Updated 5/13/13 at 10 p.m. CST
I landed in sunny St. Louis this afternoon for the Monsanto Media Days that begin tomorrow morning. The first thing I noticed was how much greener it is here than back home in Minneapolis. What a difference just a few hundred miles makes. And it's clear this area has not been affected by the lingering drought like the state's neighbors to the west.
Journalists from around the country will arrive in St. Louis soon to learn the latest from Monsanto. As I prepare for the event, I am reflecting on the company's recent appearance in the news. The event follows Friday's announcement by the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) that it will be preparing Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) for genetically engineered plants that are 2,4-D and dicamba tolerant. APHIS will prepare EIS's for two of Monsanto's next-generation weed management technologies: Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybean and Bollgard II XtendFlex cotton technologies. Monsanto released a statement the same day announcing it will cooperate with the APHIS's EIS.
The USDA's announcement comes just over a year after the Save Our Crops Coalition (SOCC) petitioned USDA to prepare an EIS to evaluate the environmental impacts of dicamba tolerant crops.
The statement from USDA said "While the EIS's will look more broadly at potential impacts to the environment as a whole, APHIS' regulatory authority is based on the Plant Protection Act and the Agency's oversight is specific to evaluating the potential for the GE plants to pose a plant pest risk to crops or other plants."
Tomorrow's agenda will focus on Monsanto's soybean technologies, and company representatives will be on hand to answer questions about this recent news. I'll be getting the latest information from Monsanto to answer your questions about the EIS's that will soon be prepared by USDA.
What are your top questions about the recent news from USDA? Leave your questions in the comments below.
Update on 5/13/13 at 10 p.m. CST:
Shannon Hauf, global dicamba and weed management lead, spoke to the media today regarding Friday's announcement from the USDA. While many unknowns remain about the process and timeline for USDA's preparation of the EIS with Monsanto, Hauf was able to shed light on the company's initial reactions to the announcement.
"We've been through this with Roundup Ready sugar beet. We have confidence we can provide the answers to USDA. We have completed an EIS before -- we've got the experience," Hauf said.
But when asked about whether or not Monsanto was expecting to receive the news from USDA, Hauf said "We're disappointed and it was unexpected. Being three years into the process with really nothing indicated in those three years that we were going to have to go through this is the unexpected piece."
The company remains committed to expanding its training and education programs. Hauf said Monsanto will touch 6,000 farmers through Roundup Ready learning experiences this year, so farmers will have the opportunity to work with the technology before it is commercially released.