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Bt Soybean with SCN Resistance and Herbicide Tolerance

In an Aug. 19, 2020 DTN article titled “Bt Bean Targets SCN, author Emily Unglesbee announces that the US-EPA has granted BASF a registration for a Bt soybean trait known as GMB151 that will target the soybean cyst nematode (SCN). The registration application for this trait can be found here.

This is a promising development for the soybean industry because of SCN’s increasing ability to infest soybean varieties that have the predominant resistance trait derived from PI 88788. The BASF trait expresses a new novel Bt protein Cry14Ab-1, which damages the gut of the SCN when ingested. It appears to have no activity on any other soybean pest species, or on non-target organisms. This new trait is intended to be bred into soybean varieties that already possess resistance traits derived from PI 88788 and Peking in order to enhance overall SCN management, and will result in the first Bt soybean varieties brought to the U.S. market.

In a previous article posted on this website, the effect of Bt crops on the micro-environment in which they are grown was summarized based on results from research reported in an article titled “The effect of Bt crops on soil invertebrates: a systematic review and quantitative meta-analysis” that is authored by Krogh, Kostov, and Damgaard and published in the journal Transgenic Research. The results of the meta-analysis conducted for that study indicate that current genetically modified Bt crops have no impact on soil invertebrates. Even though the above-mentioned Bt trait that is forthcoming in soybean for activity against SCN expresses a new Bt protein not included in the above study, the results in the above-cited article indicate that it is not likely to adversely affect non-target microbes and invertebrates in the soil.

In a Sept. 16, 2021 American Soybean Assoc. (ASA) letter to USDA-APHIS, ASA President Kevin Scott outlines that association’s support for the deregulated status of GMB151. In that letter, President Scott states “...we believe the new traits that would become available to soybean growers through GMB151–both soybean cyst nematode (SCN) resistance and 4-hydroxyphenylpyruvate dioxygenase (HPPD)-inhibitor herbicide tolerance–will offer agronomic and economic benefits, as well as maintaining important environmental benefits that may otherwise be jeopardized.” He further states “By providing growers another genetic tool, it would allow growers to retain their existing reliance on genetic controls for SCN. The gene in GMB151 that expresses the anti-SCN protein Cry14Ab-1 (which could also be stacked with other native resistance alleles for increased effect) would be just such a tool. Having access to HPPD-inhibitor tolerant soybeans could give growers a new herbicide option (author note: Group 27 herbicide) to manage weeds that have developed resistance to other chemistries....”

In a Scientific Opinion article titled “Assessment of genetically modified soybean GMB151 for food and feed uses, under Regulation (EC) No 1829/2003 (application EFSA-GMO-NL-2018-153) that was published in EFSA Journal 2021:19(4):6424, The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) Panel on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) states that “In this scientific opinion, the scientific Panel on Genetically Modified Organisms of the European Food Safety Authority (hereafter referred to as the ‘GMO Panel’) reports on the outcome of its risk assessment of soybean GMB151 according to the scope of the application EFSA-GMO-NL-2018-153.” The GMO Panel further states “None of the identified differences in the agronomic/phenotypic and compositional characteristics tested between soybean GMB151 and its conventional counterpart needs further assessment....” “The GMO Panel does not identify safety concerns regarding the toxicity and allergenicity of the HPPD-4 and Cry14Ab-1 proteins as expressed in soybean GMB151, and finds no evidence that the genetic modification would change the overall allergenicity of soybean GMB151. In the context of this application, the consumption of food and feed from soybean GMB151 does not represent a nutritional concern in humans and animals. The GMO Panel concludes that soybean GMB151 is as safe as the conventional counterpart and non-GM soybean reference varieties tested, and no post-market monitoring of food/feed is considered necessary.”

Hopefully, necessary approvals for these new GMB151 traits will be forthcoming sooner rather than later in the U.S. and abroad so that they can be incorporated into varieties that will provide new tools to manage SCN and weed pests that continue to plague soybean producers.

Composed by Larry G. Heatherly, Sept. 2021,