The Department of Agriculture announced recently that the Monsanto corn trait variety known as MON 87460 "is no longer considered a regulated article under our regulations governing the introduction of certain genetically engineered organisms" The registration of the corn generally referred to a drought tolerant has been the center of comments and discussion .
The USDA approval of field trials with Monsanto’s MON87460 biotech drought-tolerant or water efficient corn was expected and fills a market need in the dry western states, noted Mark Gulley, chemical analyst for Ticonderoga Securities. The variety will likely be tougher to market in central Midwest states such as Iowa, the top corn producer, because they do not have repeated drought conditions, he said.
"It's a great niche product," he said.
Bob Nielsen, agronomist at Purdue University, said he will have a "healthy skepticism" about how much the product will help farmers until he sees the results of the upcoming trials.
Drought resistance may not have improved corn production significantly last summer because the crop came under stress from extreme heat, as well as dryness, he said.
"The impact of it will depend on exactly how tolerant it is," he said of the variety.
The Union of Concerned Scientists, a group wary of biotechnology, predicted the product would have little impact on output.
It will work best in areas of moderate drought and not be much use in severe drought, said Doug Gurian-Sherman, a senior scientist for the group. About 15 percent of U.S corn is grown in areas where moderate drought is a problem, he said.
"It's really a baby step, not a giant step forward," he said in describing Monsanto's drought corn.
Pending regulatory approvals, Monsanto anticipates launching the product as early as 2013-2014. The company said approvals for imports into "key corn import markets with functioning regulatory systems" were in progress.