The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has approved a drought tolerant soyabean developed by seed developer Verdeca for commercialisation in the US market.

The approval came two years after the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the HB4 trait in 2017, said Verdeca, a joint venture between US biotechnology firm Arcadia Biosciences and Argentine chemicals company Bioceres,

“HB4 is a novel soyabean trait that enhances the traditional herbicide tolerance package to provide yield stability across diverse environments,” said Verdeca general manager Martin Mariani Ventura on 8 August. “Approval of this technology in the USA is a significant step for the successful commercialisation of HB4 technology in the global soyabean market.”

With the USDA’s decision, HB4 now had regulatory approval in more than 80% of the global soyabean market.

“The HB4 trait has already been approved in Argentina and Brazil, with regulatory submissions currently under consideration by Bolivia, China, Paraguay, and Uruguay. Import approval from China is needed for commercial launch in Argentina, and is now expected in 2020,” Verdeca said.

More than 30M of the world’s soyabean hectares were grown in the USA, while the 2019 growing season had challenged many US growers with too much water. Key soyabean production areas just last year suffered reduced yields due to water and heat stress.

“Trials in Argentina have shown a positive impact of the HB4 trait stack on soyabeans there,” said Raj Ketkar, president and CEO of Arcadia Biosciences.

“The USDA and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approvals are important steps in our continued drive to commercialise this trait in key markets.”

Verdeca said it was formed in 2012 to develop next-generation soyabean traits in key production regions, beginning in South America and North America, which together represented nearly 80% of the world’s harvested soyabean hectares.