August 20, 2012 / 7:00 PM / 6 years ago

Paraguay bets on genetically modified soy, corn

* South American country to OK new seeds before year end

* Paraguay world’s No. 4 soy exporter, demand seen growing

ASUNCION, Aug 20 (Reuters) - Paraguay will approve Monsanto’s genetically modified Roundup Ready 2 soybean seeds before the end of this year along with new corn technology aimed at improving the country’s competitiveness as a grains exporter, a state official said.

Paraguay collected 4.3 million tonnes of soy in the 2011/12 season, during which yields were reduced by drought. The South American country expects its soy output to jump to 8 million tonnes in the 2012/13 season, thanks in part to the new seeds, according to Agriculture Ministry trade chief Santiago Bertoni.

“Roundup Ready 2 is 90 percent there,” in terms of being approved for sowing in Paraguay, Bertoni said, predicting that the official OK will be granted in time for farmers to use the new technology when this year’s planting starts in October.

“With this step we will improve the technology balance between ourselves and other countries, improving our ability to compete,” he added. “The 2013 harvest will include fields planted with these seeds.”

As a soy exporter, Paraguay comes in a distant fourth after powerhouse suppliers such as the United States, Brazil and Argentina. With global food demand expected by the United Nations to double by 2050, grains-producers are exploring genetically modified technology in a bid to maximize profits.

Paraguay is also headed toward approving corn technology from Monsanto and Dow Chemical, Bertoni said.

Some environmental groups have raised concerns about genetically modified, or GMO, foods and have accused agribusiness of pursuing profit without concern for possible environmental and human health hazards.

But supplier nations are eager to use new technology to maximize farm profits, and tax intake from the sector, as a way of bolstering their finances against fallout from Europe’s debt crisis and global economic sluggishness.

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