Dow Chemical Challenges Monsanto With Insect-Killing Soy

Dow Chemical Co., the largest U.S. chemical company by revenue, plans to challenge Monsanto Co.’s insect-repelling soybeans for South America with beans engineered to kill pests with two added genes.

The new soybeans should be available in Brazil and Argentina in three to five years, pending regulatory approvals, Midland, Michigan-based Dow said today in a statement. The beans kill fall armyworms and other above-ground pests by producing two types of insecticidal proteins derived from Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt, a soil bacterium that is the genetic source for other insect-resistant crops.

Monsanto estimates the market for its Intacta beans, which are being introduced on 3 million acres this year and have one Bt gene to control bugs, at 100 million acres. Having two Bt genes with different modes of action will slow insects’ ability to overcome the technology, said Joe Vertin, Dow’s global leader on Enlist weed control.

“We are trying to make this technology sustainable as long as possible,” Vertin said in a telephone interview.

The beans also will be engineered to survive applications of Dow’s 2,4-D herbicide, marketed as Enlist.

Dow entered the Brazil soybean market two years ago and is entering the market in Argentina this year, with plans to expand businesses in advance of approvals for the dual-action soybeans, Tom Wiltrout, Dow’s global seeds, traits and oils strategy leader, said by phone. The company has larger corn-seed businesses in both countries, he said.

Dow’s new beans contain the Cry1Ac gene, the same as in Intacta, as well as the Cry1F gene for controlling fall armyworms.

Monsanto is the world’s biggest seed company.