EU Approves Traits

Xtend Trait Gains Critical Approvals

Pam Smith
By  Pam Smith , Crops Technology Editor
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The EU approval of the Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybean trait stack solves a critical market issue. DuPont Pioneer is one of the companies that commercialized the trait this year in hopes full import approvals would be granted. (DTN photo by Pamela Smith)

DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) -- The Soybean Belt's silos uttered a nearly audible sigh of relief Friday with the announcement of the European Union's acceptance of the dicamba-tolerant soybean trait stack known as Roundup Ready 2 Xtend.

The ruling removes a critical marketing uncertainty for the coming harvest. Monsanto, DuPont Pioneer and several other licensees sold the soybeans to farmers this spring without the import approval in place. Several major grain companies such as Archer Daniels Midland and Bunge Ltd. and some grain elevators had said they would not purchase soybeans grown containing the Xtend trait without EU approvals.

Jackie Anderson, ADM media relations, told DTN that ADM's policy is "not to accept grain or oilseeds that contain GMO traits that have not been approved in all of our major export markets."

"We understand that Monsanto's Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans received approval in the European Union today, and had previously received approval in our other major export markets. Accordingly, our grain elevators and processing plants are now permitted to receive these beans," Anderson said.

DTN Analyst Todd Hultman said the news solves a market access issue and also offers opportunity. "From a trade point of view, it is a relief for U.S. soybean producers that they will be fully able to take advantage of their current export advantage over Brazil without an unnecessary impediment in the flow of U.S. grain," Hultman said. "Soybean prices at the U.S. Gulf are currently 69 cents a bushel cheaper than at Brazil's ports, due to tight supplies in Brazil and are in good position to see increased exports in the rest of 2016."

The Xtend trait received Chinese import approvals in February, but without EU approval, some growers opted to abandon plans to plant the trait in 2016. Monsanto told DTN growers planted about 2 million acres of Xtend soybeans this year. Pioneer has refused to reveal acres planted. Both the dicamba (MON87708) and glyphosate (MON89788) trait components had been previously approved in the EU, but it was the stack that makes Xtend soybeans that lacked approvals.

St. Louis-based Monsanto said Friday it plans a full system launch in the United States and Canada in 2017 for the soybeans. The company has estimated it will sell enough seed to cover 15 million acres in the U.S. in 2017. Pioneer said it does not reveal acreage figures, but has a full pipeline of Xtend varieties waiting.

The EU also handed down approvals of two other biotech soybean traits for import and processing. Monsanto's Vistive Gold (high-oleic X glyphosate) soybean gets a thumbs up from the EU, but still needs approvals in China. Currently, Vistive Gold is being grown domestically under contracts that link to specific soybean processors. Bayer CropScience's HPPD/glyphosate herbicide-tolerant soybean called Balance GT also gained EU import approvals.

EU officials said the three soybean trait packages had "gone through a comprehensive authorization procedure," including a scientific review by the European Food Safety Authority. The authorization lasts for 10 years, and doesn't permit the soybeans to be grown in the EU.

The new EU list of approvals did not include Dow AgroScience's 2,4-D-tolerant herbicide system known as the Enlist Weed Control System. Dow chose to keep their new soybean herbicide trait system out of the commercial grain stream this year and concentrate on soybean production to seed increases only. Pioneer's Plenish soybean, a high-oleic, low-saturated-fat variety was also not included in this round of approvals.

Another stumbling block to the Xtend technology this year has been that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has yet to label a dicamba-based herbicide to use with the trait. The agency has told DTN it will likely issue a verdict on compounds under review this fall. Some reports of crop injury associated with off-label and off-target use of dicamba have emerged in Southern states this month, which could complicate the decision.

"It's important to remind growers that, at this time, there are still no dicamba formulations registered for in-crop use in Roundup Ready 2 Xtend Soybeans or Bollgard II XtendFlex in the United States," said Miriam Paris, Monsanto's U.S. soybean marketing manager. "The approvals for in-crop use of dicamba are in the late stages of review by the EPA and are tracking for a late summer, early fall approval."

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Pam Smith