American Farm Bureau PALs Brazil Trip, Day 3

Worldwide Look of Seed Development: A first hand experience with Monsanto in Santa Cruz del Palermas, São Paulo Brazil

By Scott Sink and Jeremy Barron

Have you every wondered how farmers manage pests on millions of acres of food grown around the world? It takes time, discovery, repetition, resources, regulation, and determination to create a sustainable solution that serves the needs of farmers and meets the demands of a growing population. Yes, the short answer is GMOs. During a recent trip to Brazil, we had a chance to learn first hand from Monsanto on how new seeds are developed and the rigorous process needed to create these highly demanded products.

The process starts with discovery on the farm. Monsanto works directly with local farmers to understand changes in their climate, environment and production practices.  The discovery process is the identification of traits needed to help farmers meet these challenges. This process takes 2-4 years while exploring hundreds of millions of traits which are selected and tested for suitability and proof of concept, this process takes an additional 2-4 years.

Brazil 4

After 6-8 years of research and testing the development process selects from just hundreds of traits to test for safety, allergenic properties and suitability. This phase allows researchers to define the safest most effective traits narrowing the selection to less than 5 traits.

The next phase of the cycle allows traits to be integrated into the seeds. Allowing researchers to conduct field tests, regulatory studies and submit findings to regulators. Leading researchers to the final trait that they will push forward for approval. This process can take up to 5 years to gain approvals in countries and markets around the world. The final phase before product launch allows researchers another 2 to 3 years to conduct field tests on the seed trait that is being brought to market.

The process described above evolves over 10 years, cost in excess of $200 million dollars, and goes through over 100 safety and environmental studies to reach a sustainable solution for both the field and home.  Our trip has allowed us to have a greater appreciation of the time, cost, and scrutiny that a GMO seed goes through.  Without this process farmers will not have the products that they need to be productive and consumers will not be able to enjoy the food security they expect.

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