Syngenta alerts industry to export issue with GM corn variety

By Susanne Retka Schill | August 22, 2011

Corn and distillers grains exports to China will be getting added scrutiny this fall by some buyers. Syngenta Seeds Inc. has launched an informational campaign, plus filed suit against one of those grain buyers, regarding its newly released Agrisure Viptera trait.

Syngenta has filed a complaint against Bunge North America in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa, claiming the global grain trader has violated a number of federal and state laws. “We are taking this action to remove the illegal impediment Bunge imposed on growers when they announced mid-season that they would not accept grain enhanced by the Agrisure Viptera trait,” said David Morgan, president. “When a product has been legally approved, growers should be able to use that technology without subsequently being subjected to arbitrary actions.”

Recently, Bunge and Consolidated Grain & Barge announced they would not buy corn from farmers containing the Viptera trait. Syngenta launched its information campaign last week to explain the situation caused by the still-pending approval for China, even though the new corn variety is already approved for the U.S. and several primary export markets. The new GM (genetically modified) variety received USDA approval in April 2010 and has been approved in all key import markets recommended by the National Corn Growers Association and the Biotechnology Industry Organization, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, the Philippines, Korea and Taiwan. Syngenta applied for Chinese approval in March 2010 and expects to receive regulatory clearance in March 2012. The trait has also been approved for cultivation in Canada, Argentina and Brazil.

Syngenta explains that in the past, technology providers have not held up commercialization of new GM traits due to the absence of Chinese approvals, naming several trait launches from Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences conducted in 2010 without Chinese approval. 

This was the first year that seed with the Agrisure Viptera trait was planted commercially. Most commonly offered as the Agrisure Viptera 3111 trait stack, the new GM variety provides control for 14 above- and below-ground corn pests plus glufosinate and glyphosate tolerance. “The seed was sold nationally but represents less than 2 percent of total U.S. corn acres,” said Jack Bernens, marketing and stakeholder manager, Enogen, Syngenta. Whole grain and DDGS (distillers dried grains with solubles)  are treated the same regarding export approvals, he added.

“Ethanol plants are a potential destination for grain with the Agrisure Viptera trait,” Bernens said. “With tight corn supply this fall, we expect those ethanol plants not exporting DDGS to China will have strong interest in taking corn with the Agrisure Viptera trait. We are asking growers to notify destinations that their grain contains the Agrisure Viptera trait to assure proper stewardship. We also hope ethanol plants that are not exporting DDGS to China will let growers know they are accepting corn with the Agrisure Viptera trait.”

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