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November 15, 2011

2010/11 Brazilian Soybean Production 74% GMO

The Mato Grosso Institute of Agricultural Economics (Imea) estimates that 75% of the soybeans grown in the state in 2010/11were GMO soybeans and 25% were conventional. For the 2011/12 growing season, Imea is expecting that the percentage of conventional soybeans will increase slightly. The Brazilian soybean crop in general in 2010/11 was 74% GMO varieties.

In 1997, GMO soybeans were officially prohibited in Brazil, but many farmers in southern Brazil were already planting Roundup Ready soybean varieties brought in from Argentina. They wanted the new technology in order to reduce costs and add flexibility in managing their crop.

Obtaining permission to plant GMO soybeans was a lengthy and drawn out process, but in 2004, official authorization was given for the first time to plant GMO soybeans in Brazil and since then the technology has spread across the country.

After intense use of Roundup Ready soybeans and Roundup herbicide in Brazil, weed species resistant to the herbicide start to develop, similar to what has happened in the U.S. One of the most widespread resistant weeds in Brazil is fox tail which is starting to spread across the country. Monsanto recognizes the problem and has initiated a program of alternating herbicides in order to control the weeds.

One area of Brazil where Roundup Ready soybeans are not widely grown is in western Mato Grosso where conventional soybeans are holding their ground. Many farmers in western Mato Grosso continue to prefer to plant conventional soybeans for two reasons. First, conventional soybeans from the region can be exported out the Amazon River without fear of being mixed with GMO soybeans. As a result, a premium of approximately US$ 0.50 is being paid for by mainly European buyers for the conventional soybeans. Secondly, the climate of the region allows for the adequate control of weeds, avoiding the need for Roundup.

Embrapa has devoted more resources to the development of additional conventional soybean varieties because they feel there will continue to be a market for the seed and Brazil is virtually the only place where large amounts of conventional soybeans are still produced.