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Syngenta already markets Agrisure GT (glyphosate tolerance), Agrisure CB/LL (season-long corn borer control with Liberty (glufosinate) herbicide tolerance and Agrisure GT/CB/LL (stacked traits). MIR604 is one of a number of new products in development. Many other innovative stacks are expected to follow (www.agrisuretraits.com).

IBAMA FINES SYNGENTA

The Brazilian environment protection agency IBAMA has fined Syngenta one million reais ($462,000) for conducting illegal GM field trials. It said that national law in Brazil expressly prohibits the planting of GMOs in conservation areas as well as buffer zones around those areas, based on the precautionary principle. The action follows a protest by at least 300 farm labourers who camped out recently at a  research farm owned by Syngenta in Santa Teresa do Oeste, Paran. The members of the international La Via Campesina group (www.viacampesina.org) broke down the gate and set up tents to publicise their claim that Syngenta Brazil was illegally experimenting with genetically modified soy and corn. At the time Syngenta denied breaking any laws and said that it was in a dialogue with the authorities and would consider taking appropriate legal action against the protesters. La Via Campesina said that an inspection by Brazil's environmental agency IBAMA found GMO seeds planted closer to the Iguacu National Park than permitted by law. IBAMA confirmed that 30 acres (12 hectares) of Syngenta's transgenic soy plantings were about four miles (6 km) from the park, while the allowed distance is six miles (10 km).

"The decision to fine Syngenta sounds a clear warning to agro-biotech firms intent on putting economic interests ahead of biosafety and enforces respect for biodiversity and protected areas," said Greenpeace. The organisation is confident that a judicial order for the destruction of the genetically engineered plants will also be issued in due time. "Syngenta is already appealing against the IBAMA’s decision. “Consultations with lawyers showed that the definition of the area in contention around the park is not fixed, and that Syngenta followed all the legal processes correctly," a spokesperson said. The company has denied any illegal tests, saying it follows all the regulations of the National Technical Commission for Biosecurity (CTNBio), which oversees GMO issues. IBAMA's decision was announced at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity where delegates from 132 countries were attending a United Nations sponsored international biosafety conference in Curitiba, Brazil. Delegates were discussing the Cartagena Protocol, a 2003 agreement that deals with the transport, handling and use of genetically modified living organisms (GMOs). The protocol also establishes rules for international commerce involving these products.

MORE PROTESTS AGAINST SYNGENTA

More than 40 leaders from potato producing communities in the Andean region of Peru met in the Sacred Valley in Cusco to sign a strongly-worded letter to Sygenta regarding GM potatoes. They say that Syngenta's patent (US Patent 6,700,039) is of particular concern because it describes a technology that could be used to prevent the sprouting of potatoes, unless they are treated with chemicals supplied by the company. Genetic Use Restriction Technology (GURT) known as "terminator” technology would mean that patented plants are genetically-modified to switch off seed fertility. Local farmers would then be prevented from saving and reusing terminator type seeds and storage organs such as potato tubers. People fear that it would destroy the sharing of seeds, a centuries-old tradition, and with it their cultural and social way of life. Alejandro Argumedo, Associate Director of the Quechua-Aymara Association for Nature and Sustainable Development, said: "We want the big companies like Syngenta to show corporate social and environmental responsibility.”

An international moratorium under the Convention on Biological Diversity has stopped the field testing and commercial use of terminator technology since 2000. GURTS, however, have been in the news again because the United Nations Council on Biological Diversity recently met in Granada, Spain to discuss the issue and has since been tabling its recommendations to a larger forum in Curitiba in Brazil. African nations along with India, Pakistan, Egypt, Norway and the Philippines want to ban field trials and the commercial application of GURTS. However, the majority including countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Brazil and Canada want to relax the UN's biosafety regulation. They say that a precautionary approach is needed along with case-by-case risk assessment.

31 March 2006                           © Market Scope Europe Ltd                          www.crop-protection-monthly.co.uk

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