Associated Press
Supreme Court asked to rule on genetically modified soybeans
Friday October 3

SAO PAULO, Brazil (AP) -- Just eight days after it was signed, the constitutionality of an executive order allowing the planting of genetically modified soybeans has come under fire from three different directions.

Claiming that the planting of such beans without an environmental impact study is unconstitutional, Attorney General Claudio Fontelles on Friday filed a request asking the Supreme Court to overrule the decree, according to a statement posted by the court on its Web site.

Using the same argument, the National Farm Workers Confederation filed a similar suit earlier in the day. On Wednesday, the Green Party lodged the same appeal with the Supreme Court.

The decree, overruling a longstanding ban, was signed last Thursday by Vice President Jose Alencar while President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was traveling in the United States, Mexico and Cuba.

While the decree allows the use of genetically modified soy beans, it includes restrictions effectively limiting planting to Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil's southernmost state where many farmers already plant transgenic soybeans smuggled in from Argentina.

The measure allows only farmers already in possession of genetically modified seeds to plant and prohibits their sale to farmers in other states.

Farmers must also sign an agreement with the government taking financial responsibility for any environmental damage that results from planting genetically modified soy.

Growing genetically modified soybeans in Brazil had been banned 2000 as a result of a lawsuit by the environmental group Greenpeace.

But many farmers flouted the ban, using seeds smuggled from neighboring countries, and using them to propagate more on their own land. Experts estimate 17 percent of Brazil's soybean crop is grown from genetically modified seeds.

Brazil harvested about 52 million metric tons of soybeans during the 2002-2003 season, making it the second largest producer after the United States. It is expected to surpass the United States soon.

The decree represents a partial victory for U.S.-based Monsanto Co., which wants to sell its Roundup Ready soybean seeds in South America's largest country and recoup lost profits from widespread illicit use.