Seed Trait Approval Slowdown

Inside Dakota Ag

New seed traits aren't getting approved as fast as they used to, say two regional seed company CEOs. Can you get by another couple years?

Published on: December 5, 2013

I heard an interesting discussion the other day at the Northern Ag Expo in Fargo, N.D., about how new seed traits aren’t getting approved as fast as they used to.

It used to take 1-2 years to get new an okay to sell new seed traits. Now it takes 3-4 years to win approval, according to Keith Peltier, of ProSeed, and Carl Peterson, of Peterson Farms Seed. Both men are owners and general managers of regional seed companies based on North Dakota.

Peltier and Peterson blamed the delay partly on additional regulations and the need for more environmental studies following lawsuits over Roundup Ready alfalfa and sugarbeets.

Also, Chinese approval of new traits virtually stopped recently due to a change in government. It’s taking time to put new officials in place to approve traits for import. Without China’s approval in hand, most trait developers don’t want to introduce something that could result in shipments of corn or soybeans being turned away at China's ports.

Once a new trait is approved, it takes a while for enough seed to be produced for the whole country. Seed companies start out with relatively small acres of the hybrids with new traits, perhaps just 10,000 acres the first year, which isn’t nearly enough, Peltier said. Shorter season hybrids and varieties usually seem to be the last ones to get the new traits.

The delay in trait approval could be a problem for farmers who have weed resistance problems now, or farmers who are trying to preserve the effectiveness of Roundup for use on sugarbeets or other crops where it is especially difficult and expensive to control weeds without Roundup.

“All the exciting stuff we said was coming two years ago is still coming, but by the time they get here we are really going to need them,” Peterson said.