biosecurity Commission (CTNBio) that exempted Monsanto from the Study of Environmental Impact (EIA-Rima) to produce modified soya. These entities were awarded a favorable preliminary ruling, and the appeal afterwards lodged by the company should be judged at the end of February. Before then, Minister Marina Silva, of the Environment, asked the Regional Federal Court (TRF) of the 1st Region to suspend judgement “for the matter to be re-examined, on the part of the new government” and succeeded in getting a 60-day postponement.

Capobianco argues that the court appeal is mistaken: CTNBio, subordinated to the Ministry of Science and Technology, must assess biosecurity aspects in the production of GMOs, but has no competence to waive the Study of Environmental Impact, a responsibility that belongs to the MMA, an organ that, according to Capobianco, also has the role of environmental licensing in Brazil. This position is said to have been reaffirmed by Resolution 305 of the National Council for the Environment (Conama), of June last year, which defined the procedures for licensing these products.

For Capobianco, “the best way is for the public authorities to take on the responsibility of giving guidance on the procedures for the production of transgenics, so as to observe the law and the interest of society”. The entrepreneur could ask for a license and carry out all the studies needed to ensure safe conditions for production. The scenario will require the public authorities to qualify their institutions for monitoring licensing.

The MMA will gather together “the best there is” in terms of technical and scientific capacity in the government bodies – such as the Brazilian Institute of the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (Ibama), the National Agency for Sanitary Surveillance, the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz), the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (Embrapa), universities and research institutes – to create a structure that is adequate and qualified to monitor commercial production, Capobianco reveals. Several discussions with specialists have now been promoted, and a draft is ready of a term of reference for the authorization of the commercial production of GMOs. “We are going to qualify ourselves, for the case of licensing being authorized.”