Pirate soybean seeds

Embrapa researchers point out the risks of acquiring seeds from this illegal trade and how to identify them

28.04.2021 | 20:59 (UTC -3)

Seeds, as the main raw material in an agricultural production system, must receive greater importance from any agricultural segment. The success of soybean farming depends on several factors, but, without a doubt, the most important of them is the use of high quality seeds, which is determined by the sum of physical attributes (pure seed, free from inert material and contaminants), genetic (seeds that are genetically pure and free from mixtures with seeds from other cultivars), physiological (seeds with high vigor and germination) and sanitary (seeds free from weed propagules and pathogens). The set of factors results in the production of plants with high agronomic performance, which have a higher productive potential.

According to data from Embrapa Agropecuária Oeste, the cost per hectare of soybean seed for grain producers in Mato Grosso do Sul, in the 2020/2021 harvest (in the Industrial Seed Treatment – ​​TIS model: seed + insecticide + fungicide + cobalt + molybdenum ) is R$254,25 for RR soybeans, R$375,90 for IPRO soybeans and R$330,00 for conventional soybeans, representing, on average, 8,75% of the total production cost. It should be noted that the cost of seed that goes through a TIS process can be 15% to 20% higher than that of seed without this treatment. In other words, producing quality seeds requires the adoption of specific technologies, it is not easy nor is it cheap.

Seeds must meet the quality and identity standards defined by Brazilian legislation and are produced by companies that comply with the provisions of the National Seed and Seedling Registry (RENASEM). When deciding to buy seed, the producer must look for a reputable supplier, who guarantees the supply of a product of known origin and high quality. In Brazil, the certified seed production system prevails, in accordance with current legislation. Its production fields must follow the norms and standards established by the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply (MAPA) for the cultivated species. In these two classes of seeds, quality is guaranteed by the adoption of minimum standards of germination, physical and varietal purity and health, required by production and marketing standards established and controlled by MAPA. Furthermore, large sums of economic and intellectual capital are also invested in research and technology to develop new varieties.

In an attempt to lower production costs, some producers choose to use their own seeds instead of certified seeds. This process is legal and provided for by the relevant legislation. However, there are some producers who sell such seeds, which, theoretically, should be produced for sowing purposes in their own production areas. This type of product is called “Pirate Seeds”, which are those that do not have any type of certification or guarantee of origin, do not go through adequate production, processing and storage processes, nor do they contribute to the collection of due royalties that would be used for research into improved cultivars and the development of the sector.

Its use harms Brazilian farmers, who are often deceived by the false promise of investing little to harvest a lot. From an economic point of view, the use of pirated seeds directly interferes with the loss of tax collection by the public authorities, both in the collection of royalties from the technologies used, and in taxes. In the medium term, they discourage genetic improvement programs for the species, impacting the production system in relation to its technological and economic independence.

Pirated soybean seeds have been gaining a worrying place in the agricultural sector. According to data from the Brazilian Association of Soy Seed Producers (ABRASS), it is estimated that 30% of all soy seed used in the country comes from the informal market, which includes personal use or for illegal sale, which characterizes the pirate seed. It is worth remembering that the producer who purchases pirated seeds, in addition to not having legal guarantees on the product, is also committing an illegal act.

The risks arising from purchasing seeds from this illegal trade are:

1) weeds: possibility of the presence of weed seeds in the lot, increasing their incidence in the field and making control difficult;

2) Contaminated seeds: many pirated seeds may be contaminated, contributing to the spread of seed-borne pathogens, resulting in epidemics in the field;

3) Pests: the use of pirated seeds contributes to increasing the spread of insect pests in crops;

4) Seeds from below vigor and germination: pirate seed generally does not emerge uniformly in the field, reflecting low vigor, which causes failures in crop establishment and reductions in crop productivity;

5) Cultivar mixtures: impairs management due to the difference in cycles;

6) Presence of clods and soil particles: source of dissemination of soil pathogens and nematodes;

7) Lack of legal guarantees: If a problem is found in the crop related to the quality of the seed, the farmer has no one to formally turn to, since pirated seeds are sold without any guarantee, origin or certification.

It is worth mentioning that this “false economy”, resulting from the use of pirated seeds, contributes significantly to the loss of revenue at the end of the harvest, directly impacting production costs, due to reduced productivity and increased costs in other crop items.

How to recognize a pirate seed? Pay attention to the following items.

1) Identification of Packaging: the following information must be described on the seed packaging: CNPJ, company name, producer certification and also the registration number in RENASEM (National Registry of Seeds and Seedlings), the validity of the seed quality tests, the batch number , germination or viability values ​​and batch purity. If this information is not found on the packaging, you will definitely be buying a pirated seed.

2) Tampered packaging: be suspicious if the packaging is damaged or opened, and check that it contains exactly the product you are purchasing. Reused packaging is also a common feature in the marketing of pirated seeds.

3) issue: It is the producer's right to have an invoice when purchasing the seeds, as it guarantees that he is not being deceived.

4) Mixture of cultivars and impurities: observe that there is no mixture of cultivars by the color of the seeds and their hila. Seeds from the same cultivar usually have the same color tendency. Pirated seeds can be mixed with inert materials, weed seeds, clods, stones and other soil particles, while certified seeds have low levels of impurities.

5) Neighbors/Friends: do not buy seeds from neighbors or friends, who produced the seeds for their own use. Always look for a reputable reseller and, if necessary, ask an agronomist if you have any questions.

6) purchase value: be suspicious if the seed you are buying is very cheap in relation to the market value.

Piracy negatively compromises national agriculture, causing losses that go far beyond financial issues. When buying a pirated seed, the one who loses the most is the farmer himself, since it is an illegal, risky process and will only bring harm to the entire agricultural sector. Most pirated seeds come from saved seeds, which producers multiply for their own use and end up selling the surplus illegally. Therefore, buying seed from your neighbor is not a way of helping them. On the contrary, it harms those who sell and those who buy as well.

Selling and buying pirated seeds is a crime and may result in fines, according to current legislation, both under the cultivar protection law (nº 9456/1997) and the seeds and seedlings law (nº 10.711/2003).


Augusto César Pereira Goulart, Researcher at Embrapa Agropecuária Oeste, Dourados, MS

José de Barros França-Neto, Researcher at Embrapa Soja, Londrina, PR

Francisco Carlos Krzyzanowski, Researcher at Embrapa Soja, Londrina, PR

Mosaic Biosciences March 2024