South America Calling
Alastair Stewart South America Correspondent

Friday 06/06/14

Brazil's Lack of Refuges

Brazilian farmers have noted increased resistance to first-generation Bt technology in corn is on the increase.

And most researchers believe the irregular use of refuges has a significant part to play.

"Varieties that are still used in the U.S. and Europe simply aren't effective here anymore. We can't run through these technologies so quickly," said Richardt Tegnher, commercial manager at Braganca Agronegocios, which plants 55,000 acres in northern Mato Grosso.

Ag tech firms recommend farmers plant up to 20% of their area with non-Bt corn as a strategy to slow the growth of caterpillar resistance in this tropical farming environment where pests and disease are a huge threat.

But many simply don't seem to take the threat that seriously.

I travelled last week through Mato Grosso, speaking to a number of large producers and very few of them employed refuges. What struck me most was the offhand way in which many dismissed the idea.

Brazil started using Monsanto's Intacta RR2 Bt soybeans on a commercial scale last year, and farm leaders are concerned that the lack of refuges could mean it loses the technology quickly.

However, the sale of non-Bt seeds in a package with Bt seeds is prohibited under anti-trust rules. Some companies give away the non-Bt seeds, but often farmers don't use them anyway.

In the south of Brazil, there is greater awareness of the need for refuges, but that isn't the case in the Cerrado regions where ideas like "my neighbor plants a refuge, so I don't need to" remain strong. That's at odds with the increasingly professional administration of many of these farms.

With the lack of refuge becoming a serious issue, the Brazilian Agriculture Ministry is now looking to regulate the creation of refuges, adopting standards similar to those in the U.S.

(AG)

Posted at 4:01PM CDT 06/06/14 by Alastair Stewart
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