The Agrisure Viptera trait in corn hybrids was commercially launched in the United States in 2011. It received import approvals for all major markets and met both the Biotech Industry Organization's requirements for commercialization and the National Corn Growers Association's. Approval had also been applied for in all other potential export markets prior to commercialization. However, the increase in purchases of U.S. corn by China this year is presenting a challenge for producers that planted hybrids with the Viptera trait.
"During that timeframe it was determined by some exporting companies, that they saw China as a potential growing market, a major growing market, and wanted to reduce risk at delivering a trait that was not yet approved in China," said NCGA Director of Biotechnology and Economic Analysis Nathan Fields. "The reason why it was not approved in China is that there is a systematic delay in China approving traits. It has to be approved in the country of origin first before it can go through the regulatory process there."
According to Syngenta, approval of the Agrisure Viptera trait by China is expected in March 2012. In the past technology providers have not delayed commercialization of new traits due to the absence of Chinese approval. The uptick in U.S. corn purchases by China that began in July has altered the situation. Despite the fact that USDA estimates that even with the increase, 99% of U.S. corn goes to domestic and foreign markets other than China, Bunge and Consolidated Grain & Barge have both announced they will not accept corn containing the Agrisure Viptera trait.
The full commercial launch of the Agrisure Viptera trait occurred in approximately 70 different corn hybrids. There was a broad based commercial dispersion of the product so rather than a regionally based area with the trait, it is expected that Viptera trait corn is relatively evenly spread across the United States. Fields says it really comes down to individual farmers that have planted the trait understanding what markets they are selling into and making sure that they reconfirm delivery access points and make changes as needed.
"First and foremost if they have grain contracted they need to call the point of sale and make sure that the point of sale is going to take that trait and if they are to make sure they know that that corn has the Viptera trait in it, where they might send it downstream," Fields said. "There are a number of resources coming on, letting growers know what information they need to know about selling their grain into the market."
Information can be found online at www.AgrisureViptera.com/exportinfo . Growers can also e-mail questions to Syngenta at Export.Info@syngenta.com or Monday through Saturday, between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. Central time, they can call 800-319-1360.
USDA has confirmed that China has made some purchases of new crop corn, but Fields says at this point it isn't known how large an impact they will have on export markets.
"What we do know though, is that the Viptera trait is in the Chinese regulatory system and if it remains as predictable as it has been in the past, we can expect sometime in early 2012 for that trait to approved, at which there would be no barrier for corn going into China that would contain that trait," Fields said. "In the short-term we see some attention that needs to be paid to grain heading over there, but if everything stays on schedule within the Chinese regulatory system there will be a resolution."
Fields says the larger issue at hand is how do the U.S. market, farmers, technology providers and grain traders begin to address the fact that there are some asynchronous regulatory systems throughout the world and balance the need for market development and market access to the availability of technology for producers.
"There are good conversations on all sides of this," Fields said. "I think it's something that we all understand is something that needs a lot more further discussion and over the next few months and few years we'll continue to work with each other and with foreign markets to avoid these kinds of disruptions. "