Brazilian sugar mills looking to grow the world’s first variety of genetically modified (GM) sugarcane have planted an initial area of 400 hectares (988 acres), according to the research firm behind the project.
Developed by Centro de Tecnologia Canavieira (CTC) with Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) genes that make it resistant to the cane borer, around 100 mills are working with the GM cane, company Chief Executive Gustavo Leite told Reuters.
The cane borer is a widespread insect that costs Brazilian mills around 5 billion reais ($1.5 billion) per year in losses and insecticide expense.
Development of new sugarcane varieties is seen by experts as key to improving agricultural yields, reducing production costs, and increasing profit margins in an industry struggling with low global sugar prices.
Last year, Brazil approved the commercial use of CTC’s GM sugarcane, the first time such permission had been granted anywhere in the world.
Leite, a former Monsanto executive, said the company’s objective was to rapidly increase planting of the new variety in the next three years, targeting around 1.5 million hectares.
He also said that CTC has new GM products in the pipeline.
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