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ST. LOUIS (DTN) -- Monsanto's new dicamba-tolerant cotton and soybean traits are one step closer to full deregulation. USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (APHIS) on Dec. 12 released its final environmental impact statement (EIS) and recommended deregulation of the traits.
The EIS will be posted for public viewing for the next 30 days, and then USDA will issue its final regulatory decision on the traits.
After that, only the EPA's registration of the trait's corresponding herbicides will stand between a full commercial launch of Monsanto's Roundup Ready II Xtend soybeans and Bollgard II XtendFlex technology.
The RR-Xtend soybeans are genetically modified to tolerate the company's new herbicide pre-mix of glyphosate and dicamba. Xtend Flex cotton plants can tolerate glyphosate, dicamaba, and glufosinate.
"EPA's analysis includes a thorough review of any potential human health and environmental risks associated with the application of these herbicides to the GE cotton and soybean plants, such as the potential off-site movement of these herbicides to other crops or areas," explained the USDA APHIS press release. "It is expected that EPA will make available its proposed regulatory decision in the coming months for public review and comment."
In the past, EPA has granted registration of the herbicides in an herbicide-tolerant trait package a matter of months after USDA's final EIS statement. EPA approved Dow AgroSciences' Enlist Duo herbicide on Oct. 15, just over two months after USDA issued its final EIS for the corresponding Enlist corn and soybean traits on Aug. 6.
In a press release, Monsanto said its RR-Xtend technology will bring relief to farmers struggling with resistant weeds, particularly in the southern U.S.
"This technology will be another tool in the farmer's toolbox, enabling us to have another mode of action in the fight against resistant weeds," Wade Cowan, a farmer from Brownfield, Texas, said in the company's press release. "Weed resistance contributes to smaller yields, and this dicamba technology will help me better manage weeds."
However, the prospect of a rise in the use of dicamba has alarmed health and environmental groups like Friends of the Earth and the Center for Food Safety. It has also spurred some concerns within the agricultural industry of injury to neighboring crops with no tolerance to the herbicide. Similar concerns were raised regarding higher use of 2,4-D in the Enlist Duo package.
USDA published its first draft of the EIS on the new dicamba traits and left it open for public comment from Aug. 11 until Oct. 10. The agency took in 4,693 comments from farmers, academics, environmental activist organizations and industry representatives.
The majority -- 3,708 -- supported full deregulation, and 935 opposed it. You can see more details about these comments and APHIS' consideration of them here: http://goo.gl/….
Monsanto is hoping to receive EPA approval of its soybean and cotton herbicides in time to do a limited launch of the Bollgard II XtendFlex in 2015, Monsanto's cotton portfolio lead Scott Bollman told DTN.
"Pending those approvals, we do plan to have a limited launch in 2015," he said. "It will just be introductory volumes under regulated seed production" under the company's Deltapine brand, he added.
Monsanto is still waiting for China to approve its Roundup Ready II Xtend soybeans for import.