Argentina's Bioceres to expand GMO wheat sales via seed marketers

As war, drought hit global crops, Argentina gambles on GM wheat

By Maximilian Heath

BUENOS AIRES - Argentine biotech firm Bioceres will expand sales of its HB4 wheat seeds, which harness the power of genetically-modified organisms (GMO), to dozens of seed companies to boost future sales of the drought-tolerant product, Bioceres said on Thursday.

The announcement to partner with additional seed multipliers, companies that sell seeds to farmers but do not develop new varieties themselves, marks an advance for the adoption of Bioceres' proprietary HB4 wheat.

In 2020, Argentina became the first country in the world to approve the HB4 variety.

The South American agricultural powerhouse is a top global wheat exporter, although production for the 2022/2023 harvest suffered a 50% drop in expected output compared to last season due to historic drought conditions last year and earlier this year.

While HB4 wheat has been distributed in Argentina via private deals between farmers and Bioceres, ramping up sales to farmers from the shelves of seed multiplier companies would likely boost the spread of the biotech product.

The sales plan will include a group of 45 seed multiplier firms, Bioceres Chief Executive Officer Federico Trucco said in the company's latest earnings report.

That translates to a significant expansion from last season when there were only three seed multiplier companies authorized to work with HB4 seeds.

Planting for Argentina's 2023/2024 wheat season will begin in the next few weeks.

In March, Bioceres got the green light from Brazilian officials to market its HB4 wheat. The company has also developed a soybean variety of GMO HB4 brand, which previously gained approval in Brazil.

"Our soybean program in Brazil is advancing steadily with an initial set of varieties tested by farmers in five states, with at least one variety consistently outperforming leading commercial alternatives," said Trucco.

Bioceres said it also seeks to increase the area planted with HB4 soybeans in Brazil to 10,000 hectares in the 2023/2024 season, the report added.

(Reporting by Maximilian Heath; Writing by Carolina Pulice; Editing by David Alire Garcia and Leslie Adler)