Brazil-China soybean agreement in final stages
Friday January 24, 4:13 pm ET

SAO PAULO, Brazil, Jan 24 (Reuters) - China has accepted the substance of a trade agreement intended to ensure that soybeans it buys from Brazil are safe for the environment and human consumption, Brazilian officials said on Friday.

China, the biggest customer for Brazilian soybeans, has demanded that Brazil guarantee its soybeans are safe, as it's widely accepted that about 30 percent of Brazil's soy crop is genetically modified, although it bans transgenic crops.

"There are no objections (from the Chinese) on the substance of the trade agreement," Odilson Ribeiro, the Brazilian ministry's director of plant inspection and safety told Reuters.

"We are now trying to agree on basic protocol for certification and shipping," he said.

Although Ribeiro said he could not say how soon the two countries might finalize the agreement, a leading official in Brazil's soy industry close to the Agriculture Ministry said an agreement should be reached by Monday.

"We should have a definition on China by Monday," the high-level industry source said.

China is expected to define exactly how Brazilian exporters will have to document their soy shipments.

"They (China) should give details on whether they want everything on the same document or if they want the signature of the minister in one packet and the rest of the documents in another (with each shipment)," said the official.

Last week, Brazil resubmitted documents to China signed by Agriculture Minister Roberto Rodrigues saying that Brazilian soybeans were not genetically modified, but could contain varieties of Monsanto Co.'s (NYSE:MON - News) "Roundup Ready" (RR) soy that did not present a risk to the environment or human health.

Brazil bans the planting or sale of any genetically modified crop, including RR soy.

According to unofficial estimates, 30 percent of the soy crop planted in Brazil is black market GM soy smuggled across the border from Argentina, where it is legal.

China imported 4 million tonnes of Brazilian soybeans in 2002 and is expected to bring in 5 million tonnes this year.