Good Policy for a Vibrant GMO Industry
Mar. 12, 2015
- Christina Xie
Chief editor of AgroPages. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
2013 global GM crop planting area continued to grow having reached 175 million hectares, 3% up (5 million hectares) for the eighteenth consecutive years. There are totally 18 million farmers across 27 countries having planted GM crops, of which 90% are from developing countries. The global GM crop market value of 2013 was $15.6 billion, accounting for 35% of the world total $45 billion seed market. Of the $15.6 billion, $11.4 billion (72%) sales were contributed by developed countries while $4.2 billion (28%) by developing countries.
There were 4 major GM crops in 2013 – soybean, cotton, corn and rapeseed. Their planting area is as the following: GM soybean accounts for 79% of the world total 107 million hectares; 23.90 million hectares of GM cotton out of the total 34 million hectares of cotton accounting for 70%; 57.40 million hectares of GM corn out of the total 177 million hectares of corn accounting for 32%; and 8.20 million hectares of herbicide tolerant GM rapeseed out of the total 34 million hectares of rapeseed accounting for 24%.
Leading GM crop varieties of multinationals in recent years
Corn and soybean are the most common crops with largest number of approvals, which are also the main fields of competition between multinationals. Total approved GM corn and GM soybean crops worldwide in 2014 reached respectively as high as 42 and 17 varieties. With the hot development of GM crop of stacked traits, multinationals have strengthened cooperation with each other utilizing their respective trait advantages and have developed novel varieties which are multi-herbicide resistant, insect resistant, disease resistant and drought resistant; meanwhile there has been intercompany cooperation in the pesticide product development in support of the GM crop development. The inter-company collaboration and complementarity, as well as the GM crop oriented pesticide package sales have no doubt further consolidated the leading positions of these multinationals in the agrochemical industry.
Enlist™ GM crop series are the key products closely attended by Dow AgroSciences. Dow AgroSciences said that its seed / trait business in the coming 5 years will mainly rely on the release of the herbicide-resistant Enlist ™ crop series. It is well-known that development of GM crops is not only a means for agrochemical companies to capture the source of cultivation and the seed market but also a good method for promotion of their pesticides. In this regard, the Enlist™ system of Dow AgroSciences is exactly a good example. Just 5 years ago, Dow AgroSciences started to go for registration of pesticide which can be used for the Enlist™ crops. In 2011 its herbicide 2, 4-D choline obtained registration in the US, and was put into production successfully at the end of the year. The Enlist Duo™ mixture with 2 kinds of active ingredients (2, 4-D choline and glyphosate ) was registered respectively in Canada and the US in 2013 and 2014.
So far its approved Enlist ™ crops are limited only to the use in corn and soybean. The Enlist ™ corn (2,4-D tolerant) was approved since 2011 respectively in 10 countries or regions including Australia, Canada and US; the Enlist ™ soybean (2,4- D, glufosinate ammonium tolerant) was also approved since 2011 in 8 countries or region including the US and Canada. Furthermore the company has been actively promoting the approval for Enlist ™ cotton. The GM soybean Enlist E3 ™ (2,4- D, glyphosate and glufosinate ammonium tolerant) developed jointly by Dow AgroSciences and MS Technologies was approved in Canada in 2013.
Over recent years Monsanto has focused on release of GM crops which are concurrently glyphosate and dicamba tolerant. Monsanto’s dicamba tolerant seed / trait is named Xtend; so far its glyphosate and dicamba tolerant GM soybean Genuity® Roundup Ready™ 2 Xtend™ (MON87708) was approved since 2011 respectively in the US, Canada, Australia, Mexico and New Zealand. Monsanto’s another dicamba tolerant cotton Bollgard II® XtendFlex™ and the MON87708 soybean have been recently recognized by the US Dept of Agriculture and suggested to be deregulated. These 2 products are now standing very close to commercialization. Monsanto has further planned to promote the development of dicamba tolerant corn and rapeseed.
Preparations are being made for the relevant pesticides in parallel with the GM crop examination and approval procedures. Back in 2011, Monsanto and BASF entered into a new herbicide sales license agreement for the dicamba oriented GM soybean, where BASF shall provide Monsanto with dicamba formulations. Both companies are entitled to use dicamba to develop novel herbicide mixture product for sales. At present the high-end dicamba formulated product Engenia ™ developed by BASF is yet to be registered, which is intended for use in Monsanto’s dicamba tolerant product series.
Syngenta’s registered GM crops in 2014 reveals its effort on corn varieties over the last several years. Its concurrently herbicide tolerant and insect resistant Agrisure® Viptera™ corn series have been approved in a number of countries. In 2014 Syngenta tried hard to move into Chinese market and eventually made its achievement at the end of the year. Its Agrisure® Viptera™ corn series have mainly got the traits like glufosinate HT, glyphosate HT and lepidopteran IR, which are competitive to certain extent to the Genuity® SmartStax™ corn (glufosinate HT, glyphosate HT, coleopteran IR, lepidoptera IR) and the Power Core™ corn (glufosinate HT, glyphosate HT, lepidoptera IR) as jointly developed by Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences.
China turning on the green light to 3 GM crops
China has been very cautious about using GM crops, so if China, even being a major food import country does not give permission to GM crops, it will be a complete blockage to the food from America, where large volume of GM crops are cultivated. The cautious policy of China is a headache to multinationals who have been making effort to develop and promote GM crops.
A very disputable event in 2014 was China’s rejection to the arrived millions of tons of Syngenta GM corn Agrisure® Viptera™ (MIR162). This corn variety was already approved for commercial cultivation in the US back in 2010, which is however not approved by Chinese Ministry of Agriculture, resulting in the rejection to the import. Syngenta was sued by 100 US farmers, food exporter ADM and Cargill for the loss incurred due to China’s rejection.
Bayer CropScience and Dow AgroSciences did not act rashly like Syngenta before Chinese import permit is confirmed, but expressed their concern and made effort as much as possible. Bayer CropScience’s glufosinate HT GM soybean LibertyLink 55 was already approved in Brazil for cultivation 4 years ago, but the commercialization of this soybean variety of Bayer CropScience is directly affected by China’s policy since China is the main destination of export of Brazil’s soybean. Therefore while awaiting China’s approval, Bayer CropScience is actively lobbying Brazilian CNA to jointly promote China’s approval of GM soybean LibertyLink 55. On the other side, just after the approval in the US of its leading Enlist GM corn and soybean, Dow AgroSciences expressed its concern over the commercialization of the product series, including its worry of the import permit in China. AgroSciences has not decided whether they are going to start the sales of the Enlist in the US or not. Soon afterwards in November AgroSciences announced a restricted sale of its novel GM corn and soybean to prevent same from entering the US and international market. This announcement appears quite obvious that AgroSciences is taking a much refrained action after the lesson learned from Syngenta’s corn rejection incident.
Just while the multinationals feel helpless and cannot find the way out, Chinese government at the end of the year announced its approval of the 3 GM crops respectively from Syngenta, Bayer CropScience and DuPont Pioneer. Syngenta’s rejected GM corn Agrisure® Viptera ™ (MIR162) was finally approved, 4 years now since its application submitted to Chinese government. Bayer CropScience’s approved GM soybean LibertyLink 55 is said to take even a 7-year long journey for approval, which was finally obtained; Bayer CropScience immediately announced a plan to promote the commercialization of the product in the US in 2015. DuPont Pioneer obtained the approval for a high oleic soybean – Plenish ™ GM soybean, which is said to be capable of producing 75% more high oleic while being free of the trans fat.
Being put under strict control, China’s commercial cultivation of GM crops has been in a vacuum state. However, its recent positive policy and the accelerated approval indicate a change of China’s attitude toward GM crops. Therefore it is speculated within the industry that China is opening the access to commercialized cultivation of GM crops, which not only gives a light in the dark tunnel to multinationals but also provides Chinese seed companies like Longping High-Tech Company, Shandong Denghai Seeds and Da Bei Nnong Group with opportunities to show their expertise.
EU allows member states to decide on GM crops
There were significant changed policies in EU in 2014 toward GM crops. EU has always been very strict on GM crops, so far Monsanto’s MON810 corn is the only GM crop approved for cultivation in EU. Statistics shows that the planting area of this kind of corn in EU is roughly 130,000 hectares, being largely within Spain accounting for about 30% of the total corn planting area of EU. Although EU does not export any GM products it is a main destination of import of soybean (yearly 30 million tons) and corn (yearly 3 million tons), mainly used for livestock feed. EU’s imported GM soybean and GM corn respectively accounts for 90% and 25% of the total imported soybean and corn.
In 2009, 13 EU member states proposed to European Commission asking for more flexibility on the prohibition and restriction of GM crops. In 2010 European Commission suggested European Parliament and European Council to give member states more choices on the prohibition or restriction of GM crops while the present examination and approval system is not affected. At the end of 2014, finally an important step was made for the 4-year long protracted proposal- European Commission and member states reached common understanding and a resolution was passed on the 13th January 2015 allowing for member states to decide prohibition or restriction of GM crops in their own country. Of course the resolution is still subject to the approval of foreign ministers of each of the EU country, and shall come into effect in spring 2015 if everything goes smoothly. Before this, EU member states are not authorized to prohibit cultivation of EU approved GM crops. Some EU countries enacted “protective provisions” on the prohibition of GM crops, but because of lack of supportive legal basis from EU, there have been cases that certain countries were taken to court by GM crop
growers. The new resolution this time will give EU members states the highest flexibility and initiative ever in history on the issue of GM crops. According to the resolution, member states are entitled to prohibit the cultivation of a GM crop even if the GM crop passes the health and environmental impact assessment by European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
2014 global GM crop approvals
According to the census of ISAAA, there were globally 142 GM crop-related approvals, covering 91 GM crop varieties, respectively 31% and 21% up year on year.
The varieties show that the newly approved GM crops in 2014 cover 8 categories of crops – corn, soybean, cotton, potato, canola, alfalfa sugar beet and tomato. Total 42 GM corn varieties, mainly from Monsanto and Syngenta were approved, accounting for 46% of the quantity of total approvals.
The territory of approved GM crops in 2014 involves 21 countries or regions. Among them, the countries of Asia and South America occurred large proportion. There are 19 approvals respectively in South Korea and Singapore, mainly for soybean, corn, cotton and canola.
In 2014, 11 companies obtained GM crop approvals where agrochemical multinationals obtained the majority of approvals. Monsanto obtained 35 approved GM crop varieties, while Syngenta has 15 varieties approved, mainly for corn.
Concerning the trait of GM crops, in 2014 there were 29 approved GM crops varieties with singular trait and 62 approved GM crop varieties with stacked traits. There were 32 GM corn varieties with stacked traits approved in 2014. Although approval number of GM crop with stacked traits is growing every year, its planting area of this kind of crops is still less than the area of GM crop with singular trait. According to the data from ISAAA, the planting area of GM crop with stacked traits reached 47.1 million hectares, which accounting for 27% of global planting area of GM crops.