Brazil GMO planting to increase by 14 percent this season

Mon Dec 17, 2012 1:28pm GMT

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* GMO planting expands more than expected in August

* 89 pct of Brazil soybean crop is genetically modified

SAO PAULO Dec 17 (Reuters) - Brazil will increase the amount of land planted with genetically modified soy, corn and cotton by 14 percent this season from a year ago as it shoulders a growing share of the world's agricultural output, local analytics firm Celeres said on Monday.

That is more than the 12.3 percent expansion in GMO crops Celeres estimated in August. Brazilian farmers invested heavily in technology to increase productivity this season, particularly in soybeans.

Nearly 89 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.

Brazil's ability to boost output was especially important this season after the worst drought in 56 years caused serious damage to U.S. crops, pushing soy and corn prices to record highs in September, when Brazilian farmers started planting.

"The increase occurred mainly due to the favorable market prices for the 2012/13 harvest, as well as the availability of seeds adapted to producing regions," Celeres said in its report.

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.

With developing countries increasingly planting GMOs to feed a growing world population, it may become harder for Europe to stick to such restrictions.

The European Union in October approved the import of genetically modified maize produced by Syngenta AG for use in food and animal feed, clearing the way for more EU corn imports from Brazil.

Celeres, based in the state of Minas Gerais, expects Brazil's 2012/2013 crop to produce a record 79 million tonnes of soybeans and 75.62 million tonnes of corn. Analysts polled by Reuters expect an 81 million tonne soy crop and 70 million tonnes of corn from Brazil. (Reporting By Fabiola Gomes and Caroline Stauffer; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)