Monsanto soybean strain finds cool welcome from US growers, buyers

By Aerin Einstein-Curtis contact

- Last updated on GMT

©iStock.com/oticki
©iStock.com/oticki

Related tags: European union, International trade

Several US companies are set to reportedly reject a new strain of soybean from Monsanto as approval for import of the variety in the European Union lags.

The biotech, or genetically engineered, soybean strain Roundup Ready 2 Xtend offers the plant resistance to both glyphosate and dicamba herbicides, said Monsanto. Plant strains with one or the other of the two tolerances have already been approved by the EU and the combination variety did receive a positive scientific opinion from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in June of 2015.

However, a soybean variety carrying both traits has yet to be approved for import to the EU, the company said.

Several companies, including Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), have said they will not be accepting the product out of concern for the export market.

“The wide-scale planting of traits that are not approved by key importing countries has the potential to seriously diminish the competitiveness of American grain and feed exports, and can result in damages throughout the entire agricultural supply chain,”​ said Jackie Anderson, ADM spokesperson, in a statement provided to us. “Because of the importance of exports to American agriculture, ADM’s policy is not to accept any commodity that contains a trait until it is approved in all of our major export markets.”

The American Soybean Association (ASA) has been working with officials in both the EU and US to push for the approval, the group said. Commission action is considered possible after the EU standing committee meeting on May 18 and 19 to review reauthorization of glyphosate registration, the group told us.

However, the ASA also suggested farmers should discuss with their seed dealer or retailer the delivery of the product or the possibilities to exchange for other soybean varieties that could meet their needs.

Response details

The lack of EU approval means that the soybean variety fails to meet a requirement for accepted commodities, according to Anderson.

“In recent weeks, many of our farmer suppliers have been asking about Monsanto’s Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans because this trait stack still lacks EU import approval,”​ she continued. “Our policy has been clear – until this trait stack is approved by all major export markets (including the EU), we cannot accept it at our facilities.”

The company is rejecting the soybean variety because of the importance of the export market to feed crops grown in the US, she said. All the groups involved in the US export market from farmers to elevators, processors and exporters have to work together to ensure products delivered are acceptable to the intended market.

Additionally, Monsanto said last week that it is reducing its expectations for sales and use of the feed crop in the US for this year.

“Given the European Union approval delay, Monsanto now expects [it] to be on less than 2m acres in its first year of launch in the United States,” ​reported the company. “However, given the strong grower demand for the technology, the company still expects to be on two-thirds of the US soybean acres by 2019 and has plans in place to be on 15m US soybean acres in fiscal year 2017, assuming timely receipt of the remaining regulatory approvals.”

“Demand for Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans also remains strong as the company continues to await the European Union stack trait approval, which is in the final, administrative stage of approval and is expected to be completed in the near future,” ​it added.

The company announced​ that it altered the return policy for Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans and will waive some charges for farmers who cancel orders or want to trade in the variety for a different type of soybean.

Market disruption

Feed crops growers and feed or grain organizations have claimed​ that the commercial release of Vipterra corn strains that were approved in the US but not for import into China caused considerable damage to the US corn export market.

An ongoing lawsuit on the topic and involving many US corn and sorghum growers, along with ADM, Cargill and Syngenta is still progressing.

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