Seed Stalemate

March 5, 2014 05:04 AM
Seed Stalemate

Syngenta defends sales of seed corn traits banned by China

Corn growers uncertain whether to plant the new Agrisure Duracade corn hybrids this spring have several marketing options and can move forward with their plans, says Pat Steiner, head of Syngenta corn crop portfolio.

The new hybrids, which have not been approved for import by China, are creating friction between the company and some key industry players.

"There is a range of options because 99.5% of the grain is going elsewhere. Some elevators are taking the grain freely, while others are asking that it be identified," Steiner adds. "On top of that, it can go into feed. Meat can be imported by China, as the protein is not regulated."

In January, the National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA) and North American Export Grain Association (NAEGA) sent a joint letter to Syngenta asking the company to halt the commercialization of hybrids con­tain­ing Agrisure Duracade, as well as the Agrisure Viptera trait, MIR 162, until China grants regulatory authorization.

The associations "are gravely concerned about the serious economic harm to exporters, grain handlers and, ultimately, agricultural producers—as well as the U.S.’s reputation to meet its customers’ needs—that has resulted from Syngenta’s current approach to stewardship of Viptera."
Steiner says the primary reason for Syngenta’s decision to continue marketing hybrids containing the trait is because it has been in the marketplace for four years already.

"We were selling Viptera a year and a half before China became a major importer," he says. "Now that China has become a significant importer and decided to reject barges containing Agrisure Viptera, which they hadn’t done in the past, it’s a real challenge because there’s a lot out there already."

Rootworm takes a toll. As for the Agrisure Duracade products, Syngenta opted to move forward with its 2014 launch plans since market options are available for the grain. The company is essentially sold out of the hybrids, which express a new Bt Cry protein, eCry3.1Ab, for corn rootworm control.  This is the first time the new Cry protein will be used commercially.

"Farmers need tools for control of corn rootworm, and Duracade is certainly on the forefront and is coming at a desperately needed time," Steiner says.

Results of the 2013 Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll support Steiner’s perspective on the pest’s impact. Of the 1,209 farmers responding to the survey, 69% indicated that they were aware that populations of Bt-resistant Western corn rootworm had been found in Iowa. In addition, 53% are concerned Bt-resistant corn rootworm would become a major problem in the state, according to J. Gordon Arbuckle Jr., a sociologist with Iowa State University (ISU) Extension and Outreach.

The survey showed 38% of respondents had changed their approach to rootworm management during the past five years, and 77% of those who planned to plant corn in 2013 would use a rootworm-resistant variety, Arbuckle adds. He co-directs the annual poll with Paul Lasley, also an ISU Extension sociologist.

Steiner says early March is the next checkpoint date for the Chinese to announce any progress on import approvals for Agrisure Duracade and Agrisure Viptera.

"If China breaks the logjam, that would be great news," Steiner says. "This has been tough on everyone."

He notes that Syngenta is in regular contact with the NGFA and NAEGA, in hopes of developing a resolution satisfactory to all parties.

Farmers interested in staying up-to-date on Syngenta products, as well as other industry-developed traits that are in the market pipeline, can find updates at the Know-to-Grow link on the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) website.

Syngenta has also established a toll-free number, (800) 319-1360, to help farmers find elevators in their area that will accept grain with the Agrisure Duracade and Viptera trait. The line is available from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. EDT, Monday through Friday. 

You can email Rhonda Brooks at

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