Agri Business

GM sugarcane trial planting set to take off in Brazil from Oct

M. R. Subramani Ribeirão Preto (Brazil) | Updated on November 15, 2017

Syngenta

sugar

Trial planting of genetically-modified (GM) sugarcane is likely to begin in October this year in Brazil.

The Switzerland-based agri-business firm Syngenta will carry out the trials after having developed the GM variety.

According to Mr Daniel Bachner, Global Sugarcane Head of Syngenta, the trials may last at least two harvests before the Brazilian authorities give permission for its commercial launch.

The genetically modified sugarcane was developed in the US by Syngenta. The variety is tolerant to herbicides, pests and the stem borer.

“The borer gets into the stem and starts eating the fibre. When sugarcane affected by the stem borer is crushed, it leads to problems during production of ethanol,” said Mr Bachner.

Clearance

In Brazil, the permission for conducting trials of GM crops and launching them commercially is given by the National Biosecurity Council. This bio-safety body is a single window clearance body that has scientists as representatives from various departments such as agriculture and environment. Even in the agriculture department, it has representatives drawn from various branches.

For Syngenta, dabbling in the genetically modified area is nothing new. It has launched GM corn and soyabean in the US, Argentina and Brazil.

According to available data, 80 per cent of corn grown in the US in 2010 was genetically modified. Argentina, Brazil, South Africa, the Philippines, Canada and six European Union nations grow GM corn.

GM soyabean accounts for 80 per cent of the total crop grown in the world. Its share in the US is as high as 93 per cent.

Growth potential

Syngenta sees sugarcane as one area where there is potential for growth.

According to industry experts, the rate of growth in sugarcane production has been the lowest in the last couple of decades compared with corn and soyabean.

“Production in corn has increased by three times since the 1980s, while soyabean production has gone up 2.5 times, whereas sugarcane production has grown only 1.5 times,” said Mr Bachner.

Also, investments in sugarcane have been low compared with other crops.

These aspects are seen holding promise for higher investments in sugarcane in the future.

“Investments in the sugarcane sector have been only by farmers in equipment and labour,” said Mr Andre Pessoa, a consultant with Brazil-based Agroconsult.

(The trip is sponsored by Syngenta)

> mrsubramani@thehindu.co.in

Published on June 18, 2012

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