WASHINGTON, Dec. 4, 2015 – USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has given Monsanto the go-ahead to market corn genetically engineered for increased ear biomass.
The corn, designated as event MON 87403, has been developed for increased ear biomass at the early reproductive stage compared to conventional corn. APHIS said, “Ear biomass, which is set during early reproductive stages, is considered an important determinant of reproductive success, and a larger ear biomass at early reproductive stages is associated with increased grain yield at harvest.”
APHIS announced its decision on “nonregulated status” today and will publish it in the Federal Register on Tuesday, Dec. 8.
“Multiple years of field testing showed that MON 87403 corn out-yielded its comparators at a majority of locations tested,” the agency said in its final Environmental Assessment. The EA, required by the National Environmental Policy Act, found no significant risks to flora, fauna or the environment in general.
In its final Plant Pest Risk Assessment, APHIS concluded that “MON 87403 maize is not expected to increase the weed risk potential of other species with which it can interbreed in the United States” and that “no impacts on pests or pest management practices are anticipated.”
Field trials “demonstrate that there are no differences in agronomic practices between MON 87403 corn and conventional corn,” APHIS said in the EA. “The common agricultural practices that would be carried out in the cultivation of MON 87403 corn are not expected to deviate from current practices, including the use of EPA-registered pesticides.”
In addition, “MON 87403 corn is not expected to directly cause a measurable change in agricultural acreage or area devoted to corn in the U.S.,” the EA said.
As for threatened or endangered species, APHIS said “few if any . . . are likely to use corn fields because they do not provide suitable habitat.”
Farm industry groups were split on the question of approval. The South Dakota Corn Growers Association supported nonregulated status, while the National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) and North American Export Grain Association (NAEGA) recommended in their joint comments that APHIS “create and apply a different category of ‘deregulation’ – namely ‘conditional deregulation’ – expressly for MON 87403 and for other biotech-enhanced events that the agency determines do not present a plant pest or noxious weed risk, but which have not received approvals in significant U.S. export markets and, as such, present a risk of disrupting domestic and/or export markets if they become present in the commingled supply chain.”
But the South Dakota growers said “an increase in biomass will lead to increased corn yields, which is a big step in feeding a steadily growing world. The United States currently has an abundant grain supply but that can change with a couple of years of adverse growing conditions. The drought in California shows how rapidly conditions can change.”
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