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Arcadia Bio, Partners to Produce Stress-Tolerant Soybeans

Soybean field

(Kevin Dooley, Flickr)

7 July 2015. Arcadia Biosciences, an agricultural biotechnology company, will develop a new variety of soybeans engineered for greater tolerance of environmental stresses, with partners in Brazil and Argentina, two major soybean growers. Financial details of the collaboration between the Davis, California company and Bioceres S.A. in Rosario, Argentina, and Tropical Melhoramento e Genética Ltda, in Cambé, Brazil were not disclosed.

Arcadia Bio and Bioceres are already collaborating in Verdeca LLC, a soybean technology joint venture, producing genetically-modified soybean traits with a greater tolerance for environmental stresses, particularly drought conditions. Bioceres is an agricultural biotech company owned by more than 250 growers in South America. Tropical Melhoramento e Genética is a soybean and cotton breeding company developing new varieties for growers in the region.

Soybeans are expected to play a more important role as a source of protein as the economies of India and China grow larger and develop middle-class diets. Soybean plants are processed mainly into animal feeds, edible oils, soy flour, and proteins.

Farmers worldwide in 2013, according to the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization, produced 276.4 million metric tons (304.7 short tons) of soybeans. The U.S. accounts for 89.5 million metric tons, or about one-third (32%) of the total. But Argentina and Brazil — site of Arcadia’s two partner companies — together produced 131 metric tons, or 47.4 percent of the world’s soybean output.

The agreement calls for breeding of new soybean varieties incorporating Verdeca’s genetically-modified stress-tolerant traits, brand-named HB4, designed to produce stable and high yields in drought conditions and related environmental stresses. Verdeca says soybeans with HB4 traits were field tested for 6 growing seasons in Argentina and the U.S., and 2 years in regulatory field trials, with yields up to 14 percent higher under multiple stress conditions.

In April 2015, Argentina’s regulatory authorities —  its Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, and National Advisory Commission on Agricultural Biotechnology that review safety of genetically-modified organisms — approved soybeans with HB4 traits for production in that country. Verdeca says the authorities concluded the HB4-modified soybeans would be as safe for the environment as conventional soybeans. It was the first regulatory approval for HB4 traits addressing abiotic stresses, those caused by non-living factors such as heat, drought, flooding, salinity, and nutrient availability.

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