Brazil farmers say GMO corn no longer resistant to pests
By Caroline Stauffer
SAO PAULO, July 28 (Reuters) - 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 Company , 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. Continuación...