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2015 Annual Review-Global GM Crop Development Statusqrcode

Feb. 3, 2016

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Feb. 3, 2016
According to the information of ISAAA, the global GM crop planting area currently has reached over 180 million hectares. A total of 29 countries have planted GM crops, including 21 developing countries and 8 developed countries. Bangladesh and Vietnam are the two most recent countries that have approved commercialized plantation of GM crops.

In 2015, there were totally 136 regulatory approvals have been issued by competent authorities across 91 GM events and 9 GM crops, including corn, soybean, cotton, potato, canola, alfalfa, sugarbeet, apple and carnation. A total of 17 countries or regions approved new varieties, including Japan, EU, US, Canada, Korea, Taiwan, and etc.

New varieties approved

US and Canada approved cultivation of 2 new apple varieties of Okanagan Specialty - Arctic™ "Golden Delicious" Apple and Arctic™ "Granny Smith" Apple. Arctic™ apples reduce the level of enzymes that trigger browning after being cut. Others in the same class include Innate™ Russet Burbank Potato, which is the second-generation Innate™ potato released by J.R. Simplot. US approved 10 varieties of such series last year. Innate™ Russet Burbank Potato have the first generation traits of low black spot bruise, no browning and low asparagine and the new traits of late blight resistance and colder storage without increasing sugar levels in potatoes.

Bayer CropScience’s Glytol™ x Twinlink™ x VIPCOT™ cotton, which tolerant to glufosinate and glyphosate and resistant  to lepidopteran insect, was approved in Korea for food and feed use, being the first approval globally. The other GM cotton, which is tolerant to glyphosate, glufosinate and dicamba, as made by Monsanto, in the event name of MON88701 x MON88913, was approved in Japan and Mexico. Monsanto has focused its research and development over recent years on crops which are tolerant to glyphosate, dicamba and glufosinate. Its brand-new glyphosate and dicamba-tolerant soybean was approved in Canada for cultivation last year. Besides continued development of new varieties, in 2015 Monsanto announced an investment of $1 billion in extension of its production facility in Louisiana of US for production of dicamba. This extension will pave the way for the future package sales of GM seed with herbicide. However, mass production of these soybean varieties will have to wait China’s final import approves, China is the largest buyer of the US soybean.

First generic GMO

First generic GMO born last year as some early patents of Monsanto’s first-generation Roundup Ready soybean expired, leading to off-patent seeds that cost half as much and which farmers are free to save and replant. It looks to be good news to both farmers and generic companies. Many years ago, lots of universities started to study glyphosate-tolerant soybean to get ready for immediate release of their product once Monsanto’s product is off patent. But Monsanto does not seem to be worried about competition, as it has launched its second-generation Roundup Ready soybean before the first-generation product off patent. Also the second-generation soybean greatly increases yield. Furthermore, the first-generation soybean might impose multiple patent protections. Although Monsanto doesn’t sell the first-generation soybean anymore, it will keep the regulatory files up to date through 2021. A third generation is pending approval. The older trait had problems that led to lower yields and Monsanto cautions that university varieties aren’t competitive.

Hurdles of Dow’s Enlist™ crops

The ambitious Enlist™ crops promotion plan of Dow AgroSciences suffered repeated frustration in 2015. To support the promotion of Enlist™ crops, several years ago Dow AgroSciences started to register herbicide Enlist Duo™ (active ingredient: glyphosate+2,4-D choline) and eventually obtained the registration in US in October 2014. However the product encountered strong condemn from environmental groups saying that the approved product may cause damages to environment and endangered species and requesting government authorities to cancel the registration.  In November 2015, under great pressure EPA announced revocation of the registration of Enlist Duo saying that a review will be conducted after Dow AgroSciences can provide more supportive information.

On the other side, Dow AgroSciences’ Enlist™ soybean, corn and cotton may have obtained the approval from Canada and Brazil, or the relevant trait has been deregulated in the US, but no commercialized plantation is achieved yet. China’s delayed approval of the import also restrains the planned business activities of Dow AgroSciences. What is even worse is that its major rivals and also potential partners – Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta, not only took a step ahead on new product approval but even unintentionally included the Enlist™ GM seed series in their respective product line. This makes it harder for Dow to achieve its ambitious Enlist™ targets.

19 EU members states opt out of GM crops

In March 2015, EU adopted officially a new rule, which allows member countries to opt out of EU-approved GM crop cultivation, requesting a decision to be made before the 3rd October. So far more than 2/3 of member countries decided prohibition of GM crops in the whole or part of territory. It is worthy of note that these countries responded actively to EU’s new rule and applied for prohibition of cultivation of GM crops, but they have not declared their anti-GMO position. The opt-out member countries actually are not put to death all GM crops, but will review and approve GM crops on a case-to case basis. The flexibility of new rule of EU gives the countries that used to prohibit GM crops a chance to re-apply for cultivation if they want.

GM crop supporting individuals and companies hold the view that no doubt the new rule has increased the difficultness of GM crop’s entry to EU, where not only EU will be lobbied for promotion of a new product but also EU countries need to be approached one by one. The difficultness is best proved by the withdrawn application of Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta and Dow AgroSciences in 2015 for cultivation of GM corn in Germany. However, anti-GM parties believe that since the power is delegated to member countries, some companies would get exactly what they want by just lobbying each of the EU countries, which enables them to evade from the supervision and regulation by EU, thus to the contrary would enable GM crop to enter EU more easily.

Interestingly, although EU’s new rule of opt-out obtained support of majority of  member countries, but another draft law proposed by EU was opposed by member countries with one accord voice, which is the “draft law that would enable any EU member state to restrict or prohibit the sale and use of EU-approved GMO food or feed on its territory”. European Parliament and EU’s Committee of Agricultural Organisations voted down the proposal with high supporting votes, saying that the proposal does not conform to EU’s actual situation and goes against EU’s agricultural development. However EU Commission will not give up the proposal saying that this will be submitted to European Council for further discussion. Although majority of EU countries are willing to ban GM crops cultivation, but they cannot ignore the fact that European food and feed highly depend on imported GM product. Therefore the chances of draft law being approved for implementation are very small.

US:  GMO labeling debate

The debate on GMO in the US last year mainly concentrated on whether the GMO food on the market should be labeled or not. The US government has all the time no law or regulation in place to label GMO in food. According to a public opinion poll in the US, 2/3 of the interviewees hope food stuff manufacturers to label GMO in the food packaging because consumers have the right to know this. A large number of states of US held public voting on legislation to decide the labeling, which however was not passed in most of the states with the only exception of Vermont where labeling is legislated.

In July 2015, the House Agriculture Committee approved a measure banning mandatory labeling as well as local efforts to regulate genetically engineered crops. At present the act still needs to be legislated after being approved by the US Senate and the President of the US. In actual fact, the labeling of GMO food would not cause significant impact to the current GMO applications in US because of the high plantation rate of GM crops and the extensive popularity of GMO food. However for manufacturers, an extra labeling of food will cause higher cost of production, which may result in a rise of prices to a certain extent. Additionally the labeling of GMO in food will cause impact to export commodities.

Africa: great opportunity for GM crop

Among African countries, South Africa, Burkina Faso and Sudan are the only countries presently allowing cultivation of GM crops. As Europe is the man import destination of African farm product, its negative attitude to GMO product influences significantly all other African countries for approval of GMO product. On the one hand, with the increase of population, demand for food is an inevitable issue for government while on the other hand government concerns very much about the large quantity of GMO production which may cause impact to national trade. The stuck in dilemma results in Africa’s slow move toward GMO adoption. However with the increasing appealing from African people and government over recent years to GM crops, a number of countries in Africa may step into GMO cultivation in the several years ahead.

In 2015, Nigeria approved the National Biotechnology and Biosafety Bill, which clears the legal obstacles for cultivation of GM crops. Other countries that have approved the Bill include Kenya, Togo, Tanzania and Mali. Moreover, many African countries have conducted GM crop field trial over recent years covering rice, corn, wheat, sorghum, banana, cassava and sweet potato.

In 2015, Nigeria approved the field trial for GM rice for the first time. South Africa approved Monsanto’s water efficient maize. Uganda is conducting field trail of insect-resistant maize and ‘superbananas’ as well as the Tanzania government has removed the strict liability clause in the Biosafety Regulations of 2009 to enable researchers conduct studies unimpeded in genetic engineering of both food and cash crops. Kenya is recently looking for public opinion on approval of GM cotton and may soon become the 4th country in Africa to permit cultivation of GM crops.

More and more African countries are taking an important move toward GM crops and Africa will be great opportunity for GM crops in the future.

This article will be published in the magazine of 2015 Annual Review. If you want to know more themes and details, please click  the following picture:

Focus of this issue:
•    Exclusive interview of leading companies
•    Analysis of Industry Trends
•    Agro-Company Activities in 2015
•    Overview of registered and launched products in 2015
•    Analysis of Global Agricultural Biotech Industry in 2015
•    In Focus
       - Japan Agrochem Firms
       - Biopesticide
       - Biostimulant

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