Syngenta fined over illegal GM tests in Brazil (22/3/2006)

MST says the activists will not leave the farm as they want the authorities to confiscate it from Syngenta.

Syngenta Appeals Brazil Fine, Farm Still Occupied
BRAZIL: March 23, 2006

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil - Syngenta Seeds said on Wednesday it has appealed a fine of 1 million reais (US$462,000) set by Brazil's environmental agency for planting genetically modified crops too close to a national park.

A spokesman for the unit of Switzerland's Syngenta AG also said the company expected hundreds of farmers occupying its farm next to the Iguacu park since last week to leave Wednesday as a court order demands.

On Tuesday, the government's Ibama environmental agency fined Syngenta for having about 30 acres (12 hectares) of transgenic soy plantings in the parks' so-called "amortization zone." The plantings were about 4 miles (6 km) from the park, while the allowed distance is 6 miles (10 km).

Ibama also requested court permission to destroy the plantings in the forbidden area.

"Syngenta is already appealing against Ibama's decision. Consultations with lawyers showed that the definition of contention area around the park is not fixed, while Syngenta followed all the legal process correctly," the spokesman said.

The company has denied any illegal tests, saying it follows all regulations of the National Technical Commission for Biosecurity (CTNBio), which oversees GMO issues.

Some 600 activists from La Via Campesina (Peasant Way), an international group allied with Brazil's militant Landless Peasants' Movement, occupied Syngenta's Santa Teresa do Oeste farm in the southern Parana state to "denounce the illegal activity of experimenting with transgenic seeds in the area."

The act, which started eight days ago, coinicides with an international meeting on biodiversity this week in the same state. The meeting is discussing GMO biosecurity among other issues.

Syngenta last week obtained a court order giving the peasants five days to leave the farm.

"Today's the last day. The company expects a peaceful outcome with the justice's order being fulfilled," the spokesman said, adding that Syngenta employees had been barred from working at the farm, abandoning research.

"A lot of the research there is with conventional materials, a fruit of 20 years of work," he said.

MST says the activists will not leave the farm as they want the authorities to confiscate it from Syngenta. Police, who normally have to intervene to fulfill court rulings in such cases, said they had not yet received any orders.

Land invasions are common in Brazil, mainly to demand that the government speed up the distribution of public land for settlement of poor peasants.

Earlier this month, activists in Rio Grande do Sul state ransacked a tree nursery of Brazilian pulp and paper company Aracruz, destroying part of a research lab.

Story by Andrei Khalip

Greenpeace reaction to Syngenta fine
March, 22 - 4:05 PM

Geneva. Greenpeace today welcomed the decision of the Brazilian Environment Protection Agency IBAMA to fine Swiss Agro-Biotech multinational Syngenta one million reais (386 000 euros) for conducting illegal field trials of GE soy in a buffer zone around the Iguacu Falls World Heritage Site.

The organization is confident that a judicial order for the destruction of the genetically engineered plants will also be issued in due time. IBAMA' s decision was announced today at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) taking place in Curitiba, Brazil.

"This decision 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 International's Doreen Stabinsky from the field site.

"The announcement is right on the mark and makes a mockery of Syngenta's denial last week that it had acted illegally. It confirms the legitimacy and necessity of the occupation of the field by local peasants."

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. Syngenta's GE soy field trials were found six kilometers from the park, however national law requires a buffer zone of at least ten kilometers.

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