Brazil: Legalizing GM Cotton

A draft law which legalizes illegal genetically modified cotton varieties in Brazil has passed in the lower house of congress and is likely to pass in the Senate. The bill is sponsored by Paulo Pimenta of the ruling Workers Party (PT), and makes two changes to legislation of genetically modified crops in Brazil: first, it legalizes formerly illegal GM cotton in Brazil, and second, it makes the approval of GM crops in Brazil’s National Technical Commission on Biosafety (CTNBio) easier by changing the approval requirement from a two-thirds majority to a simple majority.

This law has cotton following in steps of genetically modified soy in Brazil. However, whereas soy is a non-native species in Brazil, genetically modified strains of cotton and corn pose a threat to native species of cotton and maize in the country. As with soy, most of the GM seeds belong to the multinational biotech company Monsanto.

The Alternative Agriculture Projects (AS-PTA), an NGO which fights against genetically modified crops in Brazil, will fight against the bill in the senate and will take legal action against the lower house for passing the bill even though it contradicts earlier laws.

This is a new development in the conflict over GM cotton in Brazil, and a turn around from CNTbio’s recommendation at the end of June 2006 for the destruction of illegal transgenic cotton fields. The recommendation created a conflict between the producers and the seed companies.