UPDATE 3-EU approves Monsanto, Bayer genetically modified soybeans
* Europe key market for North American soybeans
* GMOs are a focus of environmental campaigners
* Authorisation for feed, food use but not cultivation (Recasts throughout; adds ADM comment, analyst comment, Monsanto share prices)
By Karl Plume
CHICAGO, July 22 (Reuters) - The European Commission on Friday approved imports of Monsanto's Roundup Ready 2 Xtend genetically modified soybean variety, after months of delays that had derailed the U.S. seed giant's product launch this spring.
The decision now clears the way for widespread planting next season and removes a hurdle for North American farmers and grain traders, who have to keep close track of unapproved biotech traits that can disrupt trade. Top importer China approved the soybeans earlier this year.
U.S. grain trader and processor Archer Daniels Midland Co told Reuters on Friday its elevators and processing plants will now accept the Xtend soybean variety. Rivals Cargill Inc, Bunge Ltd and CHS Inc, which had also refused to accept the variety without EU import approval, could not be immediately reached for comment.
The EU is the second largest importer of soybeans and its approval is not expected to have a major impact on merger talks by German suitor Bayer AG, whose sweetened $64-billion buyout offer of Monsanto was rejected last week, as it had been widely anticipated, analysts said on Friday.
"It would have been a big deal if it hadn't been approved, but this was the expected outcome, although it took longer than anyone thought," said Bernstein analyst Jonas Oxgaard. Continued...