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Biotech Crops Expand 8.1% as Brazil Farmers Plant More Soybeans

Global genetically modified crop plantings rose 8.1 percent last year as Brazilian farmers grew more herbicide-tolerant soybeans while their U.S. counterparts raised more biotech corn and cotton, a non-profit group said in an annual report.

The aggregate planted area grew to 160 million hectares (395 million acres) from 148 million hectares in 2010, the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications said in the report published today. The ISAAA works to alleviate hunger and poverty by sharing crop biotechnology, according to its website. It’s funded by governments, foundations and companies including Monsanto Co., the world’s biggest seed company.

Biotech plantings have risen every year since their introduction in 1996, the U.S.-based group said. Developing countries boosted plantings 11 percent in 2011 and matched biotech plantings in industrialized countries for the first time, the ISAAA said. Modified crops were grown by 16.7 million farmers in 29 countries last year, it said.

Soybeans are the most popular biotech crop, with 82 percent of the worldwide crop last year engineered to tolerate applications of St. Louis-based Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, according to the report. At least 68 percent of all cotton was modified to tolerate Roundup or produce Bt protein, a naturally occurring insecticide, the ISAAA said. Almost one-third of corn was engineered to tolerate herbicide or kill insects, it said.

U.S. Record

The value of engineered seeds climbed 13 percent to $13.3 billion, accounting for 35 percent of the $34 billion commercial seed market, the ISAAA said, citing biotech consultant Cropnosis.

The U.S. accounted for 43 percent of global biotech plantings with a record 69 million hectares, 3.3 percent more than in 2010, the largest increase outside Brazil, the ISAAA said. Biotech corn plantings increased by 2 million hectares in the U.S. and cotton added 1 million hectares, while biotech soybeans dropped 1 million hectares.

Brazil planted 30.3 million hectares of engineered crops, a 20 percent increase, as farmers planted more biotech soybeans and corn. Brazil is benefiting from Chinese demand and a regulatory system that is accelerating approvals, the ISAAA said. Brazil in September approved a virus-resistant soybean, the first biotech crop developed by a public institution in a developing nation, according to the report.

Argentina planted 23.7 million hectares of modified soy, corn and cotton. India remained the fourth-biggest biotech crop grower with 10.6 million hectares of insect-resistant cotton, the report said.

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