GM food ban opens Brazil market to corn exports

December 8, 2002

Financial Times- Mark O'Neill in Beijing

A ban on genetically modified (GM) crops in Brazil has opened the door to the first imports of corn from China. Brazil has a shortfall of three million tonnes of corn this year due to bad weather and because farmers are switching to more lucrative crops such as soyabeans. With exporters such as the United States and Argentina growing GM crops, Brazil is considering the costlier option of importing traditionally grown crops from China. "Since we have not made such imports before, we need to do sanitary tests and expect the results any day now," said an agricultural officer from the Brazilian Embassy yesterday. If Chinese corn was cleared for import, shipments would need to reach Brazil by the middle of next month, the officer said.

The corn would be fed to farm animals. China is the world's second largest corn producer, after the US, with annual output of up to 120 million tonnes. Exports have surged this year, rising 73 per cent in the first 10 months to 8.4 million tonnes, and are expected to hit 10 million for the full year, against six million last year. An official at the corn department of the China Ceroils Import and Export Corporation confirmed the negotiations. "None of our corn is genetically modified.

China is still researching the impact of GM food on people and animals," he said. Meanwhile, Swiss food producer Nestle has come under fire in mainland media on the GM issue. "Is Nestle's hiding GM?" read the headline in the Beijing Morning News on Thursday, in a report asking whether chocolate, soya milk, ice cream and other Nestle products contained GM ingredients. The company denied the use of GM ingredients in products for the Chinese market.


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