What is the story with Duracade corn, and is it part of the GMO corn lawsuit against Syngenta?

  • After the corn export crisis in 2013 caused by Syngenta’s GMO trait, Viptera Agrisure, Syngenta has since developed a new GMO corn trait marketed as Duracade Agrisure
  • Leading American corn experts immediately expressed concerns that unapproved Duracade would find its way into the U.S. corn export supply
  • After two major U.S. Corn export companies refused to accept corn containing the Duracade trait, Syngenta halted sales of Duracade in Canada
  • Despite halting sales of Duracade in Canada, Syngenta continues selling Duracade in the U.S., putting the U.S. export market at risk for a second price implosion

China’s 2013 rejection of Syngenta’s GMO corn trait known as Viptera Agrisure wrecked the export market, causing, in part, the drop in U.S. corn prices. In addition to Viptera Agrisure, Syngenta has subsequently developed a new GMO trait for rootworms that it marketed as Duracade Agrisure. Again promising no impact on the export market (as it did before with Viptera), it again applied to the United States Department of Agriculture (“USDA”) for nonregulated status. In February 2013, the USDA granted nonregulated status to Duracade Agrisure, permitting its sale in the U.S. Syngenta’s 2013 Annual Report called Agrisure Duracade its “next generation corn rootworm control.”

Foreign governments, however, had not yet approved Duracade when Syngenta began selling it in the U.S. Consequently, Syngenta promised to established protocol, and professed to require farmers to agree to follow them in order to keep Duracade corn out of the export market. Once marketed in the U.S., however, grave concerns arose immediately. In January, 2014, the National Grain and Feed Association and the North American Export Grain Association asked Syngenta to halt sales of Viptera and Agrisure Duracade corn varieties until the Chinese government approved them for import. A month later, in February, 2014, the U.S. Grains Council warned that:

    Leakage of unapproved traits into the export stream could disrupt trade and even close major markets altogether, the council warns. That’s what happened last fall when China, the world’s fastest growing food importer, rejected a shipment of more than 600,000 tons of U.S. corn and corn products that contained another unauthorized Syngenta trait, Agrisure Viptera.[1]

However, the C.E.O. of the U.S. Grains Council, Tom Sleight, admitted that protocols to keep Duracade separate might never work:

    Inadvertent co-mingling is almost certain to occur in the high volume U.S. commodity handling system, and modern testing methods are likely to detect even trace levels of unapproved events… The presence of unapproved events in the export stream carries a significant risk of major international trade disruptions.

Two of the largest corn exporters in the United States announced they would reject loads containing the Duracade trait. In announcing that it would not accept corn containing the Duracade Agrisure trait, Bunge Ltd.’s Chief Executive Officer, Soren Schroder, told Reuters, “[w]e handle crops that have been approved in major markets. That is our stand.” A day later, Cargill, Inc. announced that “for export contracts, we will not accept delivery of any commodity containing the Duracade trait” and further stated that it “reserves the right to reject and/or require testing of deliveries and any acceptance, rejection or testing for the presence of Duracade will be determined by Cargill in its sole discretion at the time of delivery.” Moreover, on March 21, 2014, Michigan Agricultural Commodities (“MAC”) informed its customers that “we will not be accepting delivery of grain with the Duracade trait at this time for the 2014 marketing year.” MAC explained that “[u]pon assessment of the potential impact this seed variety has on the acceptance of US corn, corn bi-products, and other commodities in the global export market we have determined it is in the best interest of US agriculture – farmers, elevators, processors, and exporters to discourage the production of this variety.” In April, 2014, Cooperative Elevator Company announced that it too would refuse shipments of corn containing the Duracade trait.[2]

    Syngenta then pulled Duracade from the Canadian market. On March 10, 2014, Reuters reported that
    Syngenta AG said on Monday it had halted commercial sales in Canada of corn seed containing a new and controversial genetically modified trait because major importers had not approved the product.

    Syngenta pulled from the Canadian market seed containing the Agrisure Duracade trait, which was available for planting for the first time this year, according to a Syngenta notice that was sent to seed dealers and obtained by Reuters.

    The trait has been approved for cultivation in Canada and the United States and for import by some overseas buyers, including Japan, Mexico and South Korea. It has not been approved for import by China or the European Union, two major international markets.

In pulling Duracade from the Canadian market, Syngenta stated, “[w]hile the vast majority of the Canadian corn crop is typically directed to domestic markets in North America, some corn may be destined for these markets [that have not approved Duracade]… Accordingly, we want to ensure the acceptance of any trait technology grown in Canada meets end-market destination requirements.”[3]

Syngenta inexplicably did not pull Duracade from the U.S. market. Duracade continued to be sold in the U.S. states. U.S. corn continues to be exported to the international markets. To this day, China has not yet approved Duracade Agrisure. Will the Viptera Agrisure export disaster, which wrecked corn prices in 2013, happen again in 2015? U.S. farmers will have to wait and see.

Written by*:
Mikal C. Watts
WATTS GUERRA, LLP
Four Dominion Drive, Bldg. Three, Suite 100
San Antonio, Texas 78257
[1] Mike Wilson, Plaintif Syngenta’s Agrisure Duracade? Follow the Protocols, February 28, 2014. http://farmfutures.com/story-planting-syngentas-agrisure-duracade-follow-protocols-0-109342.
[2] http://grains.coopelev.com/news/2014/04/30/cooperative-elevator-co.-will-not-be-accepting-syngenta-s-agrisure-duracade.
[3] Farmfutures.com, Continued Caution on Syngenta’s Duracade – Syngenta Pulls Duracade from Canadian Market; NCGA Updates Growers on Status of Corn Traits Not Approved in All Markets, March 11, 2014. http://farmfutures.com/story-continued-caution-syngentas-duracade-0-109790.
* This information is provided to supply relevant information concerning the GMO corn lawsuit, and should not be received as legal advice. Legal advice is only given to persons or entities with whom Watts Guerra LLP has established an attorney-client relationship. If you have another lawyer in the GMO Corn lawsuit, you should consult with your own attorney, and rely upon his or her advice, rather than the information contained herein.

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