North American Farmers Get Exclusive Rights to Vistive Beans - For Now

Speakers optimistic that North American farmers could grow all the low-lin beans needed for global demand.

Published on: Aug 30, 2006

Vistive acreage is set to triple or quadruple acreage on North American farms from 2006 to 2007. Mike Wilson

Monsanto, makers of the low-linolenic soybean variety known as Vistive, has pledged to give North American farmers exclusive access to the seed as long as U.S. producers can meet global demand. Faced with burgeoning demand from food companies, Vistive acreage is set to triple or quadruple acreage on North American farms from 2006 to 2007.

The company gave a press briefing on Wednesday at the Farm Progress Show held at Amana, Iowa.

"Monsanto's commitment to U.S. and Canadian farmers means we will be growing the value-added products here in North America to meet the demand," says John Hoffman, vice president of the American Soybean Association.

Low-linolenic soy seed is a hot commodity right now because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires food manufacturers to list trans fat content on packaging. Low-lin soy oil allows food makers to bypass the hydrogenation process, which leads to trans fats, a known health risk.

Speakers at the press briefing were optimistic that North American farmers could grow all the low-lin beans needed for global demand. Palm oil is the only real alternative and most companies are sticking with soy as they shift to low-lin oil, says Hoffman.

With 500,000 acres set for harvest this fall, Monsanto says it expects nearly 2 million acres to be planted by spring 2007. "These growers are harvesting yields comparable to conventional soybeans, with premiums ranging from 25 to 45 cents per bushel," says Kurt Wickstrom, Monsanto's U.S. Soybean Trait Marketing Manager. Other seed companies, including Pioneer Hi-Bred International, are also ramping up production of low-lin seed.

Earlier varieties of low-lin beans resulted in occasional yield lapses, Wickstrom reports, but the newer varieties have incorporated so-called 'defensive' traits that make yield drag much less of a concern for farmers.

Initially introduced in Iowa in 2005, Vistive was also grown this year in Indiana, Minnesota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Michigan. Further expansion is set for Ohio, Delaware and Maryland next year.
Entry into European market?

While the European Union is still restrictive on genetically modified crops, low-lin could provide an entry into that highly-protected market. Currently the EU is ramping up its renewable fuel infrastructure much like the U.S., except the fuel of choice there is biodiesel, based on oil from winter rapeseed. The EU wants to more than double the amount of biodiesel in its diesel market by 2010, and to do so would require more rapeseed oil shifted from food uses to fuel.

"This could mean two opportunities for U.S farmers," says Wickstrom. "First, they (European consumers) will need more food oil. Second, if they decide to keep rapeseed oil for food use but still want to meet the 2010 fuel mandate, they may need biodiesel shipped in. So Vistive may give us an opportunity to increase bean exports into the EU."