Grains Council pushes stewardship for new biotech products

By Sarah Gonzalez

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



SAN ANTONIO, Feb. 27, 2014 -- U.S. Grains Council President Tom Sleight said he's asking corn farmers to strictly follow recommended stewardship guidelines for growing and selling Syngenta's Agrisure Duracade seed trait “to minimize the risk of export trade disruption.”

In an effort to help farmers manage the new product, Syngenta announced an agreement this month with Gavilon Grain LLC to provide marketing opportunities for farmers who choose to plant Agrisure Duracade, which has been designed to control rootworm damage. For growers participating in the program, Gavilon will accept Duracade grain at market price while providing stewardship and distribution services.

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In November, China began rejecting shipments of corn that contained Agrisure Viptera, a trait developed by Syngenta to control damage from more than a dozen insects, including rootworm. USGC leaders fear additional retaliation as Syngenta releases its Duracade product, which has also not been approved by the Asian nation. In a briefing today at the Commodity Classic in San Antonio, Sleight said the group is working with Chinese officials on a daily, “almost hourly” basis to resolve the issue.

He noted that unintentional commingling will inevitably occur in the large U.S. commodity handling system and that modern testing methods would likely detect trace levels of the unapproved traits in grain shipments. 

“Today's unfortunate reality is that biotechnology approval systems around the world are not synchronous,” Sleight said, warning that “leakage of unapproved events may even result in the closure of some major markets to U.S. corn exports for an indefinite period.”

During an interview today with Agri-Pulse, David Morgan, president of Syngenta Seeds, said U.S. farmers are “anxiously awaiting” the new technology provided by the Duracade product as they battle rootworm.  He said the partnership with Gavilon gives farmers the choice to adopt Duracade “with the confidence of knowing they have options for marketing their grain."

Syngenta is marketing the technology with a limited launch planned for cultivation in the U.S. and Canada in 2014. Morgan said Syngenta will not sell Duracade in areas of the country where corn is grown primarily for export markets that include China.

Regarding China's rejection of Agrisure Viptera, Morgan noted the product is grown in the U.S., Argentina and Brazil, and has been in the grain system for three years without retaliation. He said, to his knowledge, China has not rejected loads of corn from other countries that grow Viptera. 

“The real issue is a lack of synchronized approvals by grain importing countries,” Syngenta noted in a statement. “To source from major corn producing countries, importing countries need to align their regulatory processes to ensure predictable markets and undisturbed trade.”

Sleight said while there are several theories on why China rejected the shipments, “the bottom line is there is a real concern about biotechnology in China.” He noted that the U.S. corn industry will lose a couple million tons of corn exports to China because of the issue.

USGC Chairman Julius Schaaf appealed to his fellow farmers to adhere to the stewardship program and “to please be aware and understand the urgency of the export market.”

He noted that China knows it needs the bio-engineered technology in order to sustain its production. “It's really about global food security,” he said. “China admits they have a sincere interest in this technology.”

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