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Case Study: Brazil
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Edison Liu
Steve Holtzman
Corey Goodman
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Editor's Letter



The hazards of hitching plans to GMO fears.

The Case: While the United States quibbles with Europe and China over whether or not they will agree to import its genetically modified crops, Brazil has cashed in on its GMO-free image and could displace the United States as the world�s leading soybean exporter. But recent economic pressures have added transgenic seeds to the mix. How long will Brazil sit atop the beanstalk?

The lowly soybean has come a long way. Twenty years ago, it was an also-ran in the multibillion-dollar global grain trade. Today, thanks to its growing status as a health food and the fact that it is a versatile additive for processed foods and animal feed, the saucer-shaped bean is the now the third-most-exported food in the world, after corn and wheat. Brazil has come a long way, too. Better known for its beef than its beans, the country was just a runner-up in the global soybean trade until recently.

About a decade ago, Brazilian farmers began to sow their fields with soybeans. In a nation where global ambitions were strong, and the currency weak, soybeans became one of the most reliable economic forces driving Brazil�s otherwise perpetually unstable gross domestic product. “Brazilian farmers saw an opportunity in soybeans and they grabbed it,” says Helen Pound, a grain-futures expert for Goldenberg, Hehmeyer & Company, a grain-futures clearing agent. Farmers in Brazil had the added benefit of cheap, fertile land. “Farmers can buy seed with low-value Brazilian reals and sell the crops that come from it for high-value dollars,” she says.

Events in 2000, not of Brazil�s doing, ultimately put the nation on top of the global soybean trade. That year, consumers and bureaucrats worldwide, most noticeably in Europe, Japan, and Africa, began to reject genetically modified organisms over concerns that genetically altered seeds could sprout health and environmental hazards, and fears surfaced that GMO farmers in the U.S. could hold the world�s food supply in a tight grip. Brazil proclaimed itself the natural alternative.


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