Dow AgroSciences is launching a genetically altered soybean seed aimed as a direct assault on the dominance of global seed leader Monsanto.
Dow submitted a regulatory package on Aug. 19 seeking government approval for a glyphosate-tolerant soybean that the company says would be the “first-ever, three-gene,” herbicide-tolerant soybean.
The new soybean will be tolerant of a new Dow AgroSciences herbicide that combines glyphosate, glufosinate and 2,4-D so farmers can spray the weed killer on fields without harming the crop.
“This is our most important project ever,” said Dow AgroSciences CEO Antonio Galindez said in an interview with Reuters. “It is big.”
Dow is dubbing the system “Enlist” and sees it as a replacement for Monsanto’s wildly popular Roundup Ready system that accounts for over 90 per cent of U.S. soybean acreage and also has a foothold over the vast majority of corn planted in the United States.
After Monsanto introduced its first Roundup Ready soybean in 1996, farmers embraced the system because it made killing weeds easier. But since then, glyphosate use over Roundup Ready soybeans, corn, cotton and other crops has grown so heavy that several species of crop-choking weeds have become resistant to glyphosate-based Roundup and those weeds are spreading rapidly through North and South America.
Dow’s Enlist system combines glyphosate and two other herbicides in a way that Dow’s research has shown kills the weeds that no longer respond to glyphosate, while still knocking out those that do.
Farmers would need to buy not only the new herbicide but also the Dow seeds to gain the benefit.
“We call Enlist our Amazon Kindle,” said Galindez, referring to the electronic book reader released in 2007 that has helped spur a decline in sales of traditional books from bookstores.
“It is bringing the next level of technology to the market,” said Galindez.
Pending regulatory approval the soybean trait package is expected to be available by 2015.