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Brazil police checking crops for transgenic soybeans

(Friday, Feb. 14, 2003 -- CropChoice news) -- Reuters: PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil -- Federal police in Brazil's No. 3 soy state are collecting crop samples in an inquiry into the illegal cultivation and sale of genetically modified soybeans, while the government and courts try to define Brazil's policy on transgenics.

A spokesman for the police in the soy town of Passo Fundo, in the north of Rio Grande do Sul state, said that samples taken on Wednesday at the Triticola de Getulio Vargas and Triticola de Erechim cooperatives would be submitted to a laboratory for testing.

The testing was requested by a federal public prosecutor in northern Rio Grande do Sul and police said they already have eight producers in line for indictment.

Juarez Merchant of the prosecutor's office said, "We called for the testing because they estimate 80 percent of the farming here is transgenic. If there is all that soy planted, we need to control it." To plant or sell GM crops without authorization from the government's commission of biotechnology, the CTNBio, is considered a crime according to Brazil's 1995 Biosecurity Law. The crime can carry a penalty of up to three years in prison, but when there is no prior record the sentence is often lessened to fines and community service time.

Merchant is working on 20 cases involving GM crops in Rio Grande do Sul. The investigation of individual producers, cooperatives and other links in the state's chain of soy production should be finished in 30 days.