Brazil GMO planting to increase by 6.8% this season

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Brazil will increase the amount of land planted with genetically modified soy, corn and cotton by 6.8 percent this season to increase yields, local analytics firm Celeres said on Wednesday.

That is 0.4 percent less than the GMO crop expansion Celeres estimated in August and a smaller increase than the 14 percent growth from the 2011/12 to the 2012/13 crops.

About 91 percent of Brazil's soybean crop, which is likely to be the largest in the world when it is harvested early next year, has been planted with GMO seeds, Celeres said. That is up from 89 percent a year earlier.

Farmers are starting to plant a new variety of Monsanto soybean seeds developed specifically for South America: worm-resistant Intacta. China, which buys 70 percent of Brazil's soybeans, approved Intacta imports on June 10.

Monsanto Co estimates that 8 percent of soy seeds sold in Brazil for the 2013/14 season were Intacta. The U.S.-based company also continued to sell its herbicide resistant Roundup Ready soy seeds in Brazil this year.

The greatest jump in GMO planting occurred in cotton, with GMO planting increasing 35.7 percent from the 2012/13 season. Brazil's cotton fields were attacked by a new type of caterpillar, the helicoverpa armigera, earlier this year. It later spread to soy and corn fields, requiring farmers to invest more in pesticides.

"The intense caterpillar attack was the main reason for the significant increase in GMO cotton," the Celeres report said, adding that the jump occurred even though available cotton biotechnologies were not completely resistant to the pest.

Nearly 71 percent of the first of two annual corn crops planted in Brazil has been planted with genetically modified seeds, according to Celeres. China has recently approved imports of genetically modified corn from Argentina and Brazil, opening up a new export market for South America.

Biotechnology can increase production by enabling crops to withstand herbicides, resist pests and even become more drought-tolerant. But some countries, particularly in Europe, have sought to block imports of GMOs due to public health and environmental worries.

Celeres, based in the state of Minas Gerais, expects Brazil's 2013/2014 crop to produce a record 87.2 million tonnes of soybeans and 82.7 million tonnes of corn.

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