During a March 4 meeting with the NGFA and North American Export Grain Association (NAEGA), top officials from Syngenta North America Inc. provided additional information on its plans for an “introductory launch” of its Agrisure Duracade® biotech-enhanced corn in the United States in 2014.
The company also committed to respond in the very near future to a series of questions posed by NGFA and NAEGA prior to and during the meeting – information that will be able to be shared with all NGFA- and NAEGA-member companies. However, during the March 4 meeting, Syngenta officials again rejected direct requests from the NGFA and NAEGA that the company provide commercial assurance that it will assume risk responsibility/liability if and when the Agrisure Duracade trait becomes present in export shipments to countries where it is not approved.
During the meeting, Syngenta officials told NGFA and NAEGA that based upon current projections of Agrisure Duracade seed availability, approximately 250,000 to 300,000 acres could be planted to the new trait in 2014 in a specified launch zone depicted in the two maps available by clicking here. David Morgan, president of Syngenta Seeds Inc. and the company’s North America Region director, said the introductory launch zone boundaries represent either state lines or highways in an attempt to provide clarity to producers and other stakeholders about the precise areas in which sales and planting of Agrisure Duracade could occur in 2014. Morgan said Syngenta should know the precise number of acres that potentially could be planted by on or about March 24. No transfer of Agrisure Duracade seed to other parties will be allowed after March 24, Syngenta said. And no Agrisure Duracade seed sales or field trials will occur outside the introductory launch zone, Syngenta said.
Two versions of the Agrisure Duracade trait will be made available for sale and planting in the United States in 2014. Agrisure Duracade 5222 E-Z Refuge® contains Duracade, Viptera, Agrisure® 3000GT and Herculex®, while Agrisure Duracade 5122 E-Z Refuge® contains each of the aforementioned traits except Viptera®.
Syngenta stated that the Agrisure Duracade® trait has been approved for cultivation in the United States and Canada, and has received import approvals from Japan, Korea, Mexico, Taiwan, Australia and New Zealand. Information compiled by biotradestatus.com as of March 7 indicates that Agrisure Duracade® has not been approved for import yet by China, all 28 states of the European Union, Switzerland, Brazil, Egypt, India, The Philippines, the Russian Federation or Turkey. Syngenta said it believed The Philippines import approval was “imminent.”
Morgan and Chuck Lee, head of corn for Syngenta’s North America Region, said producers seeking to purchase and plant Duracade® seed corn will be required to sign a Syngenta Stewardship Agreement that contains commitments on marketing outlets for their harvested crops. Specifically, they said the stewardship agreement will require the producer to: 1) feed the corn to livestock or poultry on the farm; or 2) deliver it to a grain handling facility, feed mill, feed lot or ethanol plant not exporting corn or corn co-products to China or the European Union. Parties selling Duracade seed to producers will be required to obtain the producer’s signature on the Syngenta Stewardship Agreement, they said.
During the meeting, Syngenta officials said in response to a request from NGFA and NAEGA that they will not be making the Syngenta Stewardship Agreement or its terms available to either trade organization or the public.
Syngenta and Gavilon Grain LLC management officials, who also attended the meeting with NGFA and NAEGA, said Gavilon representatives will begin calling producers who are obtaining Duracade seed on April 1 to again apprise them of the conditions in the Syngenta Stewardship Agreement, as well as planting and harvesting “recommendations” that are not contained in the Syngenta Stewardship Agreement. Syngenta officials said they declined to incorporate the recommendations into the stewardship agreement because they did not want to dictate such practices to producers.
Syngenta’s “recommendations” to producers include the following:
Planting Recommendations: Syngenta advises producers to select fields for planting that are surrounded by the producer’s own corn field or planted next to a non-corn field. Syngenta also said it will make signs available to producers planting Agrisure Duracade corn to post in their fields advising that the trait has been planted if the producer wishes to do so. In planting Duracade, Syngenta recommends producers use block configurations, plant border rows (with a buffer of 12 rows of non-Duracade corn), clean the planter, properly dispose of unused seed and return unopened seed units to the seed provider.
Harvest Recommendations: Syngenta’s harvest recommendations to producers include the following: 1) Harvest corn containing Duracade separately; 2) flush the combine; 3) deliver all corn containing Duracade, plus corn harvested to flush the combine, to a previously arranged delivery point; 4) store grain containing Duracade in a separate bin (if stored on-farm); and 5) clean the bin floor (preferably by broom, not a sweep auger).
Under its agreement with Gavilon, Syngenta said Gavilon representatives also will contact growers starting in July to check on the producers’ marketing plans for Agrisure Duracade corn. Gavilon at that time will offer to assist the producer in finding an acceptable destination market if the producer requests. If the producer does not need Gavilon’s assistance, he or she will be asked to confirm the end-use destination for the Duracade corn. In addition to its own facilities and destination markets, Gavilon representatives said they currently are contacting feed mills and ethanol plants located within the introductory launch zone to determine those willing to accept harvested Duracade corn. Gavilon said no determination had been made yet about whether a list of facilities willing to accept Duracade corn will be made available publicly.
Test Kits: Syngenta also said it is making available test kits to detect the presence of Agrisure Duracade that will be sold by EnviroLogix Inc., headquartered in Portland, Maine, and Eurofins Gene Scan Inc., whose U.S. operations are based in Metairie, La. Both a PCR-based test, with a detection level believed to be 0.05 percent and a strip-test kit with a sensitivity of 0.5 percent in bulk grain will be available for purchase, they said.
More Information to Come: In addition to the question-and-answer document expected to be received next week from Syngenta, the NGFA is preparing and will distribute an accompanying fact-based flyer that member companies can consider using if they wish to discuss directly with farmer-customers their individual companies’ policies regarding acceptance or non-acceptance of Agrisure Duracade corn in 2014. The NGFA and NAEGA previously have advised U.S. farmers “to check with their local grain elevators and merchants to determine whether the grain buyer or handler has any limitations on accepting biotechnology traits that do not have certain export market approvals.” Similar advice specific to Agrisure Duracade has been issued to growers by the National Corn Growers Association, American Farm Bureau Federation and U.S. Grains Council.
In addition, the NGFA in January made available options for sample grain contract clause language based upon provisions developed by NGFA several years ago to assist grain purchasers who wish to address issues that may arise from time-to-time concerning the introduction and commercialization of new biotech-enhanced traits. One or more of the sample contract clause options are available online and may be relevant and applicable. The sample boilerplate biotech contract language options, which are presented in no particular order or preference, should be read and considered carefully before being used. Importantly, as with all contractual matters, it is recommended strongly that companies consult with competent legal counsel before making changes to legal documents, such as grain contracts.