By Matthew Harris
|Updated 5:56 PM ET August 14, 2000
SAO PAOLO (Reuters Health) - The Brazilian Institute of
Consumer Defence (ICD) this week called for an official
investigation to be launched after tests carried out on a range of
over 30 food products showed the presence of genetically modified
DNA in 11 of them. Several companies have been ordered by the
Centre for Sanitary Vigilance of the State of Sao Paulo to
withdraw their brands from supermarket shelves in response to the
The ICD, in partnership with Greenpeace and the Swiss
laboratory Interlabor Belp AG, found transgenic soya or corn, in
quantities of up to 10% of the contents of the food products. The
transgenic ingredient was not indicated on the labels of any of
the products, contravening state and federal law.
The tests used by the ICD included a polymerase chain reaction
test to detect, identify and then quantify transgenic DNA, such as
that of Monsanto's Roundup Ready and Novartis' Bt-11. The
transgenic DNA that was found in the food products was identified
as that of Roundup Ready in all cases.
The products that were found to be positive for the DNA
included Knorr's Sweetcorn soup, Bristol-Meyer Squibs' non-lactose
formula and Nestle's soya formula. The companies have been given
until the 16th of August to remove the products and provide
reports on the findings.
Meanwhile, the ICD has advised consumers to not buy products
from Argentina, Canada or the USA that are likely to contain soya
Despite a ruling by federal judge Dr. Antonio Prudente that the
use of transgenic products needs a full environmental impact
assessment before its introduction into the country, the Ministry
of Agriculture had earlier this year authorised the liberation of
The National Technical Commission on Biosecurity, which advises
the Ministries of Science and Technology, Health, Agriculture, and
Environment, had reported that the environmental impact studies
performed in the US had proven to be sufficient and that no
harmful effect has been indicated with their use in animal feed.
The Commission has not, however carried out an independent
assessment of the products. The dispute may be taken to the higher
courts, particularly the Supreme Justice Tribunal and the Supreme
Marilena Lazzarini, executive coordinator of the ICD, commented
in a press release Monday that "despite pressure from the
Government and Monsanto, reverting the decision of the courts will
not be possible. We hope that (the government and Monsanto) will
give up the irresponsible proposal of liberating transgenic
products into Brazil without the necessary evaluation of the risks
to humans and the environment."
Andrea Salazar, attorney to the ICD, declared that "these
decisions are founded in the law, which is very clear on this
matter (the necessity of an environmental impact assessment),
leaving little margin for interpretation."
A decision on the action to be taken against the companies
whose products contained the transgenic DNA is expected within the
next few weeks.