Pioneer has been toiling away at a new biotech soybean with a stacked-trait approach aimed at giving farmers more flexibility for weed control. Optimum GAT combines Pioneer's own glyphosate-tolerance gene with another that protects the soybean from ALS inhibitor - however the technology's launch is being delayed.
Originally, the advanced soybean stack was to be available to market in 2013 or 2014, but now Pioneer is telling investors that the product will be delayed beyond that timeframe.
In a statement to investors Tuesday, the company notes that the continued dispute over the use of Roundup Ready 1 technology from Monsanto in the Optimum GAT stack is stalling the process. Currently, Monsanto has not provided Pioneer necessary letters of access. Those letters are part of the process for getting the stack approved in export markets. Without export market approval, Pioneer will not proceed to market with the technology.
In the investor statement, Paul Schickler, Pioneer president, explained that "regulatory approval and commercialization plans for Optimum GAT are delayed by "Monsanto's actions, which are preventing the regulatory review of the stack. We continue to work toward legal resolution regarding Optimum GAT soybeans to bring our first choice innovation in expanded herbicide tolerance to market."
Monsanto and Pioneer have been wrangling in court since 2009 when Monsanto filed a patent infringement suit over Optimum GAT and the use of the Roundup Ready 1 gene in the stack. Monsanto is asking for compensation for use of the gene, Pioneer claims that the original agreement allows it to stack the RR1 trait in the new product. They're still fighting this one in court.
On track despite setback
During a conversation with Doyle Karr, spokesperson for Pioneer, he explained that despite the delay for Optimum GAT the company continues to grow market share and is on track to hit its five-year targets for growth. "We're financially strong and there's not a change there," Karr says. "This is not about us, but farmers. They are not getting another choice."
Schickler notes that Pioneer is on pace for strong growth for fiscal 2011, and he anticipates market share growth in corn and soybeans. He notes that Optimum AcreMax 1 corn was planted on nearly 4 million acres for 2011, which exceeded company expectations.