| St. Louis
St. Louis Mo. May 14 Monsanto Co. is pushing on
with plans to introduce a controversial new type of
herbicide-tolerant crop, and last week's decision by the U.S.
government to extend its scrutiny of the proposed new crops
should not spell a significant delay, a top company official
U.S.-based Monsanto is setting up 20 field locations
around the United States to test and market its "Xtend" soybean
product at the same time that company officials said they would
be working quickly to provide the U.S. Department of Agriculture
with additional study data to show the product's safety. The
company continues to have a goal of securing regulatory approval
by 2015 or shortly after, Monsanto Chief Technology Officer
Robert Fraley said in an interview.
"We'll put the additional studies in and we'll move through
it as quickly as we can," he said.
Monsanto's new soybeans are genetically altered to tolerate
dousings of a herbicide concoction of glyphosate and dicamba
chemicals. Monsanto developed the biotech crop in conjunction
with BASF to address an explosion of crop-choking
weeds around the U.S. that have become resistant to glyphosate,
which is the chief ingredient in Monsanto's popular Roundup
The company was surprised on Friday when USDA regulators
said they wanted to conduct a full environmental impact
statement (EIS) after receiving an onslaught of opposition to
the company's plans from critics who say the new chemicals will
only further weed resistance and have other harmful impacts.
Monsanto had not expected to go through that process before
receiving regulatory approval, and said it could take an
additional 15 months.
Still, Fraley said the delay would give them extra time to
expose farmers and retailers to the product and acquaint them
with how to use the genetically altered beans in conjunction
with the Xtend herbicide. And it should allow Monsanto to come
to market with a better seed supply if and when regulators grant
approval, said Fraley.
The move by USDA to require more scrutiny comes after it
lost court challenges to previous approvals it granted for
biotech sugarbeets and alfalfa. Courts said the USDA broke the
law by failing to do an EIS for each.
In its decision announced Friday, the USDA also said it
would require an EIS for new herbicide-tolerant corn known as
Enlist developed by Dow AgroSciences, a unit of Dow Chemical
Critics contend the new Monsanto and Dow crops will
accelerate herbicide use and further weed resistance problems.
They also warn that increased use of the new herbicides that
would come with the new crops would cause damage to fruits,
vegetables and other crops as dicamba and 2,4-D have been known
to travel on the wind far from the fields where they are
sprayed. Many also worry that the new biotech crops will
contaminate conventional and organic crops and potentially harm
human and animal health.
But Monsanto and Dow say the chemicals and the crops are
proven safe and the best hope for farmers who are suffering
reductions in crop production due to weeds.