Syngenta responds to Viptera corn marketing controversy

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AgProfessional was one of the first national sources of information about two major grain companies announcing they would not be accepting corn containing the Agrisure Viptera trait. Syngenta has since provided its side to the situation by several means including mail, e-mail and personal telephone calls to their sales representatives and customers.

The contention by Syngenta is that the company did nothing unusual or out of line with past international registration and acceptance of biotech trait corn. Communication to those who planted hybrids containing the Agrisure Viptera trait hybrids and face the loss of outlets for their grain, including Bunge and Consolidated grain companies, has included a Web site for reading an extensive question and answer document.

It was China not having approved import of grain containing the Viptera trait that spurred everything happening at the moment. Syngenta says it received the recommended import market approvals, but the company was caught in an unexpected situation where China could be importing large volumes of U.S. corn.

Syngenta has tried to start their communication out on as positive a note as possible in suggesting that corn growers have options for storing or selling their corn.  A full Syngenta explanation follows:

“Chinese orders for U.S. corn increased in July and recently began to include the 2011 crop. China has not previously represented a substantial portion of the U.S. corn export market. Syngenta has obtained U.S. and key import market approvals for the Agrisure Viptera trait for all major markets as recommended by both the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) and the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO). However, we are still awaiting import approval from China, which we expect in late March 2012.

“While we are in compliance with these industry association guidelines, Bunge and Consolidated Grain & Barge (CGB) have indicated they will not accept grain containing the Agrisure Viptera trait. We are disappointed with their decision; however, other major grain companies have told Syngenta that they are accepting grain containing the Agrisure Viptera trait.

The attached question and answer document is being distributed to our resellers and customers along with other information to assist them. Syngenta is working with the grain trade, the NCGA, ethanol groups and other stakeholders to address this situation with minimal disruption to the marketplace, to growers and to our resellers. Syngenta has established a toll-free number with a listing of sites accepting grain with the Agrisure Viptera trait by ZIP code. To access this information, please email Export.Info@syngenta.com or call 800-319-1360 between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. CST, Monday through Saturday. All of this information can be found at AgrisureViptera.com/exportinfo.”

Questions & Answers on Chinese Import of Corn Hybrids with the Agrisure Viptera trait

Situation Overview

• Chinese orders for U.S. corn increased this year and recently began to include the 2011 crop. China has not previously represented a substantial portion of the U.S. corn export market.

• The Chinese regulatory system has not approved the Agrisure Viptera™ trait (Event MIR162). This situation has caused concern among some grain traders.

• Syngenta is working with the grain trade, the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) and other key stakeholders to determine how best to address this new situation with minimal disruption to the marketplace.

Overview Questions

What has happened?

Chinese orders for U.S. corn increased in July and include the 2011 crop. China has not previously represented a substantial portion of the U.S. corn export market. According to the International Grains Council, last year the U.S. exported 1.7 million tons of corn to China. Recently, they have increased their orders for U.S. corn. However, the updated U.S. Department of Agriculture forecast estimates that, even with increase, approximately 99 percent of the U.S. corn crop goes to domestic and foreign markets other than China.

Why is this causing concern with some grain traders?

The Chinese regulatory system has not yet approved the Agrisure Viptera trait. Syngenta expects to receive regulatory approval in late March 2012.

While the Agrisure Viptera trait is in compliance with the NCGA and Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) guidelines, Bunge and Consolidated Grain & Barge (CGB) have indicated they will not accept grain containing the Agrisure Viptera trait. We are disappointed with their decision; however, other major grain companies have told Syngenta that they are accepting grain containing the Agrisure Viptera trait.

What is the regulatory history of the Agrisure Viptera trait?

Syngenta received deregulation from the USDA for the Agrisure Viptera trait in April 2010. Since then, the Agrisure Viptera trait has received approval in all key import markets recommended by both the NCGA and BIO. The technology has been approved for cultivation in Canada, Argentina and Brazil, and for import in the key markets of Australia, Brazil, Canada, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, the Philippines, Korea and Taiwan. Syngenta applied for Chinese approval of its Agrisure Viptera trait in March 2010 (upon approval in Brazil) and currently expects to receive regulatory clearance in late March 2012.

In the past, technology providers have not delayed commercialization of new traits due to absence of Chinese approvals.

Has this happened to any other traits?

In the past, technology providers have not held up commercialization of new traits due to absence of Chinese approvals. Major trait launches – including MON89034 contained in the Genuity VT Triple PRO and Genuity SmartStax trait stacks from Monsanto and Mycogen SmartStax trait stacks from Dow AgroSciences – were conducted in 2010 in the absence of Chinese approval because it was not considered a key export market.

In comparison to the millions of acres represented by previous product launches that followed this protocol, total acres of hybrids with the Agrisure Viptera trait represented less than 2 percent of the U.S. corn acres.

Is Syngenta working with China on this issue?

Yes, Syngenta is working diligently with China. Syngenta applied for Chinese approval of the Agrisure Viptera trait in March 2010 (upon approval in Brazil) and currently expects to receive regulatory clearance in late March 2012.

Additional Questions

What should growers do if they have grain containing the Agrisure Viptera trait?

Many major grain handlers have notified Syngenta that they will accept grain with the Agrisure Viptera trait. They request that growers notify them upon delivery that their grain contains the trait.

Is there a number growers can call with questions?

Growers can call 800-319-1360 between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. CST Monday through Saturday with questions, or email Syngenta at Export.Info@syngenta.com. Information can also be found online at AgrisureViptera.com/exportinfo. Syngenta is working with the grain trade to discuss market options for grain with the Agrisure Viptera trait and will continue to develop customer communications.

When was the Agrisure Viptera trait commercialized?

2011 is the first year of commercialization for Syngenta’s Agrisure Viptera trait. Syngenta received deregulation from the USDA for the Agrisure Viptera trait in April 2010.

How many hybrids are involved?

Approximately 70 different hybrids contain the Agrisure Viptera trait, all ending in the hybrid designation of either 3110 or 3111.

Are any other Agrisure traits affected by Chinese import restrictions?

No other commercially available Agrisure® traits are affected.

Were corn hybrids with the Agrisure Viptera trait sold by GreenLeaf or any third parties in 2011?

The Agrisure Viptera trait was offered in a limited number of hybrids through GreenLeaf and third parties.

Will this affect sales of corn hybrids with the Agrisure Viptera trait?

Syngenta intends to sell corn hybrids with the Agrisure Viptera trait for next year and expects approval for the Agrisure Viptera trait in China by late March 2012.

Is this comparable to the StarLink situation?

Absolutely not. The Agrisure Viptera trait is fully approved for all uses in the U.S., including approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Also, the trait has approval in all of the key import markets for which the NCGA and BIO recommend before commercial launch.

What is the NCGA?

The NCGA (National Corn Growers Association) represents 35,000 dues-paying corn farmers nationwide and the interests of more than 300,000 growers who contribute through corn checkoff programs in their states. NCGA and its 48 affiliated state associations and checkoff organizations work together to create and increase opportunities for their members and their industry. More information is available at www.ncga.com

What is BIO?

BIO (Biotechnology Industry Organization) is the world's largest biotechnology organization, providing advocacy, business development and communications services for more than 1,100 members worldwide. BIO members are involved in the research and development of innovative healthcare, agricultural, industrial and environmental biotechnology products. More information is available at www.bio.org.


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Grant Gerrond    
Illinois  |  September, 02, 2011 at 11:23 AM

I contacted Sygenta about this issue and received the names of several grain facilities (barge terminals or ethanol plants). I am preparing for harvest and I called ahead at each of the locations indicated. They have told me they are NOT accepting corn with the Viptera trait. It's getting a little bit late in the day so to speak on this issue and getting incorrect/bad data again from Sygenta is no solving the problem.


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