US agricultural firm DuPont has said it is on track to launch a new biotech soybean variety, which is expected to be the first major product to compete with Monsanto's Roundup Ready trait.
DuPont this week said it has completed regulatory submissions for approval of the trait, which delivers tolerance to the herbicide glyphosate.
The submissions are now due to be reviewed by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Once approval is granted, DuPont said it expects to commercialize the trait in soybeans by 2009.
Currently, the herbicide-tolerant soybeans sold by DuPont carry the Roundup Ready trait licensed from biotech giant Monsanto.
But when Optimum GAT is commercialized, DuPont said it will gradually retire its Roundup Ready varieties and replace them with Optimum GAT.
"Almost all herbicide resistant soybean varieties currently carry the Roundup Ready gene. With the commercialization of Optimum GAT, we hope to capture some of the Roundup Ready market," DuPont's communications director Doyle Karr told FoodNavigator-USA.com.
But Monsanto said that around the same time as the launch of Optimum GAT, it will be introducing its second generation Roundup RReady2Yield technology, which is also designed to provide a yield advantage. However, the firm said it "welcomes the competition".
But DuPont said its new biotech trait will also allow farmers to increase yields, thereby contributing to supply security. This will help meet increased demand for soybeans for both food and biofuels.
"The Optimum GAT trait will give growers a new choice in glyphosate-tolerance soybean seed that maximizes yield potential, improves crop safety and expands weed control options," said the firm.
Currently more than 180 million acres in the US are treated with glyphosate annually, including 90 percent of soybean acres.
DuPont said its new trait, which also provides ALS herbicide tolerance, is due to be commercialized in corn, cotton and other crops following its 2009 introduction in soybeans.
Optimum GAT will also be marketed by Swiss agribusiness Syngenta, under a licensing agreement set up between the two firms in April. Through their joint venture, GreenLeaf Genetics, the two companies will liscence the soybean trait to other seed firms.