Monsanto to release new genetically-engineered soybean
St. Louis, MO – Monsanto Co. is set to release its first new strain of genetically engineered soybeans in more than a decade.
With regulatory approval for release in the U.S. and Canada, the world's largest biotech seed producer says it will go on sale in limited U.S. markets in 2009.
The new beans which have the brand name Roundup RReady2Yield; nationwide distribution will begin in 2010, said Monsanto spokeswoman Sara Duncan.
The beans are similar to Monsanto's first strain of engineered seeds, in that they are resistant to Monsanto's herbicide Roundup but the new line is bred to increase bean yields between 7-11%, according to the company.
Because the U.S. soybean market is export-driven, Monsanto does not introduce new strains of engineered seeds in the U.S. until the crops are approved to be imported by key trading partners overseas, Duncan said.
Genetically engineered foods have been the focus of several trade fights as countries have tried to limits their import because of fears over the crops' safety and environmental impact. Monsanto has applied for import approval for the new beans in the European Union, China, Japan, Mexico and elsewhere, Duncan said, and expects their approval by the time the seeds begin national U.S. distribution.
Monsanto's Roundup Ready soybeans have been widely adopted by U.S. soybean farmers accounting for about 91% of all soybeans grown domestically, according to the American Soybean Association.
The trade group hailed the approval of the Roundup RReady2Yield soybean because of its promise to generate more soybeans on the same amount of land.
"Higher soybean yields increase the ability of U.S. soybean growers to supply food, feed, and fuel markets domestically and around the globe," ASA President John Hoffman said in a statement.
While the new beans don't possess any revolutionary traits, the strain will serve as a platform to introduce new crops that Monsanto is currently developing, like beans with drought resistance and healthier oil content, Duncan said.
Monsanto Chief Technology Officer Robb Fraley said the strain will likely be a centerpiece product for years to come.
"We anticipate that farmers who make the investment in Roundup RReady2Yield are getting more than just the benefits of this technology, they're gaining experience with the building block on which our platform of new soybean technologies will be built," Fraley said in a statement.
Monsanto's stock dropped $0.59, or 0.9%, to $64.45, as stocks overall lost ground.