Despite mounting evidence against the use of GMO crops, many companies and agricultural agencies insist that they’re safe to use.
Not everyone agrees, though.
In a surprising move, Brazil has recently refused GMO corn grown in the United States. What’s shocking is that this decision was made despite there being a major corn shortage in the South American country (1).
This shortage has even caused chicken producers to cut production by 10%, which is incredible considering Brazil is the world’s largest poultry exporter.
To meet the demand, the country has chosen instead to increase grain purchases from Argentina and Paraguay, which are less genetically modified.
Brazil’s Relationship with GMO Crops
Over half of Brazilian crops are genetically modified, making the country the second largest producer of genetically modified organisms in the World, (the United States being the first).
GMO crops were first introduced to the country in the 1990s when soybeans from Argentina took the market by storm
GMO organisms were banned from sale only 8 years later but came back in full-force in 2003. However, the Brazilian government issued a Labeling Decree that requires food packages to explicitly say whether or not the ingredients are the product of GMO farming (2).
Part of these restrictions are due to concern over food safety, health problems (including paralysis, fatigue, kidney problems, damaged mucous membranes, and even death), and environmental destruction.
Some crops grown in Brazil, like soybeans and corn, are particularly prone to genetic tampering. And although the country does allow GMO corn, it’s very strict about what varieties can be sold and grown. Apparently, tropical climates like those seen in Brazil make crops more prone to pests, weeds, and other environmental challenges, making the country a key market for GMO crops.
Professor Rubens Nodari of the Department of Plant Science and Laboratory of Physiology and Genetics of Development at the Federal University of Santa Catarina brings to light other concerns over the increasing power companies like Monsanto are accumulating: “Obviously the [GMO] companies want to keep the monopoly. But they can only achieve that when governments are subservient.”
The country currently grows 29 varieties of modified corn (in comparison the USA grows 43), according to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications. Flavio Finardi Filho, president of CTNBio, explains that agriculture has counted for 15% of the Brazilian GDP for the last 15 years, which has lead to tighter restrictions on importing foods that might affect their crops and food quality. 2016 U.S. government data shows there have been no exports to Brazil yet (3).
Other shipments that haven’t met these strict GMO standards have been rejected upon arrival, including a shipment of Argentinian corn that was held for one week and eventually allowed on shore after extensive negotiations and authentication. All imported GMO crops are carefully segregated and inspected.
Neri Geller, the agricultural policy secretary at the Agriculture Ministry, confirmed that while the USA may be very interested in selling to Brazil, “a formal request hasn’t been made to the Agriculture Ministry yet”.
Brazil’s National Technical Commission for Bio-Safety (CTNBio) hasn’t received any formal importation requests just yet, nor have they been made aware of shipment refusals.
Even though their government is taking a stand, citizens feel like there is more still to be done: Female Members of the Landless Worker’s Movement went so far as to destroy samples of carcinogenic pesticides from a GMO lab.
And it’s not for nothing: 19 E.U. countries have banned the growth and importation of GMO crops. Other countries, like Russia, have banned all GMO crops originating from the United States.
Other groups, like the Brazilian Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Food Supply, believe that GMO crops are the future of the Brazilian economy due their ability to increase productivity, improve growing conditions, and reduce production costs.
But at what human cost?