The Swiss agrochemicals giant Syngenta is trying to prevent the expropriation of a farm used for testing transgenic seeds in Brazil.This content was published on January 31, 2007 - 10:33
The state government of Parana confiscated the 123-hectare property near the famous Iguaçu waterfalls last November after officials claimed the firm's research into genetically modified (GM) soya bean and corn was illegal.
In a statement, Syngenta said the local authorities wanted to transform the property into an educational center for environment-friendly agriculture.
The company asked a state court in Parana for an injunction to stop the expropriation, saying it wants to continue research at the site and claiming that there are better locations for the educational centre.
Several hundred small farmers and peasants from the Via Campesina movement opposed to biotech crops developed by Syngenta invaded the farm in March last year and camped there to publicize their claims that the firm was conducting illegal research into genetically modified soy and corn crops.
Syngenta was subsequently hit with a SFr600,000 ($461,000) fine in Brazil imposed by the country's environmental agency, Ibama, for planting transgenic seeds close to a protected nature reserve.
Ibama said the company broke the law by planting 30 acres of transgenic soy six kilometres from Iguaçu National Park, inside a ten-kilometre exclusion zone.
Basel-based Syngenta strongly denied any wrongdoing, claiming the GM crop was outside the protected area.
The company stressed that it had all the necessary legal permits from the National Technical Commission for Biosecurity for its experiments. It has said in the past that it is the victim of a power struggle between the commission and Ibama.
Syngenta is one of Brazil's top agrochemical retailers, and a leading researcher into genetically modified crops.
swissinfo with agencies
Basel-based Syngenta is a world leader in crop protection and ranks third in the high-value commercial seeds market.
The company reported strong profit growth for 2005 – up 25% to $779 million (SFr1 billion).
Sales for 2005 were approximately $8.1 billion.
For the first nine months of 2006 sales were 1% lower at $6.61 billion.
Syngenta employs more than 19,000 people in over 90 countries.
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