Francisco A. Laguna & Annapurna Nandyal
In this series, we have looked at the history of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and GM corps in India and Mexico. This week, we continue the discussion, focusing on Brazil.
Like India and Mexico, Brazil is a strongly agrarian society. Over 20% of the population is employed in agricultural activities, and, in 2012, agriculture represented US$ 110 billion of GDP, approximately 7% thereof. Major crops include cassava, maize, oranges, soybean and sugarcane.
Second only to the US, Brazil is one of the most important growers of biotech crops. In 2012, Brazil cultivated approximately 37 million hectares of commercial GM soybean, maize and cotton. This represents 21% of overall worldwide biotech production. Domestically, some 82% of the total yield of these 3 crops was genetically engineered.
As a whole, Brazil has not experienced the heightened level of opposition to GM crops felt by India and Mexico from farmers and environmental groups. Biotech crops are an economic and social reality in-country. In 2012, of the roughly 60 million hectares of arable land, an estimated 61% was used to grow GM products. The total land dedicated to cultivating GM crops increased by 21%. Some economists point out that increased yields, in part due to biotech traits, helped the country survive the global economic crisis better than its counterparts.
Brazil has a sophisticated and rigorous system for the approval of GM products. Brazil’s role as a major importer and exporter of agricultural and food products, as well as its sizeable biofuels industry, has forced it to develop progressive legislation concerning the cultivation and sale of GM products. Indeed, Brazil has one of the most advanced bodies of laws governing biosecurity. The country has relied heavily on the opinions of various international organizations concerning the safety of GMOs, including the World Health Organization, which has attested the safety thereof.
Brazilian Law 11.105, dated 24 March 2005, establishes safety regulations and mechanisms to supervise activities involving genetically modified organisms. The Law requires that all GMOs for human consumption and products derived therefrom be approved by, and registered with, the Comissão Técnica Nacional de Biossegurança – CTNBio (National Technical Biosecurity Council) before they can be imported into or sold in Brazil.
By the end of 2012, Brazil had approved various biotech traits: 1 for edible virus resistant bean; 9 for cotton; 18 for maize; and 5 for soybean. In 2011, GM crops accounted for US$ 2 billion in agricultural sales. As approvals increase, this number will also go up. Interestingly, the country has completed the sequencing of the sugarcane genome and is seeking to engineer it for insect resistance: a trait that will benefit both the sugar and the biofuels sectors.
Brazil has taken a steadfast and pragmatic approach to biotech crops and is rapidly expanding the cultivation thereof not only for food, but for animal feed and industrial use. Approval requirements are strict and close interaction with CTNBio is advised.
TransLegal works extensively in Brazil, assisting our clients in understanding the regulations governing GMOs for food, animal feed and industrial use. Our clients include biotechnology, food, feed and pharmaceutical companies. Call us with your questions concerning Brazil.