The American Soybean Association (ASA) is pleased the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has issued a positive safety opinion on the LibertyLink soybean (A2704-12) from Bayer CropScience.

This is a critical regulatory milestone in the European Union (EU) approval process that moves closer the commercialization of an additional biotech-enhanced soybean seed trait for U.S. producers.

Soybeans account for nearly 70 percent of the world’s protein meal consumption, and 30 percent of the edible fats and oils consumed worldwide. The European Union (EU) imports about 95 percent of the whole soybeans processed in the EU and about 70 percent of the soybean protein meal consumed in the EU.

Soybean protein meal is an important part of poultry, swine and other livestock feeds in addition to soybeans having numerous other consumer and industrial uses.

The first biotech-enhanced soybean seed was commercialized more than a decade ago. With about 91 percent of the soybeans planted in the United States this year being grown from Roundup Ready seed varieties, herbicide tolerant seeds have become a standard in U.S. farmer management systems to control weeds that compete with crops for light, water, and nutrients.

The LibertyLink trait is resistant to Liberty, a postemergence contact herbicide that controls grass and broadleaf weeds, and will provide a new in-crop herbicide option for soybean growers.

"U.S. soybean farmers welcome the development of new biotech-enhanced soybean varieties and appreciate this positive action taken by the EFSA," said ASA President John Hoffman, a producer from Waterloo, Iowa. "The availability of a seed variety that tolerates a different herbicide will promote market competition and provide an additional in-crop weed control option that can be an effective management tool to minimize the selection for herbicide resistant weeds and enhance the sustainability of U.S. soybean production."

"Herbicide-tolerant soybeans provide farmers with an unprecedented weed management tool, which has led to increased conservation-tillage practices that reduce production costs, lower fuel consumption, reduce run-off, and save irreplaceable top soil," Hoffman said. "LibertyLink soybeans will provide U.S. soybean farmers with an additional option in herbicide-tolerant technology."

LibertyLink soybeans are fully approved for food, feed and cultivation in the United States and Canada. The ASA has been consulting closely with Bayer CropScience to ensure that regulatory approvals also are being sought in all major soy export markets that have biotech regulatory approval processes.

To date, LibertyLink soybeans are fully approved for importation into Australia, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Taiwan and South Africa, and for food use in Russia.

Bayer CropScience expects to receive full import approvals in the EU, China and other key export countries prior to the planned commercialization in 2009. Until the required approvals are obtained, Bayer CropScience is implementing robust stewardship practices to ensure that all seed and grain produced during seed increase activities is contained and controlled until the targeted commercial launch of the product in 2009.

"Timely overseas regulatory approvals are critical because growers around the world have rapidly adopted new biotech-enhanced seed varieties as they became available," Hoffman said. "U.S. growers look forward to this and several other new biotech-enhanced soybean varieties now under development that will offer important benefits to consumers, growers, and the environment, ranging from healthy oil profiles to increased yields to better weed control."

ASA is the policy advocate and collective voice of its 24,000 producer-members on domestic and international issues of importance to all U.S. soybean farmers.