BRASILIA (AFP) - Brazil's National Biosecurity Council on Tuesday authorized the planting and sale of two types of genetically modified corn, angering some rural groups which consider them environmentally risky.
Science and Technology Minister Sergio Rezende said the decision by the 11 cabinet ministers making up the council "is the first approval for genetically modified corn in Brazil," according to the state news agency Agencia Brasil.
One of the varieties authorized was a pest-resistant crop called MON 810 by its maker, the US biotech company Monsanto, and marketed under the names Guardian and YieldGard.
It was officially banned in France last weekend amid concerns that it could have an effect on insects, a species of earthworm and micro-organisms.
The other variety was a type of corn made by the German group Bayer. It is resistant to one of Bayer's commonly used herbicides and is known as LibertyLink.
A Brazilian rural group, Via Campesina, reacted with fury to the announcement, saying it went against the advice of two governmental agencies: the health ministry's ANVISA health vigilance unit, and the environmental ministry's Ibama institute.
Via Campesina said in a statement that the companies behind the engineered corn had presented studies that were "completely inadequate and insufficient to guarantee the safety of these products in terms of human health."
It said it also feared the man-made seeds would contaminate natural crops, with unpredictable results for the environment.
The government, it said, had acted with "great irresponsibility" and it vowed to oppose the growing of the corn, starting with a demonstration.
Brazil has previously approved the use of two other genetically modified crops. In 2005, an insect-resistant cotton called Bollgard Evento 531 was authorized, along with a herbicide-tolerant soybean known as RR. Both are engineered by Monsanto.
The total corn production for Brazil this year is forecast to be 38.4 million tonnes, 5.8 percent more than for last year, according to official figures.