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Swiss Non-GM Soybeans Ready for Market

06 October 2011

SWITZERLAND - Switzerland's fight to maintain non-genetically modified (GM) crops in the face of a larger pool of world GM seeds has been given a boost by researchers at the ACW (Agroscope Changins-Wädenswil) federal research station. Two new hybrid seed varieties, Amandine and Falbala, are ready for market, the result of 15 years of guided natural selection, research and testing.

According to genevalunch.com, new naturally selected seeds take, on average, 15 years to be market-ready, with two new products ready each year.

The federal department of agriculture notes that while 81 percent of the world's soya crops are now from genetically modified seeds, 30 years of natural selection of non-GM soya seeds at ACW is resulting in seeds that are well-suited to Swiss soil and climate conditions.

Amandine is notable for its improved flavour and Falbala for its high protein content.

GM soya has been developed on such a large scale because of the plant's importance as a crop for humans. Wikipedia reports that "In 1997, about 8 percent of all soybeans cultivated for the commercial market in the United States were genetically modified. In 2010, the figure was 93 percent."

The bean is 40 percent protein and 20 percent oil. It is self-sufficient in nitrogenous nutrients, although thermically very demanding, preferring hot temperatures (20-30C).

It's known as a "miraculous" plant because it can be planted much further afield than northeast China, where it originated. Today it accounts for two-thirds of protein flours and 60 percent of oils consumed worldwide.

The FAO (Food and Agricultural Organization) classifies it as an oilseed rather than as a pulse.

Europe remains one of the smallest growing regions for the crop, with 4 percent of world production, compared to the US and Brazil, which each export 39 percent. Europe does not permit GM soya to be cultivated and as a result it imports 80 percent of what it uses for margarine, salad dressings, cooking oil and in non-food uses such as plastics and biofuel.

Switzerland imports 250,000 tons of soya annually, 80 times greater than what it produces.

The importance of finding indigenous soya solutions to reduce the dependence on imported crops has grown as consumers have insisted on maintaining the non-GM crop. The main genetic modification has been Roundup Ready (RR), seeds that resist this herbicide. Detractors say RR encourages use of the herbicide, banned in Switzerland because of the risk that Glyphosate, the generic name, encourages the development of resistant weeds. Its fans, particularly in the US, argue that RR is in fact good environmentally because it eliminates the need for long-life herbicides, which reduces the need for tillage, thus preserving soil.

The Swiss federal agricultural department notes that natural selection not only avoids the use of GM soya seeds, but allows researchers to develop seeds that are particularly suited to the country's crop growing situations and market needs.

TheCropSite News Desk



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