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February 7, 2013

GMO Soybeans Gaining Acreage in Western Mato Grosso

The barging facilities located along the Madeira River in the state of Rondonia (one public port and one private port) had been the principal driving force behind the persistence of conventional soybean production (non-GMO) in western Mato Grosso. Those ports were designated as GMO-free facilities until two years ago and they were the closest export facilities to the soybean production in western Mato Grosso. The combination of lower transportation costs to the ports and premiums being offered for conventional soybeans gave confidence to farmers in western Mato Grosso to continue growing conventional soybeans.

Two years ago the ports along the Madeira River changed their policies to allow GMO soybeans to pass through their facilities and as a result, the farmers in western Mato Grosso have greatly increased their production of GMO soybeans. Three years ago, only 10% of the soybeans produced in western Mato Grosso were GMO, but during the 2012/13 growing season, GMO varieties now represent 50% of the production in western Mato Grosso.

The ports along the river have the capacity to barge 4.5 million tons of soybeans per year with 4 million tons originating in western Mato Grosso. New grain terminals are being constructed just outside the city of Porto Velho which will nearly double the capacity of all the ports along the river. From the city of Porto Velho, the soybeans are barged to the Port of Itacoatiara on the Amazon River where they are transferred to ocean going vessels bound for customers in Asia and Europe. Now that both conventional and GMO soybeans flow through the ports, future shipments of conventional soybeans through the port may have to be containerized in order to maintain the integrity of the soybeans.

Farmers in western Mato Grosso continue to plant earlier maturing soybeans in order to allow enough time to plant a second crop of corn or cotton, but the earlier maturing soybeans increases the potential for weather related crop damage. These early maturing soybeans are generally harvested during January and early February, which is the peak of the rainy season. Heavy rains in January and February, such as what is occurring this year, can result in harvest delays, poor seed quality, and lower yields.