October 22, 2012
New GMO Products in Brazil Need to Pass a Five Step Process
Brazil is the second leading producer of GMO crops in the world after the United States. During the 2011/12 growing season there were 30 million hectares of GMO crops grown in Brazil compared to 69 million hectares in the U.S. The number one GMO crop in Brazil is soybeans and it is estimated 89% of the soybeans grown in Brazil in 2012/13 will be genetically modified.
The integration of GMO soybeans into Brazilian agriculture has not been an orderly process until recent years. In the early 1990's GMO soybeans started to be grown in Rio Grande do Sul in far southern Brazil. These soybean varieties came across the border from Argentina illegally and they were not authorized to be grown in Brazil at the time. In 1995, provisionary legislation was passed which allowed the GMO soybeans to be sold in Brazil on a temporary basis while more formal regulations were developed.
Legal action taken by the Consumer Defense Institute of Brazil (Idec) in 1995 once again prohibited the planting of GMO soybeans in Brazil and that prohibition stayed in place until 2003. Even though GMO soybeans were prohibited during this period, they were still widely grown in southern Brazil.
In 2005 the Brazilian Congress passed legislation establishing an orderly process for the authorization and introduction of new GMO products into Brazil. The legislation created the National Technical Commission on Biosecurity (CTNBio) which is responsible for the review and authorization of all new genetic modification technology. Since its inception, CTNBio has authorized approximately 50 new GMO products, 35 of which are plant species.
The approval of any new GMO product involves a five step process. The first step is to submit a research proposal to the CTNBio commission, which in turn conducts an on-site inspection of the research facilities to insure that there are adequate security protocols in place at the facility to insure that there is no danger to the outside environment while the research is being conducted.
After the project is approved, development and testing of the new GMO product can proceed under controlled conditions. If it is a plant species, the Minister of Agriculture routinely monitors the experiments to insure safety procedures are in place. After the experiments are concluded, the CTNBio evaluates the data to insure that it meets the criteria set up for biosecurity.
Before the final approval is given for the product to be sold in Brazil, a commission of eleven Ministers must examine the data and determine if the new product would be beneficial or not for the country. If the commission determines that Brazil would benefit from the new product, it is then allowed to be sold in Brazil.
Critics of the process point out that the commission has not turned down any new GMO product that it has reviewed.