Brazil – The Most Powerful of the Southern Cone Countries

Francisco A. Laguna

This week, we resume our series on the Southern Cone, focusing on Brazil. Brazil is the largest and most economically powerful of the Southern Cone countries and the members of Mercosur.

In 2012, Brazil was the 8th country in terms of GDP (purchasing power parity). It is the only Latin American country to be within the top 10. Of the BRIC countries, Brazil was the last of the group, falling behind China, India and Russia. The Brazilian Central Bank has just lowered estimated growth figures for 2013 to 3.03% despite increasing GDP numbers. In comparison with other Latin American countries, these numbers continue to be impressive.

Photo Credit: Jason Auch via Wikipedia Commons

Photo Credit: Jason Auch via Wikipedia Commons

Brazil realizes that to remain competitive, it has to encourage continued innovation of its vital sectors – including petroleum, biofuels and agriculture – and it must proceed with poverty reduction and increased health care for the working class and indigenous peoples. The country also knows that it must also develop sectors that have been traditionally lagging in Latin America, such as science and engineering. With the upcoming 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Rio Olympics, Brazil is actively seeking engineers and computer scientists, and it is promoting industries such as information technology. It is also working toward developing in-country expertise in such areas as biotechnology, including genetically modified organisms.

Photo Credit:  Armin Kübelbeck via Wikipedia Commons

Photo Credit: Armin Kübelbeck via Wikipedia Commons

An interesting collaboration between researchers in Brazil and the University of California at Davis that began in 2009 focuses on female goats engineered to include a human gene meant to trigger elevated production of lyzosyme, carried in their milk. Lyzosyme destroys the harmful bacteria that cause intestinal infections and diarrhea, and encourages the growth of beneficial bacteria. The goat milk is expected to protect against the types of diarrheal diseases that each year claim the lives of more than 2 million children around the world. The project’s potential global impact is dramatic and obvious. The project was funded with a US$ 3.1 million grant from Brazil’s Ministry of Science and Technology.

It is this type of cutting edge project that will keep Brazil in the list of the top-10 GDP countries. Not only does the project address pressing health needs among its own people, it provides Brazil with the platform to export biopharma innovations and perhaps spark foreign direct investment, including much-needed technology transfer, in developing countries. The country also knows that it must compete with China, which is doing the similar research with cows and which is a global leader in research on genetically modified foods.

Photo Credit: Agência Brasil via Wikipedia Commons

Photo Credit: Agência Brasil via Wikipedia Commons

Brazil, however, must work to streamline the vast and cumbersome bureaucratic regulatory structure that plagues both domestic corporations and foreign companies working in the country. At last year’s Brazil Roundtable, held during annual Bio conference, industry complained to Brazilian government representatives that they needed a more certain and less onerous framework that promotes and rewards innovation. This included more specific laws governing biotechnology and access to genetic patrimony as well as a more reasonable (at least more comprehensible) tax regime.

TransLegal works extensively in Brazil. With offices both in Sao Paolo and Brasilia, we help clients with issues related to accessing genetic samples under the Convention for Biological Diversity, the importation of products derived from genetically modified organisms, novel foods for humans and animals, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, and the use of genetically modified organism in industries such as biofuels and carbon recapture. Contact us with your questions about Brazil.

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