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Brazil's GM seed fiasco

If he wins the election, Brazil's leading presidential candidate says he will not lift a four-year ban on biotechnology. Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of the leftist Workers' Party opposes genetically modified (GM) crops, saying they are harmful to small farms.

His agricultural advisor, Jose Graziano da Silva, says, "We get premium prices on specialty markets that our competitors don't because they plant GM." However, the Brazilian Association of Seed Producers and many farmers say GM technology would reduce costs and increase yields; they claim the ban is hurting Brazilian competitiveness. Monsanto and the current government have failed over the last four years to end Brazil's ban on the sale of GM crops. Consumer and environmental activists have succeeded in using local courts to block any commercial use of the crops, despite most farmers' preference for the cost-saving technology.

Many Brazilian farmers aren't waiting for their government's permission. Instead, they are turning to a thriving black market for GM seeds. Brazil's official state-registered seed producers, who are allowed by law to sell only conventional soybean seed, say they are watching their orders plummet. More than half of the soybeans grown in key agricultural regions in southern Brazil are believed to be planted from illegal GM seeds smuggled in from Argentina.

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