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May 7, 2012

New Course Aimed at Conventional Soybean Producers

Farmers in Mato Grosso that want to plant conventional soybeans (non-GMO) have another resource they can tap into. At the request of the Brazilian Association of Non-GMO Grain Producers (Abrange), the National Rural Learning Association is offering a course titled "Producing Non-GMO Soybeans". The goal of the course is to instruct farmers on the problems associated with conventional soybean production and how best to take advantage of opportunities in the market for conventional soybean production.

According to Abrange, 39% of the soybeans produced in Mato Grosso in 2011/12 were conventional varieties. In addition to being the largest soybean producing state in Brazil, Mato Grosso is also the largest conventional soybean producer as well. Conab estimated that the state planted 6.4 million hectares of soybeans in 2011/12 and that the total soybean production will be 20.4 million tons.

A segment of the consuming public prefers conventional soybeans over GMO soybeans especially in the European Union and in Asia. These consumers are willing to pay a premium for the high purity conventional soybeans.

Much of the course is devoted to explaining how to avoid cross-contamination with GMO soybeans. This is particularly important for farmers who may contract third parties for planting and harvesting activities. To guarantee that the conventional soybeans have not been contaminated with GMO varieties, the farmers must be extra careful during every step of the production including: choosing the area to plant conventional soybeans, thoroughly cleaning the planters and the combines before entering a conventional field, guaranteeing that storage and handling facilities meet the strictest standards concerning cross-contamination, and choosing a port facility with the same high standards.

Abrange contends that farmers could actually make more money by planting conventional soybean varieties because conventional soybeans do not require paying a royalty to the seed company and there is a premium in the market for conventional varieties of approximately US$ 0.50 per bushel. The advantage of GMO soybeans is that they offer more flexibility at the time of planting by allowing farmers to control weeds by applying Roundup herbicide virtually at any time after planting. One of the concerns farmers have about using GMO soybeans exclusively has been the development of weeds that are resistant to Roundup herbicide. Conventional soybean producers can use a variety of herbicides which helps to avoid that problem.

Most of the conventional soybeans are grown in the western part of the state because those soybeans can be exported out of Brazil using ports on the Amazon River thus avoiding potential cross-contamination issues.