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September 26, 2011

Brazil Farmers Experimenting with Second Generation GMO Soy

As farmers in Brazil start to plant their 2011/12 soybean crops, 500 producers in Brazil will be planting a second generation GMO soybean varieties that are not only resistant to Roundup Herbicide, but they are also resistant to some of the leaf eating worms that afflict Brazilian soybean production. These new soybeans have been called by many as BT soybeans in reference to BT corn that is also resistant to many insects.

The new soybean varieties have been authorized to be planted in Brazil for research purposes, but Monsanto has not released them to the general public because they have not yet been approved by major importing countries such as China or Japan. If everything goes according to the company's schedule, the new soybeans will be widely available for planting in the 2012/13 growing season. The 500 producers, who each will plant less than a hectare of the soybeans, will help Monsanto evaluate the viability of the new technology.

These new soybean varieties are not resistant to all the leaf eating worms in Brazil and farmers will still need to apply some insecticides, but less frequently than in the past. These soybean varieties will also require the farmers to plant 20% of their acreage as a refuse. In other words, for every 100 hectares of these soybean varieties planted on a farm, 20 hectares of conventional soybeans must also be planted as well. The refuse is planted to help prevent the insects from developing resistance to the new technology.

Insect resistance, as well as weed resistance to Roundup Herbicide, has become major issues with soybean farmers in Brazil as well as in the United States. To address these issues, Monsanto will release new soybean varieties in the United States in 2013 that will also be resistant to Dicamba herbicide thus allowing producers to rotate herbicide to help control weeds resistant to Roundup. These new varieties are expected to be available in Brazil in 2017.

Approximately 75% of the soybeans grown in Brazil are herbicide resistant, but there are also been many Brazilian farmers who feel there will continue to be a market for conventional soybeans as well. With U.S. and Argentine soybean production nearly 100% GMO soybeans, Brazil is the only major producing country still capable of growing a significant amount of conventional soybeans.