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Why Syngenta marketed Agrisure RW corn

Agriculture.com Staff 05/22/2007 @ 11:43am

Ethanol is the belle of the corn demand ball that's significantly spiked corn prices since last fall. However, this spring's flap over Syngenta's Agrisure RW trait shows exports are still a key corn demand player.

Agrisure RW is a new corn trait Syngenta introduced this year to control corn rootworm. Syngenta is offering it through its NK, Golden Harvest and Garst brands. Curry Seed Company, Elk Point, South Dakota, is also offering Agrisure RW through an agreement with Syngenta. Syngenta's offering joins two already on the market, Monsanto's YieldGard Rootworm and Herculex RW, marketed by Pioneer Hi-Bred International and Dow AgroSciences.

Final U.S. approval to the Agrisure RW trait and stacks occurred in March 2007. However, this trait has not received approval for import into other countries.

It's the lack of approval by Japan -- the largest U.S. foreign corn customer -- that particularly concerns farmers, commodity groups, grain exporters and grain shippers. They fear Agrisure RW corn could slip out of domestic marketing channels and end up in approved corn exported to Japan.

If this happens, some fear this could jeopardize export markets, particularly those going to Japan. In the 2005/2006 marketing year, 636 million bushels out of total U.S. corn exports of 2.147 billion bushels went to Japan, according to USDA.

The National Grain and Feed Association and the North American Export Grain Association had asked Syngenta not to market the trait this year for fear of commingling with corn export channels. In March, the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) requested Syngenta withhold Agrisure RW hybrids from the market this planting season, citing lack of Japanese approval. The NCGA recommends growers who intend to market this grain off-farm to contact their delivery point to ensure it will still accept this corn if Japanese approvals are not granted.

On May 1, the BNSF railroad stated it would not accept for transportation any carloads of corn or corn products containing Agrisure RW (MIR 604). POET, a major dry-mill ethanol producer based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is also not accepting corn containing Agrisure RW at any of its ethanol production facilities or tributary handling facilities.

"You get only one crack at it," when it comes to export markets, says Mark Lambert, Illinois Corn Growers Association (ICGA) communications director. He notes segregation of such hybrids from approved ones is possible.

"We've gotten better at it, but it only takes one slip-up and then they can slam the door," says Lambert. "These are good products, products that farmers want," adds Lambert. It's important foreign customers also want them, too, he adds.

"They're right, whether they are or not," says Lambert.

The Japanese government's approval for Agrisure RW has taken longer than expected, says Chuck Lee, head of corn products for Syngenta.

"In the past, they (Japan) were a lot like the U.S., when approval of a product also coincided closely with approval of the product in a stack," he says. "Now, Japan requires a stack to go through the same process as an individual trait. That has stretched out the backlog of products awaiting approval considerably."

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