China clears GM corn

Related tags Maize

US-based Dow Agro Science has confirmed that its grain corn
containing an insect resistant trait has received regulatory
approval for import into China, reports Simon Pitman.

Corn with the company's patented Herculex I trait has already received full food, feed and import approval from Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan and the Philippines, as well as the US, Canada, South Africa and Mexico.

The Herculex I trait, a Bt gene, is the first in a new generation of in- plant insect-protection traits for corn. This family is being developed in a research collaboration between Dow AgroSciences, a global leader in providing pest management and biotechnology products, and Pioneer Hi-Bred International, a leader in seed technology and seed products.

"China is a key expanding overseas export market for US corn grain and this approval is great news for growers,"​ says Bob Iwig, vice president, Pioneer global marketing. "This approval - along with the other regulatory approvals around the globe - shows the growing international acceptance of the safety of grain with the Herculex I trait."

"There is great interest and demand among U.S. growers for the advanced insect protection Herculex I provides,"​ notes Wally Thingelstad, traits marketing and communications manager at Dow AgroSciences.

Before full approval was granted by the government Dow had been granted a temporary approval by the Chinese government. The latest move formalizes and the legislation and allows for a permanent trading agreement.

According to Dow and Pioneer, Herculex I protects the corn plant from more major insects than other Bt corn products on the market, providing growers with full-season protection against this broader insect spectrum. The Herculex I trait protects against European and southwestern corn borer and expands protection to include black cutworm, fall armyworm and western bean cutworm. The two companies also claim that the product provides tolerance to Liberty herbicide which controls more than 100 grass and broadleaf weeds on contact.

While Dow AgroSciences and Pioneer pooled their talents to research, develop and seek regulatory approval for the new technology, they will continue to independently market and sell corn hybrids containing the Herculex I trait on a competitive basis. Herculex I was launched by Pioneer and Mycogen Seeds, Dow AgroSciences' retail seed brand, in 2003. In addition, Dow AgroSciences has exclusive licensing rights for Herculex I and has licensed the technology to numerous retail seed companies.

As part of this collaboration between Pioneer and Dow AgroSciences, additional insect protection traits are being developed for other corn pests. The next trait, targeted at corn rootworm, will be launched after completion of research evaluations and regulatory approvals.

In recent years China has taken an increasingly active role in the development of GM crops. Currently it is estimated that the country accounts for more than half the expenditure on GM plant technology in developing countries. However, with 1.2 billion hungry mouths to feed, the country's food processors are still struggling to find sufficient commodities and ingredients from domestic sources. This is leading to increasing commodity and ingredient imports, despite the increasing reliance on GM crops by domestic farmers.

Added to the problems in the last couple of years have been a series of climatic catastrophes, which have seriously impacted domestic grain commodity supplies, leading to an increasing reliance on gtrain imports.

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