Brazil is in the process of deciding whether to allow the planting of genetically modified (GM) crops, and many observers believe that its decision could play a big role in determining the future of GM technology worldwide. The U.S., Brazil, and Argentina together grow 80 percent of the world’s soybeans, a crop used in countless food products. If Brazil joins the U.S. and Argentina in enthusiastically embracing GM soybeans, it could become very difficult for consumers to avoid GM material in foods. It’s widely believed that a portion of Brazil’s soybean crop may already be modified, thanks to seeds smuggled in from Argentina. Meanwhile, pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca announced yesterday that within three years it will begin selling a GM strain of rice fortified with beta carotene that converts to vitamin A, and the company plans to give the rice away in the world’s poorest countries. Biotechnology critics appreciate the noble idea, but say that GM crops have not been adequately tested and may pose risks to people and the environment.