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January 24, 2011

Brazilian Farmers Plant Record Acreage of GM Crops

Brazilian farmers continue to rapidly increase their use of GM soybean, corn, and cotton varieties. According to the Celeres consulting firm, during the 2010/11 growing season, 76% of the soybean acreage, 53% of the corn acres, and about one third of the cotton acres were planted to GM varieties. Combining all three crops, 25.8 million hectares (63.7 million acres) of GM crops were planted in Brazil during the current growing season, which is a new record.

Of the three crops, soybeans were the first GM varieties to be authorized for use in Brazil. The National Commission on Biosecurity (CTNBio) first authorized GM soybean varieties to be used in Brazil during the 2000/01 growing season. GM soybean varieties had been used in the state of Rio Grande do Sul for a decade prior to that. Though it was widely known for many years, the use of these GM soybean varieties was not officially sanctioned by the government until the 2000/01 growing season.

Mato Grosso is the largest soybean producing state, yet the rate of adoption of this technology in the state trails Brazil as a whole. The reason for the slower adoption of GM varieties in Mato Grosso is due to the fact that some conventional soybean varieties continue to outperform some of the newer GM varieties. Additionally, some soybean producers in Mato Grosso continue to grow conventional soybeans because they feel that there will continue to be a market for conventional soybeans especially among their Europeans customers.

GM corn has been the crop most quickly adopted by the farmers in Brazil. The government authorized the use of GM corn hybrids just three years ago during the 2008/09 growing season and already more than half the corn grown in Brazil is GM. As new GM corn hybrids become available, the percentage of the crop devoted to GM hybrids is expected to continue increasing.

Of the major crops grown in Brazil, cotton has the lowest percentage of GM varieties, but that is only because of the lack of available seed supply of GM varieties. As more GM varieties become available, the percentage is expected in increase quickly.

The number one reason why Brazilian farmers are so eager to adopt the GM technology is because these varieties lower their cost of production. In the cast of Roundup Ready soybeans, farmers can economize on herbicide applications. In the case of corn and cotton, the cost savings are the result of reduced insecticides applications.