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December 21, 2012

Use of GMO Crops Continues to Increase in Brazil

Farmers in Brazil continue to plant more hectares of GMO crops every year including soybeans, corn, and cotton. According to the consulting firm Celeres, nationwide there will be 37 million hectares of GMO crops grown in Brazil in 2012/13, which represents an increase of 14% compared to the previous growing season.

There are more hectares of GMO soybeans grown in Brazil than any other crop and the 2012/13 soybean crop in Brazil is estimated to be approximately 89% GMO varieties. The state of Mato Grosso is the largest grain producing state in Brazil and it also accounts for the largest share of GMO crops as well. The soybean crop in the state is expected to be 80% GMO in 2012/13, which is up 10% from the 70% of the crop that was GMO last growing season.

The state of Parana is the second leading grain producing state and the planting of GMO crops increased 6% year-on-year in the state. The acreage of GMO varieties increased from 6.4 million hectares planted in the state during the 2011/12 growing season to 6.8 million hectares in 2012/13. The soybean crop in Parana is approximately 84% GMO varieties.

The second largest use of GMO technology in Brazil is with corn and farmers are adopting the technology as fast as the seed supply becomes available. The corn crop in Mato Grosso for example is expected to be 90% GMO in 2012/13. The insect resistant traits offered by GMO hybrids are very attractive to farmers in Brazil because of the heavy insect pressures due to the tropical climate. Brazilian farmers routinely apply several insecticide applications per growing season on all their crops so these new traits can represent significant cost savings.

The use of GMO corn hybrids has been one of the driving forces behind the increased corn productivity in recent years in Brazil. It has encouraged the expansion of corn production into central Brazil where most of the corn is planted as a second crop following soybeans.

The third major GMO crop in Brazil is cotton and nearly all the cotton grown in Brazil are GMO varieties.

While GMO crops offer Brazilian farmers alternatives in their crop management, they also can result in new challenges due to the emergence of herbicide resistant weeds. Roundup resistant pigweed has become a concern in various regions of Brazil forcing farmers to do more crop rotations and using different mix of herbicide to control the weed.