Two leading trade associations representing the grain, feed and grain processing industries have joined forces to urge Syngenta Seeds Inc. to reconsider commercializing Agrisure RW corn seed for the 2007 crop year. The groups claim the seed should not be sold since the company has yet to receive approval for export to Japan and other U.S. export markets.
The National Grain and Feed Association and North American Export Grain Association said that what they termed Syngenta’s “ill-conceived” plan risks endangering U.S. corn and corn product exports. The groups also say Syngenta's approach could set a "dangerous precedent concerning future introduction of biotechnology-enhanced traits before they are approved in other countries, like Japan.
In a press statement, NGFA President Kendell W. Keith says: "We already are aware that Japanese buyers are developing contingency plans to purchase corn and corn products from non-U.S. origins if Syngenta releases this seed for planting and Japanese government approval is not forthcoming prior to harvest. Given the painful lessons learned in the past, we urge Syngenta to join with us in protecting the marketability of U.S. corn and corn products by delaying the introduction of Agrisure RW corn seed until it receives full regulatory approval in Japan and other important U.S. corn export markets."
Jack Bernens, business unit director for the Agrisure Traits at Syngenta, says the company is working on approval for the Japanese market and that process is moving forward. "We've implemented a comprehensive communication/commitment program where growers need to identify an end-use location where they can take the grain and keep it in the domestic channel," he notes.
Growers that buy seed with the Agrisure RW trait are to sign an agreement that outlines their marketing outlet for that crop this fall. If the agreement is not signed, the farmer will not be able to get the seed, Bernens says. "We'd rather you don't sell it than to sell to someone who is not willing to commit to an end-use location," he adds.
Bernens notes that the new trait is not significantly different from other rootworm genes - from a safety standpoint. "This is a 'cry' protein," he notes. The Cry type Bt proteins are at the heart of each competitors rootworm-controlling technology.
Syngenta begin selling its new Agrisure RW corn seed after the March 16 decision by USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to deregulate the product after finding no adverse plant health or environmental concerns. The biotechnology-enhanced trait, which contains modified protein MIR604 to control corn rootworm insects, previously received authorizations from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The product is approved for both food and feed use in the United States.
The grain groups note they don't question the safety of the product, but are concerned about marketability. They also note that the Japan Feed Trade Association, which represents major buyers of U.S. corn also has urged Syngenta to delay introduction of the product.
In a response to the issue, Syngenta notes the following:
- Garst, Golden Harvest and NK Brand dealers will not deliver seed to any Agrisure RW customer who does not sign a Grain Use/Marketing Commitment agreement stating they commit to deliver Agrisure RW grain only to non-export locations and provide the name and address of the end-use location.
- Growers will also be required to sign a stewardship agreement confirming they understand their obligations to market the grain appropriately.
- Agrisure RW seed will carry a bag tag that states the product does not have Japanese approval and must be directed to domestic uses.
- During the season, additional communication will be sent to these growers reminding them of their obligations to only market Agrisure RW grain to domestic end-uses.
- Syngenta will use a third party resource to identify end-use locations that do not export corn (approximately 1,600 sites have previously been identified for growers) and will work with growers to provide additional grain placement assistance to any grower unable to deliver to an approved end-use location.