September 14, 2016 / 6:26 PM / a year ago

Monsanto's Intacta GMO soy to expand 57 percent in South America

A trader works at the post where Monsanto Co. is traded on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., August 25, 2016.Brendan McDermid/File Photo

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - South American farmers are expected to sow 57 percent more area with Monsanto Co's second-generation, genetically modified soybean seed Intacta RR2 Pro in the new planting season which kicks off on Thursday, a company executive said on Wednesday.

Intacta, which tolerates the herbicide glyphosate and resists caterpillars, was planted on 14 million hectares in Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay in 2015/2016.

Farmers are expected to plant 18 million to 22 million hectares this season, Maria Luiza Nachreiner, head of South American soy operations, said in an interview before Monsanto announced it would accept a $66 billion takeover bid from rival Bayer.

"We have a positive outlook this crop," Nachreiner said.

Intacta will account for 31 percent to 38 percent of the planted area in Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay, up from 24 percent this season, she noted.

Monsanto does not release specific numbers about the area planted with its seeds in Brazil, the world's largest soybean exporter. For years, its Roundup Ready Soybeans dominated the regional GMO seed market, peaking in 2013/14 with 84 percent of Brazil's soybean area, according to data from local consultant Celeres.

Soon after, the company began offering Intacta soybeans, which have increased resistance to caterpillars. The insects have become a serious threat in the tropical growing regions of Brazil's center-west where no hard freezes help contain their populations.

Unlike Roundup Ready, Intacta is not expected to dominate the soy seed market because new options will soon be available, Nachreiner said. "In two years, there will be new companies with competing biotechnology. Roundup Ready never faced that scenario."

Monsanto recommends that farmers do not plant Intacta exclusively on their soy fields, but set aside 20 percent for a soy variety without caterpillar protection to attract the pests for farmers to control with insecticide.

Rivals Basf and Bayer recently got regulatory clearance and launched their own soy seed technologies in Brazil.

Nachreiner declined to comment on Bayer's planned takeover of Monsanto. The deal is expected to raise regulatory concerns about the companies' dominant positions in some of Brazil's seed markets.

Writing by Reese Ewing; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Richard Chang

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