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Monsanto Sees Brazil Soy Seed Share Exceeding 80% on New Strain

Monsanto Co., the world’s largest seed company, expects planting of its genetically modified soybeans in Brazil to exceed 80 percent of the crop for the first time this year as it sells new varieties engineered for major producing regions.

“The varieties that best fit parts of the Center-West region are coming to market, and that will help us to expand our share,” Country Manager Andre Dias said in a phone interview from Sao Paulo on Feb. 16. Brazil’s Center-West produces 47 percent of the country’s soybeans.

Growers in Brazil, the world’s biggest producer after the U.S., increased the use of genetically modified seeds to 76 percent of the crop last year from 71 percent a year earlier and less than 1 percent five years ago, Belo Horizonte, Brazil-based research firm Celeres said in a Jan. 21 report. Monsanto seeds are currently the only biotech soybean varieties being sold in Brazil.

About 10 percent of Monsanto’s sales of $10.5 billion in the fiscal year that ended Nov. 30 came from Brazil, its biggest market after the U.S. The St. Louis-based company said last month that sales of soybean seeds and genetic licenses climbed 12 percent in the three months ended Nov. 30, compared with a year ago, driven by Latin American demand.

Roundup Ready soybeans are engineered to tolerate glyphosate-based herbicides, including Monsanto’s Roundup, the world’s best-selling weed killer.

Planting of biotech soybeans in Brazil may grow at a slower pace in coming years the market approaches its full potential, Dias said. “We are running very close to the limit,” he said.

Brazilian Caterpillars

In an effort to boost sales in Brazil in coming years, Monsanto plans to start selling new biotech soybeans that combat bugs and resist herbicides next year, said Marcelo Nishikawa, the Brazilian unit’s manager of soybean biotechnology. The beans are modified to tolerate glyphosate and to produce Bt, the insect-killing protein derived from Bacillus thuringiensis, a natural insecticide that kills caterpillars, Nishikawa told reporters in Pirassununga, Brazil on Feb. 15.

The Intacta RR2 Pro soybean was developed by Monsanto primarily for Brazil, as caterpillars are a plague common in the South American country, Dias said.

Monsanto has climbed 32 percent in New York trading in the past seven months, more than a 26 percent increase for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.

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