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2-Plants: Paraguay farmers opt for banned GM soybean seeds

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TITLE:  Paraguay farmers opt for banned GM soybean seeds
SOURCE: Reuters, by Peter Blackburn
DATE:   Jan 14, 2003

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Paraguay farmers opt for banned GM soybean seeds

GOLONDRINA, Paraguay - Farmer preference for illegal genetically modified 
(GM) soybean seeds will force Grupo Espirito Santo (GES), a top Paraguay 
agribusinesses, to stop producing conventional seed this year, a senior 
company official said.

Farmers in Paraguay, Latin America's No. 3 soybean exporter, prefer GM 
soybean seeds because they cut production costs by an estimated $20 to $40 
per tonne since there's a reduced need to spray costly imported herbicides.

"Selling conventional soybean seeds has become a problem. We shall have to 
stick to soybeans," Luis Arrellaga, GES Director General for Paraguay, told 
Reuters during a recent visit to its farm in the country's eastern region.

Sacks of unsold soybean seeds were stacked high in the farm's warehouse.

Industry sources said that Paraguay is waiting for neighbouring Brazil to 
give the green light for the commercial production of GM crops and would 
quickly follow its lead.

Meanwhile, the illegal planting of GM soybean seeds is rapidly increasing, 
they added. GM seeds are smuggled across the border from neighboring 
Argentina, where they are allowed.

Last year GES produced 9,000 tonnes of soybeans, from which 1,700 tonnes of 
seed were selected for commercial sale.

Seed prices were around $250 a tonne, two-thirds higher than those of 
soybeans, making seed sales highly attractive.

Soybean planting of the 2003 crop was virtually completed by the end of 
December, with recent rains favoring speedy crop emergence and raising 
prospects for a big harvest in March and April.

"Ninety-five percent of the soy area is drilled directly without any 
preparatory tillage so as to prevent soil erosion caused by the heavy rains 
we have here," Arrellaga said.

Rainfall averages 2,100 mm (83 inches) per year.

Favorable world prices prompted an increase in planting to 3,500 hectares 
(8,650 acres), from just under 3,000 ha in 2002.

Yields in recent years averaged 2.9 tonnes per ha, similar to those 
achieved in Brazil's Parana state, 110 km away (68 miles), Arrellaga noted.

Paraguay's soybean production is expected to rise to 3.6 million tonnes in 
2003 from 3.1 million tonnes in 2002 as more favorable rains boost yields.

Soybeans are Paraguay's main export earner and nearly 75 percent of the 
crop is exported via Brazil and Argentina.


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