Ceres receives positive response from USDA regarding corn traits

By Ceres Inc. | March 01, 2016

Ceres Inc., an agricultural biotechnology company focused on forage and feed crops, announced that its petition to have a number of its traits for corn deemed non-regulated has been successful.

The USDA has notified the company that corn traits developed using Ceres' proposed methods and components would not be considered regulated items under the USDA's mandate to regulate genetically engineered crops. The determination, in effect, will allow the company and any collaborators to develop and commercialize these corn traits in the U.S. in a faster and more cost effective way than corn traits on the market today. The traits in Ceres' petition include traits for improved digestibility, drought tolerance and insect resistance.

"We appreciate the USDA's diligence in reviewing our inquiry. In this case, the USDA determined that there was no scientific reason to warrant their oversight under current regulations," said Richard Hamilton, Ceres President and CEO. He indicated that this clarity will facilitate licensing discussions with corn seed companies regarding these traits.

As a founding member of the Excellence Through Stewardship organization, Ceres continues to follow well established stewardship practices for greenhouse and field evaluations of traits that have been granted non-regulated status by USDA. ETS stewardship practices also include guidelines for outreach and consultations with trade groups, supply chain participants and other stakeholders ahead of product introductions.

The determination of non-regulated status for corn was initiated by Ceres in August 2013. The company submitted a letter of inquiry to the USDA requesting that the department advise the company on whether or not its proposed traits, which do not contain genetic sequences from plant pests, and transformation method, which does not involve the use of a plant pathogen, were regulated under federal code, 7 CFR §340. The USDA noted that certain of the company's traits may still be subject to other applicable USDA regulations and reviewed by other regulatory authorities such as EPA and FDA. The export of products derived from corn seed with Ceres' traits would also require deregulation by applicable foreign jurisdictions. Ceres has previously received non-regulated status for traits in sorghum and switchgrass.