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Genetically Engineered Corn Article

Brazil militants invade Monsanto biotech corn test farm

Reuters, 05.16.03, 6:31 PM ET

By Inae Riveras

SAO PAULO, Brazil, May 16 (Reuters) - Militants of the Landless Peasant Movement (MST) in Brazil invaded a Monsanto Co. (nyse: MON - news - people) test farm on Friday in a bid "to expel" the U.S. biotech giant and set up an organic farm on the site.

The incursion by some 80 members from the MST and other landless groups onto an experimental farm in Ponta Grosso, Parana was aimed at stopping Monsanto from using farming methods unpopular in the state, according to the group.

"The government of Parana says it doesn't want transgenics and we producers don't want it," said MST leader Celio Rodrigues. "Thus, it is not right for it (Monsanto) to have a technical center here."

Parana is a large farm state in southern Brazil where Monsanto tests conventional and genetically modified corn and soybeans.

Rodrigues said the objective of the occupation was "to expel" Monsanto from the state and convert the 43 hectares (106 acre) farm to organic production.

The commercial planting of GM crops in Brazil has been banned since 1998. But a thriving black market in Monsanto's trademark Roundup Ready GM soy has developed in southern Brazil. The GM beans are thought to be smuggled in Argentina and Paraguay were RR soy is widely planted.

As much as 30 percent of Brazil's total soy output was estimated to be illegal GM, according to the seed producers association Abrasem, and illegal planting in the south, where the climate is favorable to the Argentine and Paraguayan varieties, is much more wide spread than in other regions.

Monsanto said it has always condemned the illegal planting of GM soy in Brazil.

Experimental GM planting, however, is legal and much of the company's research is conducted jointly with the government crop research arm Embrapa. Monsanto said test planting on its farms was in accordance with Brazilian law.

Monsanto is one of Brazil's biggest producers and sellers of conventional soy, corn and other crop seed stock, as well as farm chemicals and fertilizers.

"They can go back to the United States, Argentina or Canada, where transgenics are liberated," said Rodrigues.

The Ponta Grossa farm was invaded on May 9 by 800 militants who destroyed some laboratories and burned down corn fields.

Monsanto said it has asked authorities to prosecute those responsible for "acts of violence against its staff, property and research and development in Brazil."

"We have big assets of biodiversity in Parana and Monsanto represents a threat," said Antonio Volochen from the Forum of Rural Workers in Parana, that participated in the occupation.

Copyright 2003, Reuters News Service


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