USDA has now approved another GMO crop variety, this time a variety to produce a common enzyme called alpha-amylase that breaks down starch into sugar, thereby facilitating a vital step in ethanol production. The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced the approval today.
Syngenta Seeds, Inc., requested nonregulated status to its alpha-amylase corn (Event 3272) in 2005. In 2008, APHIS prepared a plant pest risk assessment as required by the Plant Protection Act and an environmental assessment in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act. Both documents were made available for public review and comment, and APHIS received more than 13,000 comments
APHIS said in a release that they recognized certain milling and food-processing stakeholder groups have concerns about this corn variety being deregulated and potential impacts on wet-milling operations. "We are pleased that these segments of industry continue to dialogue with Syngenta on research and testing efforts, and encourage these parties to continue their efforts to resolve the issues that remain," APHIS said in a release announcing the action.
Syngenta has committed to several important steps to address some stakeholder concerns, such as forming an industry advisory council to review the closed loop system the company has in place for amylase corn. Syngenta has invited USDA to be a part of the council, and USDA will participate. Syngenta is also willing to share information on amylase corn production, within appropriate legal and privacy limits, with members of the advisory council.
Here's a link to USDA Q&As on the matter.
North Dakota's Ag Commissioner Doug Goehring hailed the announcement, saying, "Deregulating alpha amylase corn gives growers another option for the upcoming growing season and beyond. The new corn variety will greatly benefit the ethanol industry because it increases the efficiency of fermentation."
The action is the latest in a series of announcements on GMO crops from USDA in recent weeks, including a partial deregulation of GMO sugarbeets and full deregulation of GMO alfalfa.