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Lifts ban, despite protests

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Brazil's lower house of Congress has lifted a ban on the sale and use of genetically-modified seed. The vote - considered a major victory for biotech giants such as Monsanto - was passed on Wednesday by a majority of 352 to 60, the New York Times reports.

The law will be signed within a fortnight by Brazil'a president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. He has twice issued temporary decrees allowing the planting of GM soya in the last two years, despite its illegality under Brazilian law and the protests of numerous members of his own party who are opposed to genetically modified crops.

The NYT notes that although Brazil was among the last major agricultural producers not to have "granted blanket permanent approval to the planting of genetically modified crops", farmers had been planting GM soya for years using seed smuggled in from Argentina.

The decision comes at the end of months of polemic over GM crops which saw farmers and scientists battling environmental and religious groups over the issue. The legislation will also allow research into human stem cells which have been frozen for more than three years. ®

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