(Adds Monsanto statement)
By Caroline Stauffer
SAO PAULO, July 28 Genetically modified corn
seeds are no longer protecting Brazilian farmers from voracious
tropical bugs, increasing costs as producers turn to pesticides,
a farm group said on Monday.
Producers want four major manufacturers of so-called BT corn
seeds to reimburse them for the cost of spraying up to three
coats of pesticides this year, said Ricardo Tomczyk, president
of Aprosoja farm lobby in Mato Grosso state.
"The caterpillars should die if they eat the corn, but since
they didn't die this year producers had to spend on average 120
reais ($54) per hectare ... at a time that corn prices are
terrible," he said.
Large-scale farming in the bug-ridden tropics has always
been a challenge, and now Brazil's government is concerned that
planting the same crops repeatedly with the same seed
technologies has left the agricultural superpower vulnerable to
pest outbreaks and dependent on toxic chemicals.
Experts in the United States have also warned about corn
production prospects because of a growing bug resistance to
genetically modified corn. Researchers in Iowa found significant
damage from rootworms in corn fields last year.
In Brazil, the main corn culprit is Spodoptera frugiperda,
also known as the corn leafworm or southern grassworm.
Seed companies say they warned Brazilian farmers to plant
part of their corn fields with conventional seeds to prevent
bugs from mutating and developing resistance to GMO seeds.
Dow Agrosciences, a division of Dow Chemical Co, has
programs in Brazil to help corn farmers develop "an integrated
pest management system that includes, among other things, the
cultivation of refuge areas," it said in an email.
Another company, DuPont, said it had not received any
formal notification from Aprosoja. The company's Pioneer brand
has been working with producers to extend the durability of its
seed technology and improve efficiency since Spodoptera worms
were found to have developed resistance to the Cry1F protein, it
said in a statement.
Monsanto Co also said in a statement that it has not
been formally notified by the group. The other company, Syngenta
AG, did not immediately respond to a request for
Tomczyk, who also spoke for Brazilian farmers during a
dispute over seed royalty payments to Monsanto that ended last
year, said Aprosoja encouraged the planting of refuge areas. But
he said the seed companies have not given clear instructions.
"There are barely any non-GMO seeds available ... it is very
uncomfortable that the companies are blaming the farmers," he
said. Aprosoja hopes to reach a negotiated agreement with the
seed companies, but if all else fails farmers may sue to get
reparations for pesticide costs, he added.
Brazil is harvesting its second of two annual corn crops and
expects to produce 78 million tonnes this crop year, slightly
less than last season's record. Domestic prices recently fell to
their lowest in four years because of abundant supplies.
($1 = 2.223 reais)
(Reporting by Caroline Stauffer; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and