The American Soybean Association (ASA) is celebrating more than a decade of diligent and persistent work on behalf of U.S. soybean farmers to advance global acceptance of new biotech soybean traits after LibertyLink soybeans (A2704-12) from Bayer CropScience received food safety approval from the Korean Food and Drug Administration (KFDA).

This final regulatory approval in South Korea clears the way for unrestricted planting in the United States and importation into all major markets for LibertyLink soybeans, along with Roundup Ready 2 Yield soybeans (MON 89788) from Monsanto, which received final KFDA regulatory approval on Feb. 27, 2009.

"Today marks a significant milestone in the history of crop biotechnology," said ASA President Johnny Dodson, a producer from Halls, Tenn. "This year will be the first planting season since 1996 that farmers have access to new biotech-enhanced soybean traits that can be planted, harvested, co-mingled and shipped without restriction to customers around the world. The value of U.S. soybean and soybean product exports exceeded $20 billion in 2008, so regulatory approvals in our key export markets are critical to U.S. farmer profitability.

"The American Soybean Association is a strong supporter of biotechnology because ASA’s farmer-leaders believe it is a tool for producing safer, more nutritious food more efficiently and more abundantly," Dodson said. "For more than a decade, ASA has safeguarded U.S. soybean farmer profitability by working with biotechnology providers to keep out of export channels varieties of biotech-derived soybeans that haven’t been approved for export to key foreign markets. At the same time, ASA has worked tirelessly with biotechnology providers to educate foreign regulators and import customers about the safety of seedstock enhanced through modern biotechnology. ASA appreciates both Monsanto’s and Bayer’s good stewardship of their new biotech traits throughout the U.S. and international regulatory approval processes."

Monsanto’s Roundup Ready 2 Yield soybeans, which are tolerant to Roundup (glyphosate) herbicide, are the next generation of the popular Roundup Ready technology farmers have used in soybeans since 1996. The new product offers the same effective weed control, simplicity and flexibility benefits of the Roundup Ready system and it promises significantly increased soybean yield potential.

Bayer’s LibertyLink soybean technology is tolerant to Ignite (glufosinate) herbicide so farmers will now have an additional in-crop weed control option. Being able to alternate herbicides provides an effective management tool to minimize the selection for herbicide resistant weeds, which will enhance the sustainability of all U.S. soybean production.

Soybeans grown from these biotech-enhanced varieties are no different in composition, nutritional profile, functionality or safety than soybeans grown from seed developed through conventional breeding methods. However, herbicide-tolerant soybeans are helping farmers protect the environment by implementing reduced-tillage practices that save millions of tons of topsoil every year. These practices also reduce the number of times a farmer has to run equipment over the field, which saves million of gallons of fuel and improves air quality by reducing engine emissions, and there is less herbicide carryover in the field, which provides for healthier groundwater, rivers and streams.

"ASA has worked in partnership with Bayer CropScience, Monsanto, the Foreign Agricultural Service of USDA, and the U.S. Soybean Export Council to educate foreign buyers on the safety of biotechnology and the need for regulatory clearances of these new traits," Dodson said. "Worldwide market acceptance of crop biotechnology has been one of the most important missions of the American Soybean Association during the past 12 years. It has been a tremendous task involving hundreds of meetings and thousands of hours of time by volunteer farmer-leaders and staff in major export markets around the globe. The end result, however, is worth it because U.S. soybean farmers now have access to two new biotech soybean varieties, while U.S. soybean exports and our reputation as a dependable supplier are protected."

In 2008, more than 162 million acres (65.8 million hectares) of biotech soybeans were planted worldwide, which is equivalent to 70 percent of global production at more than 234 million acres (95 million hectares) of soybeans. Last year, over 92 percent of the soybean acres in the United States, 99 percent of the soybean acres in Argentina and 65 percent of the soybean acres in Brazil were planted with biotech-enhanced seed. These three countries collectively produce 90 percent of the world’s soybean exports.

"U.S. farmers look forward to these and 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," Dodson said.

ASA is the policy advocate and collective voice of its 22,000 producer-members on domestic and international issues of importance to all U.S. soybean farmers.