Monsanto can now add corn to its line of dicamba-resistant products.
On Wednesday, U.S. regulators approved two new types of genetically engineered corn made by major international agribusinesses Monsanto and Syngenta.
The corn GMO produced by seed giant Monsanto is engineered to withstand the pesticide ingredients glufosinate and dicamba.
Syngenta’s newly deregulated corn is designed to have built-in resistance to glufosinate and some insects.
Last year, federal regulators gave Monsanto the go-ahead to market cotton and soybean seeds that also resisted dicamba. The move prompted Monsanto to project that the two GMO seeds would be the company’s biggest biotech products since its popular RoundUp Ready platform.
Reuters reported in 2015 that Monsanto planned on spending $1 billion to produce dicamba-resistant products.
Dicamba traditionally has not been used very much compared to pesticides that use glyphosate. U.S. officials projected that dicamba use would skyrocket after they approved Monsanto’s cotton and soybean varieties last year.
Environmental advocates argue that an overall transition to dicamba-based pesticides will not help farmers deal with chemical-resistant super weeds. Instead, they say, weeds will become resistant to dicamba as part of a problematic pesticide treadmill.
U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is one of the three federal agencies in charge of regulating the introduction of biotechnology in the United States.
Together with the Environmental Protection Agency and Food and Drug Administration, the three agencies form the oversight process known as the 1986 coordinated framework for biotechnology.
The approval is an important early step for Monsanto and Syngenta as the companies look to eventually take their products to market.
Without agency approval, farmers can only plant new varieties of genetically engineered seeds with special permits or notifications.
Overall, the USDA has granted approval to more than 120 different GMOs and has yet to reject a petition, department recordkeeping shows.
Monsanto has received more approvals than any other company.
The Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting previously reported on other major approvals and more-fully detailed how products reach deregulation in “Monsanto inches closer to biggest biotech launch in company’s history” and “Monsanto’s first-of-its kind GMO could shake up the corn market.”
Updating the 1986 framework
The coordinated framework for biotechnology is currently under review, and it could soon see changes aimed at modernizing the system.
A public meeting will be held on March 30 at the University of California, Davis to discuss changes. Those planning to attend the meeting either in person or via the web need to register in advance. The EPA, FDA, USDA and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy each will have representatives at the meeting.
Calls for updates have come from both sides of the GMO debate.
Skeptics critical of genetic engineering – especially in agriculture – argue that the federal oversight system is too lenient on companies seeking deregulation for their products.
Companies, however, have withdrawn their petitions before approval, records show.
But farm industry officials are critical of the system, too, and say it needs to be updated. Getting a product through the three-pronged framework can be tedious and take several years.
A transcript from past meetings is available here
And more information on the review process can be found here.