Seeds of trouble
Brazilian farmers in the state of Rio Grande do Sul were recently confronted by the prickly issue of genetically modified (gm) crops. Although the commercial planting of gm crops is officially banned in Brazil, about 80 per cent of Rio Grande do Sul's soya produce is said to have been cultivated using illegal transgenic seeds smuggled in from Argentina.
Small farmers and growers who use conventional soya seeds congregated in the state capital of Porto Alegre to demand the separation of the illegal gm crops from the conventional variety. The protesters gathered in front of the local offices of Monsanto Company. They accused the firm and the state agriculture federation of creating a black market in illegal gm seeds and demanded compensation for their losses. Monsanto retorted by blaming Brazil's "lack of judicial clarity' and ambiguous guidelines.
There is also a strong lobby for gm soya. Some supporters recently invaded Nao-Me-Toque, a vital soya centre in Rio Grande do Sul, to demand an end to the ban on transgenic soya.