Philippines grants final approval for Enlist 3 soybeans

CHICAGO, Ill. (Reuters) — DowDuPont Inc. has won the final international regulatory approval needed from the Philippines for a global launch of a new line of genetically modified soybeans, the company said Feb. 21.

The approval means seed companies can sell the soybeans named Enlist E3 to farmers for planting as early as this spring without worrying about taking extra steps to keep the harvests out of export markets.

Enlist E3 soy, marketed by DowDuPont’s agriculture unit Corteva Agriscience, will eventually shake up the US$40 billion soybean market, half of which is controlled by rival Bayer AG’s Xtend brand.

Enlist E3 is expected to be planted on more than 10 percent of soybean acres in the United States and Canada next year, said officials at Corteva and MS Technologies, which helped develop the seed.

Enlist E3 is the first soybean genetically modified to withstand sprays from three popular weed chemicals: 2,4-D, glyphosate and glufosinate.

Farmers and seed sellers in the U.S. have been waiting for the Philippines to approve imports of Enlist E3 since China, the world’s top soybean buyer, cleared the product in January. The Philippines last year was the top buyer of processed U.S. soymeal, used primarily to feed livestock.

“Obviously we’re very excited about that and proceeding with plans to get seed in growers’ hands,” said David Thompson, marketing and sales director for Stine Seed, which is affiliated with MS Technologies.

Biotech seed makers seek approval from importers before launching new products because countries can reject shipments of unapproved varieties.

The Philippines issued new regulations for GM products such as Enlist in 2016, and the process involves input from more government officials. Some applications can take years to process.

The regulatory review, along with supply constraints, will cap U.S. plantings of Enlist E3 soybeans this spring. Many farmers have already placed their orders for seed.

“There is some amount of seed that will be available,” said Joe Merschman, president of MS Technologies and Merschman Seeds. “It’s going to be a limited launch.”

The companies plan to license the product to other seed sellers and are in talks with more than 100 brands, according to a statement.

U.S. farmers are expected to grow soybeans across 85 million acres this year, down 4.7 percent from 2018, because the U.S-China trade dispute has hurt soybean prices.

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