No Xtend Soybeans until EU-approved, says Monsanto Canada

Canadian farmers are still wondering whether they’ll get a chance to plant Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans this spring. They’ll likely get their answer in mid-April.

In February, Monsanto Canada announced it had received import approval from China for the glyphosate and dicamba tolerant soybeans, giving the company the confidence to ensure Canadian farmers that the seed technology would be available for 2016 planting.

Unfortunately, European Union (EU) approval, which was expected in March, has yet to be received. Monsanto had promised the Canadian seed trade it would not release Xtend until it had full regulatory approval in export markets. That means the seed is effectively still on the shelf and seed retailers and farmers can only wring their hands and hope they’ll be able to plant it this spring.

“There’s not really any specific date (for EU approval) and that’s what’s really frustrating,” says Monsanto Canada spokesperson Trish Jordan. “The EU Commission has verbally confirmed to both the Canadian and US embassies, as well as Monsanto, that approval on Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans is completing the final stage and all we’re waiting for is the final signature. There’s no more review, there’s no more discussion, no more anything. It just needs to be signed and that’s what’s frustrating.”

Jordan notes that historically it takes 30 to 60 days for the EU Commission to provide approval after receiving the request. “That was in mid-January so we very much anticipated that we would have heard from them by the end of March and that day has come and gone,” Jordan told Real Agriculture on April 1.

More coverage of Roundup Ready Xtend soybeans.

But Monsanto remains steadfast in its belief that approval is close at hand. “We’re still very confident that we will have the signature and approval prior to spring planting and there’s nothing right now that’s telling us that won’t happen… we’re basically in a waiting game right now,” says Jordan, who notes the March 22 terrorist attack on Brussels has impacted the pace of business there and could be contributing to the delay.

Adding to the frustration is the fact that both glyphosate and dicamba have been approved as single traits. Monsanto is simply waiting for the stack to be approved. “There’s nothing that changes when you put the two together. We just have to follow the process,” notes Jordan.

Seed retailers have yet to receive any Xtend seed and are fielding many questions from farmers. Everyone is looking for answers. “We’re just pushing that commitment back to mid-April so no seed will be released to retailers or growers unless, obviously, we receive approval in the next couple of weeks,” says Jordan.

The seed trade has been keeping an anxious eye on the situation and has also been doing what they can to expedite the approval.

Soy Canada Executive Director Jim Everson says “the goal of the industry is to move forward and get approval from Europe so we can get the seed in the hands of the farmers.” But it’s vitally important to “have approvals in major markets so you have confidence that there won’t be any problem down the road in terms of an unauthorized event entering a marketplace.”

It’s frustrating, however, when other countries or markets don’t share the same view of the regulatory process, adds Everson. “We work hard at ensuring we respect the regulatory practices in export markets, but in order to do so we also need these major markets to not create long delays in their assessment.”

In the US, soybean planting is well underway and farmers who planted the new technology are now asking elevators whether they are still willing to accept Xtend soybeans. After Xtend received a positive review from the European Food Safety Authority in June 2015, Monsanto and US seed retailers decided to forge ahead and offer the seed for 2016 planting. But now some elevators are saying they will not be accepting the Xtend soybeans until the EU issue is resolved.

Jordan says Monsanto understands that Canadian retailers are nervous about selling Xtend and growers may think twice about planting it if they don’t know whether a grain company will accept it come October.

For now, Monsanto Canada is sticking to their position. Seed needs to be treated and packaged before it can be delivered to growers, but that won’t happen until EU approval is received. “No. We are not moving anything. We just can’t,” says Jordan. “Retails are not going to sell it until they know. We’re going to wait two more weeks and see what happens and we’ll have to make a decision after that.”

If Xtend is shelved for 2016, retailers contacted by Real Agriculture have indicated that there is sufficient Roundup Ready 2 Yield seed to meet grower demands. Many companies, anticipating that the Xtend approval process would go down to the wire, effectively produced a double seed crop to ensure adequate seed availability.

 

Bernard Tobin

Bernard Tobin is Real Agriculture's Ontario Field Editor. AgBern was raised on a dairy farm near St. John's, Newfoundland. For the past two decades, he has specialized in agricultural communications. A Ryerson University journalism grad, he kicked off his career with a seven-year stint as Managing Editor and Field Editor for Farm and Country magazine. He has received six Canadian Farm Writers' Federation awards for journalism excellence. He's also worked for two of Canada's leading agricultural communications firms, providing public relations, branding and strategic marketing. Bern also works for Guelph-based Synthesis Agri-Food Network and talks the Real Dirt on Farming.

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