Genetically modified varieties catch on in Brazil, to 78.5 million acres

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SAO PAULO, Brazil — Brazil’s area sown with transgenic varieties in the 2011/12 harvest will be 20.9 percent greater than in the last harvest, according to the second crop biotechnology adoption monitoring report for the 2011/12 season, released recently by Celeres.

According to the forecast, crops with transgenic soybeans, corn and cotton should add up to 31.8 million hectares (78.55 million acres) during this cycle — a new record for the adoption of biotechnology in national agriculture.

The survey considers the recent favorable outlook during the period between deciding what to plant and the start of planting, and even exceeds the initial forecasts of Celeres itself, which in August estimated the area occupied by transgenic crops in the current cycle at 30.5 million hectares.

Mostly beans

Soybeans continue to account for the greater portion of this area: There will be 21.4 million hectares, or 52.9 million acres, cultivated with genetically modified (GM) varieties in the harvest, an increase of 16.7 percent over the previous harvest.

The area with GM cotton will also be greater, and should come to 469,000 hectares, an increase of 32.2 percent over the previous harvest.

Corn increase

Corn varieties with combined gene technologies are also advancing rapidly.

In the case of corn, the overview takes into consideration both the summer harvest, which should be planted before January 2012, as well as the winter harvest, for which work should begin only in March.

The numbers for this crop have not yet been determined, but Anderson Galvao, managing partner of Celeres and coordinator of the study, believes the trend is also toward a significant increase.

In the sum of the two harvests, with two thirds (67.3 percent) of the total area planted with corn in Brazil to be occupied by GM hybrids, on a total of 9.9 million hectares (24.5 acres) — an increase of 32 percent over the 2010/11 period.

The summer harvest should occupy 4.9 million hectares, or 45.4 percent of the total space occupied by corn, which represents 1.5 million hectares more than in the 2010/11 summer harvest.

According to Celeres, the new development in the case of transgenic corn is the rapid adoption of varieties with combined gene technologies (or stack genes, hybrids with resistance to insects and tolerance for herbicides), which began to be sold this year.

The insect-resistant hybrids are still leading, and should occupy 4.9 million hectares, but the varieties with combined genes, expected to occupy 4.4 million hectares in 2011/12, should constitute the largest part in the crops for the next sequences, both for the 2011/12 winter harvest as well as for all of 2012/13.

Few restrictions

In Galvao’s view, it should also be noted that there are practically no commercial restrictions on the growing of genetically modified corn.

“The geographic dispersal in the adoption of biotechnology for corn growing is an indication of this trend,” he observes.

But, he added, “we still need public policies that facilitate access to biotechnology for small producers in these regions, underscoring the potential for income improvement.”

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