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Brazilian biotech approved
Brazil’s Lower House of Congress overwhelmingly approves a bill legalizing the sale and planting of gene-altered seeds and allowing stem-cell research using frozen embryos. Even before the bill passes, genetically-modified seeds are being sown in Brazilian soil. GMO soybeans smuggled from neighboring Argentina - where GM seeds are legal - account for up to 20 percent of Brazil’s 50 million metric tons of soybean crop in 2004. Feeling pressure to confront the reality of illegal seeds in Brazil, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva issues two temporary decrees in 2003 and 2004 to allow the cultivation of genetically-modified crops. The decrees are, at best, stalling tactics. The Monsanto Corporation, owner of the technology behind the Roundup Ready seeds, claims it has been deprived of millions of dollars in royalties as a result of the smuggling, and is currently unable to monitor Brazilian soybean crops and distinguish between GM and non-GM products.
Brazil's main export customers, including Europe and China, state that without clear labeling of GM crops, trade cannot continue. In a contested decision, the lower house of Congress passes the Senate-approved biotechnology bill and President Silva signs it into law. Brazil was one of the last major agricultural producers without blanket approval for genetically modified crops, a fact many members of President Silva's own party, the Workers' Party, cited with pride. Other members of government hail both sections of the bill as evidence of progress, including Brazil's minister of science and technology, Eduardo Campos, who lauds the bill as "a first step forward" and "an important victory for Brazilian science." Four years later, Brazil becomes the second largest grower of biotech crops worldwide, and the second-largest exporter of GM soybeans.