The USDA has deregulated Monsanto's GM soybean Roundup RReady2yield following a review of scientific data - news that is expected to spur approvals in other world markets.
Monsanto's soybean yield is billed as a next-generation soybean technology that has been genetically engineered to confer tolerance to the herbicide glyphosate, in turn delivering a yield advantage of seven to 11 percent over its first-generation Roundup RReady counterpart.
Since 2001 the USDA has monitored the yield as it was deemed to fall under regulation on 'introduction of organisms and products altered or produced through genetic engineering which are plant pests or which there is reason to believe are plant pests'.
However tests conducted under conditions of reproductive and physical confinement or isolation have concluded the gene sequences from plant pathogens do not present a risk of plant pest introduction or dissemination.
According to the company, the completion of all regulatory procedures marks an important step towards making the technology, developed over the past ten years, a reality on the agricultural market.
Receiving support from the American Standards Agency (ASA), the deregulation follows the submission to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) of an appendix of scientific data cumulated from the soybean plant tests.
Having already deemed the soybean line safe for human and animal consumption, the ASA has heralded the USDA approval as a way forward towards obtaining approvals in some export markets across the globe - with the Canadian government already granting approval for the planting of the soybean trait in Canada.
"Soybean producers welcome the development of new biotech-enhanced soybean varieties, it is my understanding that Roundup RReady2Yield soybeans will offer a seven to 11 per cent yield advantage over first-generation Roundup Ready beans, while providing the same tolerance to the Roundup herbicides we are now using to manage weeds" said ASA president John Hoffman, a soybean producer.
Hoffman added that higher soybean yields will increase the ability of US soybean growers to supply food, feed, and fuel markets domestically and around the globe - giving them a lead in the market.
According to ASA, Monsanto is working to gain regulatory submissions and timely regulatory approvals in key soybean importing countries. These approvals are critical to be able to compete in markets where growers are rapidly adopting new biotech-enhanced seed varieties.
"US growers look forward to this and several other new biotech-enhanced soybean varieties now under development that will offer important benefits to consumers, growers, and the environment, ranging from healthy oil profiles to increased yields to better weed control" said Hoffman.
The USDA recently extended a comment period on a review of the nation's soybean standards, aiming to ascertain whether they are adequately responding to current grain industry needs.
The USDA's Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration (GISPA) had initiated the review earlier this year, publishing an advance notice of proposed rulemaking in the Federal Register in May.
The review had been requested by soybean producer groups as a result of the changes that have occurred in the breeding and production practices of soybeans as well as in the technology used to harvest, process, and test the beans, and in practices for marketing soybeans.
"In this rapidly evolving market, we need to ensure that the US soybean standards and associated grading procedures remain relevant," said GISPA in May.
The initial comment period closed on July 2 2007, but GISPA agreed to requests from the soybean industry for additional time. Comments will now be received until August 20 2007.
USDA first established soybean standards in 1940, revising these in 1994 and 2006. The 2006 revisions, which provide specifications for determining the grade of the beans, are due to be implemented on September 1 2007.