Government regulatory agencies in South Korea have given approval to imports of two new biotech-enhanced soybean varieties — Roundup Ready 2 Yield from Monsanto and LibertyLink from Bayer CropScience — from the United States.

The approvals appear to remove some of the last remaining hurdles for the export and, thus, the commercialization of the two new herbicide-tolerant or resistant weed control technologies for the 2009 season, according to the American Soybean Association.

“The American Soybean Association recognizes the efforts of South Korean regulators to move forward with authorizations for these new soybean varieties,” said ASA President Johnny Dodson, a producer from Halls, Tenn. “These approvals are critical to U.S. soybean growers and to our soybean and soybean product customers in South Korea.”

The Roundup Ready 2 Yield soybeans received food safety approval from the Korean Food and Drug Administration on Feb. 27. The approval from KFDA, along with the environmental safety authorization received from the Rural Development Administration on Jan. 19, completes a two-year regulatory review process in Korea.

With those and other previously obtained approvals, there are no longer any requirements for planting and movement stewardship restrictions on soybeans with the Roundup Ready 2 Yield trait in the United States.

LibertyLink soybeans also reached another milestone in South Korea with the approval by RDA on Feb. 25. The LibertyLink soybean application now moves into the final stages for approval under KFDA. This will include a 20-day public comment period.

“We are optimistic this latest development indicates full import approval is likely very soon,” Dodson said. (A spokesman for Bayer CropScience said the company expects to receive the final clearance from KFDA no later than the beginning of the U.S. harvest season.)

LibertyLink soybeans are fully approved for food, feed and cultivation in the United States and Canada and approved for import into Australia, China, the European Union, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Philippines, Russia, South Africa and Taiwan.

“ASA has worked in partnership with Bayer CropScience and Monsanto to educate foreign buyers on biotechnology and for regulatory clearances of these new traits,” said Dodson, who became ASA president last fall.

ASA has also worked closely with the South Korean industry for approval of these new soybean traits. In January, Ron Moore, ASA board member and Biotech Working Group member, traveled to South Korea to join Say Young Jo, American Soybean Association International Marketing South Korea director, for meetings with South Korean industry representatives.

Although U.S. processors continue to purchase a large quantity of U.S. soybeans annually, the export market remains huge for U.S. soybean producers.

The approval of the Monsanto Roundup Ready 2 Yield varieties by the European Union in December provided U.S. soybean producers with continued market access to nearly half a billion consumers living in the 27 EU member states.

The European Union-27 collectively purchased 143 million bushels of U.S. soybeans and 476,000 metric tons of U.S. soybean meal with a collective value of over $1.8 billion during marketing year 2007-08, making it the second largest buyer of U.S. soybeans following China.

“The EU purchased 8 percent more U.S. soybeans this year compared to last year,” Dodson said. “This would not have been possible without ASA’s biotechnology education and outreach programs, and its work with biotech companies to obtain international clearances in major export markets before new biotech soybean varieties are launched.

“Biotechnology-improved soybeans are just one of the key technologies that will help U.S. farmers meet the world’s growing demand for food, feed and fuel made from U.S. soybeans,” Dodson said. “Timely overseas regulatory approvals are critical because growers have rapidly adopted new biotech-enhanced seed varieties as soon as they became available.”

LibertyLink soybeans from Bayer CropScience received final approval from the European Commission for importation into the European Union (EU) for food and feed use in September, according to ASA.

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