BEIJING (Reuters) – Brazil’s agriculture minister will ask Chinese officials on Thursday to greenlight exports to the Asian nation of sugar made from genetically modified (GM) sugarcane, which is expected to be widely used in Brazil in coming years.
Minister Tereza Cristina Dias told Reuters in Beijing on Wednesday, on her first visit to Brazil’s top buyer of farm goods, that she would raise the GMO issue during a visit to China’s General Administration of Customs on Thursday.
Brazilian officials will make the case that the sugar has no traces of modified genes after the GM cane is processed, similar to soy oil made from GM soybeans.
“We export sugar and will export sugar made from GMO cane. The sugar itself is not genetically modified, so we’re going to explain about the scientific process and explain why sugar should not be considered by science as a GM product,” Dias told Reuters through a translator.
Brazil’s CTC (Cane Technology Center) developed the GM cane variety that is resistant to the cane borer, which could reduce pesticide costs.
Mills in the world’s largest sugar exporter are already testing the variety.
Brazil’s government has approved commercial use of GM cane, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has ruled that it is safe to consume sugar made from that cane.
“The production of these varieties will increase a lot in Brazil, so it’s something we need to discuss,” Dias said.
China has been slow in approving genetically modified foods in general. Last month, a Brazil agriculture ministry official complained that Chinese approvals take about five to six years, up from 240 days in 2010.
The minister said she would also raise the issue of 79 meat plants seeking approval to export beef, poultry, pork and other meat to China. Only 10 of them have been inspected by Chinese food quality officials to date.
“One thing we’re going to discuss is if it’s necessary to visit all plants or if they can select a sample,” Dias said.
She added that the ministry was building a new relationship with China’s customs administration which only recently took on the role of approving imports after a Chinese government shuffle.
Brazil is one of a few countries able to supply China with significant quantities of meat when it experiences a large drop in output of pork expected later this year due to the African swine fever outbreak, Dias said.
Reporting by Dominique Patton; Additional reporting by Marcelo Teixeira in Sao Paulo; Editing by Richard Chang