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Why Agrisure RW concerns corn-exporting states

Agriculture.com Staff 05/22/2007 @ 10:44am

There's been lots of pushback from grain merchandisers and farm groups to Syngenta's decision to sell Agrisure RW hybrids without Japanese approval.

However, this hasn't been the only time controversy has erupted from challenges in foreign regulators approving traits, notes Mark Lambert, communications director for the Illinois Corn Growers Association.

The European Union has provided the bulk of the challenge to GM grain.

Agrisure RW and its inclusion in stacks are the only two out of 23 events not approved for Japan, according to the National Corn Growers Association's (NCGA) Know Before You Grow Web site.

However, 16 out of the 23 events are not approved for food import by the EU. Twelve of the 23 are not approved for feed use by the EU.

Lambert points out Herculex and YieldGard triple stacks are not approved by the EU. These triple stacks contain protection from European corn borer, corn rootworm, and tolerance to glyphosate. According to ICGA, YieldGard resulted in the loss of 80 million bushels of corn export to Spain and Portugal. Herculex was the driver in the loss of the corn gluten feed sales equivalent to 120 million bushels of corn.

"It was significant," says Lambert. "We lost access to Spain and Portugal, and a good chunk of the gluten market in the EU. The biggest concern about the EU is so many countries follow their lead."

The stakes are higher for corn exports to Japan, since that country is a large importer of U.S. corn. Japan alone represents an approximate 650 million bushel market, eight times larger than the corn market of Spain and Portugal and five times larger than the EU gluten/dried distillers grains market.

Farmers in states that export large amounts of corn, such as Illinois, are particularly concerned. "We export half our crop, and good chunk of that goes to Japan," says Lambert.

Public perceptions often outweigh science in EU grain import approvals. Not so with Japan. Lambert notes it has a solid and transparent approval process much like the United States. Given time, they have granted approval to many biotech seed events.

Lambert notes Herculex and YieldGard introductions also received clearance to the Japanese market before seed delivery. Meanwhile, Agrisure is in the ground and may not be approved by harvest.

"There is a growing sense in Japan that the U.S. is bullying and mocking their approval process," the ICGA points out in a May 4 article on its Web site. "Could this be the point where they draw a line in the sand to set an example?"

More on the Agrisure RW situation:

There's been lots of pushback from grain merchandisers and farm groups to Syngenta's decision to sell Agrisure RW hybrids without Japanese approval.

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