Brazil's Minister of Agriculture, Pratini de Moraes, today alleged pending suits in federal courts to justify his government's retreat on the promise made two weeks ago to authorize the planting of Monsanto's transgenic soybean, "Roundup Ready".

Ever since the Public Prosecutor's Office went to court to sue the minister over his declarations in favor of genetically-modified soybeans and his promise to authorize planting, Pratini has avoided commenting on the matter.

Today, before anouncing the government's 2001-2002 Farm Plan at a seminar on crop outlooks organized by the National Agriculture Confederation, he said that the release of transgenic soybeans is up to the National Technical Commission on Biosafety (CTNBio), and that all the Agriculture Ministry does is register seed varieties.

Court decisions have prohibited the planting of transgenic soybeans since 1999. Two weeks ago, the Agriculture Ministry argued that a Dec. 2000 executive decree (MP 2137) gave the CTNBio powers that would supercede those decisions, which have now returned to the Minister's agenda of outstanding problems.

Jane Miklasevicius, translator David Hathaway